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Waste 101 from the BBC

The Controller’s Monthly Note from Radio 3 informed me of a new role that may fail a test of utility. They have appointed the artistic director of Music and the Deaf to sign a prom.

This Prom will be the first ever ‘signed Prom’. Dr Paul Whittaker, artistic director of Music and the Deaf will guide the audience in the hall through the music of Stephen Sondheim in the company of the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by David Charles Abell (above).

Music and the Deaf is a worthwhile charity that aids deaf pupils who wish to learn how to read music and play instruments. Supporting this minority endeavour through private philanthropy and voluntary contribution is admirable for those who are interested in this cause.

One must ask if private encouragement requires public support: and if it does, whether a ‘signed prom’ meets that requirement. Music is enjoyed by people who can hear, not by the deaf. This is a fact. Allowing the Orchestra of the Deaf to play gives public evidence that the deaf do not need tobe prevented from studying music.

A ‘signed prom’ is a sop to the irrational and a waste of public money.

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9 comments to Waste 101 from the BBC

  • PaulH

    I don’t dispute the gist of your argument, but when you say “Music is enjoyed by people who can hear, not by the deaf. This is a fact.” I believe you are, as a matter of fact, wrong. Clearly deaf people experience music very differently to hearing people, but even the profoundly deaf can sense varying vibrations from the instruments, mostly in the lower registers. Whether that is enjoyable for them is, of course, a matter for them.

    “This is a fact.” is a surprisingly powerful statement, to be wielded with caution.

  • Chuckles

    ‘Clearly deaf people experience music very differently to hearing people’

    I don’t believe this has ever been disputed. The question is rather whether the experience is improved by a person signing whatever it is they would sign, and funded by public money.

    4’33” by John Cage seems eminently suitable for beginners?

  • PaulH

    Chuckles – clearly the point has been disputed. The article states, as a fact, that hearing people enjoy music, and deaf people do not. I assume that’s based on the idea that deaf people can’t experience music, though I concede that it might mean he thinks deaf people can experience the music, but are incapable of enjoying it. In either case there’s a difference between two people experiencing something differently, and one of them not being able to experience it at all. It would appear, therefore, that my point stands.

    Nonetheless you’ll see that I didn’t dispute the articles point; I don’t know all the details of the story, nor do I care enough to investigate, but it certainly seems like the sort of profligacy we don’t need.

  • Miv Tucker

    Leaving aside the rights and wrongs of whether R3 should be spending this money, how on earth could all correspondents – to say nothing of Philip Chaston himself -have forgotten the sterling example of Evelyn Glennie? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evelyn_Glennie

  • John K

    Be that as it may, how does a signer help the deaf to appreciate music? I can’t get my head round the concept at all. Good job it’s only public money, that grows on trees you know.

  • Laird

    I agree with John K’s point. Unless there are words (of some sort; they could be song lyrics, the narration to Copland’s Lincoln Portrait, opera recitative, etc.), what’s the point? And if there are words, why not just provide a written transcription?

    If we’re going to do this, why not also provide subtitles for ballet performances, for those of us who don’t understand the subtle nuances of each move and position?

  • Richard Thomas

    John K: Possibly by signing the spoken interludes between the music? Or possibly, the experience of a sung song would be enhanced by the pairing of the parts of the music that the deaf can experience with the words that were designed to go with them (the musical part of singing only being part of what it’s about).

    Not that I’m supporting it. In fact, I’ve never had a desire to watch the prom and my only experience of it is in the form of an announcement that it’s coming on, just prior to changing the channel. Good luck to those who enjoy it though.

  • Michael Taylor

    Deaf people don’t enjoy music, eh? Ask Evelyn Glennie.

  • PaulH

    There seems to be some confusion over the comprehensibility of this move, and the justification for funding it. An analogy might help. I am entirely unable to see the attraction in deer hunting. I don’t mean that it’s not my cup of tea, I mean I am utterly unable to see anything in it that might appeal to anyone. Yet a lot of people do it and, I assume, find it enjoyable.

    Similarly the fact that some (hearing) people here don’t understand how signing might increase a deaf person’s enjoyment of a performance of works of a major lyricist has no bearing on whether it would enhance their experience.

    Personally I’d be fine with the BBC not showing any part of the Proms, but I don’t class it a waste of money based on my lack of appreciation for classical music.