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Music-making for the deaf

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London: A Birmingham (UK) researcher is exploring new ways to enhance the experience of deaf musicians with new visual and touch techniques.

Birmingham City University’s Richard Burn hopes his research will give deaf people a greater opportunity to express themselves and help enable them to create new works for both deaf and hearing audiences to enjoy.

Deaf musicians tend to favour acoustic instruments – quite often percussion -which produce a distinct physical feedback from vibration generated by the instrument, alongside more subtle visual clues. However, using electronic instruments, they often find it more difficult to resolve some of the characteristics of sound, such as pitch and harmonics.

Richard proposes the creation of a new musical interface that will combine haptic and visual forms of feedback to create a more inclusive experience for deaf people. Alongside vibrations, visual indictors will appear on a digital display that collectively form a ‘sonic fingerprint’ when an instrument is played, highlighting different components that make up the sound.

Burn noted that traditional waveform representations are unable to truly describe what music actually sounds like. There are much more subtle characteristics of sound that may be better represented visually, for example, by using simple shapes and symbols to describe harmonic content.

He added that his proposed system will hopefully give deaf players of electronic instruments the same sort of experience as that enjoyed by deaf players of acoustic instruments. (ANI)