with the Forte Ensemble musicians

One of the most common misconceptions surrounding music for deaf people is that vibration must be the only form of access. As a flute player, I have been on the receiving end of comments relating to vibration on numerous occasions, particularly from audience members following public performances. However, vibration is not the most important element of music in my experience – particularly as the flute doesn’t really give out much vibration (compared to percussion instruments for example), except perhaps some around the mouth!   

This large piece of artwork is the product of an extended conversation with Deaf visual artist, Olivier Jamin, and three other professional Deaf musicians from the Forte Ensemble. During the conversation, the group discussed individual experiences of vibration and music, and talked about different perspectives on the topic.

Eloise giving Olivier a 'learning experience' rather that just feeling vibrations alone

Eloise giving Olivier a ‘learning experience’ rather that just feeling vibrations alone

Vibrations are what gets our attention but there is so much more to music its language etc) than just learning vibrations alone.

Vibrations are what gets our attention but there is so much more to music (as a language!) than just learning vibrations alone.

In this work, Olivier’s own hands, seen at the top of the picture, are connected to the word ‘Vibration’. For Olivier, as a Deaf person who is also a non-musician, vibration is certainly important to his musical experience. However, vibration is just one area of music, to which Olivier is restricted.  

The four other pairs of hands are those of the Forte Ensemble members. As professional Deaf musician, these hands are connected to a much wider range of words surrounding the border including ‘pitch’, ‘rhythm’, ‘expression’ which all make up the elements of music. On the outer border, what we receive from being a musician is  ‘ownership’, ‘knowledge’, ‘imagination’, ‘culture’,’confidence’ ‘awareness’, and even ‘money’ in terms of working in the field of music.  These are all concepts which are used and understood on a daily basis by professional musicians, and together, they make up a complete picture of sound. When taking all of these words into account, suddenly the word ‘vibration’ – which was previously bold, bright, and eye-catching – seems to sink into the background as just one of the many other elements of music.