Sometimes, the motions of Sign Language are incredibly musical. One evening in the pub, I asked Caroline Parker MBE to sign me a story about a Spider dancing on the web, catching a fly, devouring it and going to sleep. She did this without any script or preparation and it came out naturally on the video as I filmed it on my iphone – a typical way of story telling in BSL. It is known that some spiders have excellent vision and will notice the slightest movement that enables them to catch their prey. I chose a story related to deafness as I am always using my sight and can easily be distracted by other things from the far corner of my eye, in case I may miss out on something.
I wrote this piece with Tom Hutchinson in mind, he is a professional clarinet player from Guildhall School of Music, now working for the London Philharmonic Society and is quite fluent in British Sign Language. With the clarinet, I felt that the dark, rich sound is what characterises it amongst the array of other instruments, and I wanted something to sound a little bit ‘creepy’ as well. Tom played for me, reading the score and following Sign Language making sure it matches in time.
Composing this piece was an interesting challenge, the up and down movements of Caroline’s hands controlled the pitch, the rhythms come from the fingers and the facial expressions demonstrated the emotions and dynamics.
As it is my very first kind of project I am pleased with how it went. I’ve always strongly felt that sign language can demonstrate a lot of the musical ideas found in formal music writing. (composition).
I am very grateful to Caroline and Tom for supporting me in my ideas and for Chris Cuthbert at Acquismedia for recording the music and setting it up on Vimeo.