Seeing what’s not heard! Choral music visualisations for people with hearing impairments

Youth Choir BALSIS has started an unprecedented project, where, in collaboration with the Latvian Association of the Deaf, eleven visualisations of choral music have been adapted for people with hearing impairments. Each music video is created using special artistic visualisation techniques - 3D and kinetic technologies, animations, sign language, subtitles, informative graphics, etc., which depict the dynamics, rhythm, intensity of the song, which help with the perception of the emotional and content approach of the song.

As the conductor of the Youth Choir BALSIS, Laura Elizabete Godiņa states “Thinking about the significance of the Song Celebration in the life of Latvians – their culture and history, I realised that all this time, there has been a significant part of society, which has been denied the opportunity to celebrate this tradition with others and take part in the emotional experience that only music can provide - these are people are those with hearing impairments. The tradition of choral music in Latvia is very special, and we wanted to give this section of society the opportunity to experience togetherness through music. It was also an opportunity for us to overcome, in a small way, the communication barrier between people with hearing impairments and the rest of society, by learning the Lullaby in sign language”.

Emilija, a singer in the choir, says “I am very happy and pleased that we have created this project, because during its creation I have learned, and thought, about problems in our society that haven’t come to my attention so far. The most interesting and also the most challenging thing about this project has been to learn Jānis Lūsēns' Lullaby in sign language, because at one and the same time you had to sing both with your voice and using sign language”.

Nora Rieksta, the editor of the Delfi Culture section, notes “Our prosperity lies in our choral music. That's why it's so important that anyone can access it. It is a great pleasure for us to support a project that helps to share this wealth with people in such a beautiful and creative way”.

The project will be presented as part of the program Spried ar Delfi on February 9 this year, at 12 noon, when the visualisation of the song Venta by Inese Zandere and Raimonds Pauls will be premiered. From then on, every Wednesday, until March 16, two new videos from the project will be published in the section on culture in Delfi.

In the long run, this project will result in the creation of an Application that will enable people with hearing impairments to experience all genres, styles and types of music. With the help of the audiograph built into the Application, the soundtrack will be adjusted to the hearing of each listener, the vibration function of the smartphone will help to better understand the rhythm, and the use of headphones will reduce the impact of ambient noise. It is envisaged that through the use of an algorithm, this Application will be able to personalise any recorded music available in a digital format.

Youth Choir BALSIS wants to thank everyone who has been involved in the implementation of the BALSIS sign language project so far: Ivo Grīsniņš-Grīslis, Green Media, Rihards Gulbis, Viktors Keino, Alvis Misjuns, Gatis Šļūka, the Janis Rozentāls Riga Art School, sign language experts Brigita Lazda, Ainārs Ostvalds, Elza Veismane. The authors and implementers of the idea are Laura Elizabete Godiņa, Ints Teterovskis, singer Emīlija Rūta Ozoliņa and director Juris Jonelis.

The project has been realised thanks to support from the targetted funding program of the State Cultural Capital Fund KultūrELPA and the Ministry of Culture.

Visualisations have been created for the following songs:

Venta (The River Venta), Inese Zandere, Raimonds Pauls (February 9, 2022)

Gula meitīna (The Maiden Sleeps), a Latvian folk song arranged by the Youth Choir BALSIS (February 16, 2022)

Kur Tu teci, gailīti (Where are you skipping to, Little Rooster), lyrics from a Latvian folk song, Aldonis Kalniņš (February 16, 2022)

Vasaras vakars (Summer Evening), Aspazija, Jāzeps Mediņš (February 23, 2022)

Krauklīt`s sēž ozolā  (The Raven sits in an Oak Tree), a Latvian folk song arranged by Jānis Cimze (23.02.2022)

Rīgai (For Riga), Aleksandrs Čaks, Arturs Maskats (March 2, 2022)

Mūsu Tēvs (Our Father), Lucia Garuta (March 2, 2022)

Labvakari, rudzu lauki,  (Good Evening, Rye Fields), Latvian folk song lyrics in a composition by Māris Muktupāvels, choral arrangement by Emils Rusovs (09.03.2022)

Kalado (Celebrating Winter Solstice), lyrics of a Latvian folk song, Juris Vaivods (March 9, 2022)

Šūpuļdziesma (Lullaby), Pēteris Brūveris, Jānis Lūsēns (March 16, 2022)

Pērkonami melni zirgi (Thunder’s Black Horses), Latvian folklore materials, Vilnis Šmīdbergs (March 16, 2022)

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