BRITISH SIGN LANGUAGE AND MUSIC

By LAYLA FITZGERALD-WOOLFE – BSL story teller
SOPHIE WISEMAN – Violin
Violin score composed by Ruth Montgomery

The motions of storytelling in Sign Language can be incredibly musical. The flow of hand movements and facial expressions can describe the shape and ideas of a story, just as the notes on a musical score represent the shape of sounds and silences.

This video features Layla Fitzgerald-Woolfe, a year 7 student at Mary Hare School for the deaf, and Sophie Wiseman, a talented 12-year-old who studies violin at the prestigious Wells Cathedral School and wears bone anchored hearing aids to support her with some hearing loss.

This part of the project focuses on composing music which relates to Sign Language, so Layla – who was born into a Deaf family and is a native user of British Sign Language – wrote a story named The Twilight Thief.  She then performed it in British Sign Language in front of the camera. In this music story (subtitles are included), you will see how Layla shifts seamlessly and naturally between the characters of the thief, the beefeaters, and the guards.  She also effectively changes the scene between the inside and outside of the Tower of London, describing in detail the stealing of the Queen’s crown. Layla’s signing of the story is highly intellectual, and is full of wit and abstract concepts.

I then used Layla’s story to compose a piece for solo violin, also shown in the video. It is important to note that the music was composed by using the movement, speed, rhythmic agility, and expression of the Sign Language – not the other way around.  Her use of British Sign Language gave me plenty of scope for imagination for music writing.

The score was then performed by Sophie. She watched Layla’s every movement to match the timing and rhythm on her violin.

PHOTO OF LIVE EVENT 14/01/17 and written music score below:

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(c) Copyright: Audiovisabilty The Twilight Thief

BSL & Music keywords: rhythm, placement, metre, structure, repetition, sometimes alliteration/rhyme