Sign language interpreter slays at heavy metal concert
ABC (NEW YORK) — How do you shred a guitar and let out a primal scream without making a sound?
One sign language interpreter stole the show at a heavy metal concert by passionately signing the music and lyrics for deaf fans.
Lindsay Rothschild-Cross’ interpretation of a June 20 metal concert in Austin, Texas, was caught on video and has racked up tons of views online — but the high school teacher told “Good Morning America” she is new to the genre.
“I grew up with Guns N’ Roses, and Alice in Chains and Iron Maiden and things like that,” Rothschild-Cross told “GMA.” “I’ve never actually interpreted for death metal though. This is the first time.”
Rothschild-Cross was accompanied by another American Sign Language interpreter during her on-camera interview with “GMA” so that she could share her thoughts with the deaf community.
The gig was part of Slayer’s final world tour and included the bands Lamb of God, Anthrax, Behemoth, and Testament. The sign language teacher said that before each concert, she researches the artist so she can know their background. The key to signing music is to know the emotion behind the lyrics, not just the lyrics themselves, she said.
The viral video shows Rothschild-Cross interpreting Lamb of God’s song, “Ruin.” The lyrics include such hardcore lines as “I will show you all that I have mastered / Fear. / Pain. / Hatred. / Power. / This is the art of ruin.”
“At first, I was honestly very nervous because I had never interpreted metal,” Rothschild-Cross said. “The key is you have to impersonate the singer. The meaning of the song is a lot of anger. I just took on that feeling of someone that has hurt me before.”
Under the Americans With Disabilities Act, state and local governments, as well as businesses and nonprofits that serve the public, must provide ways to “communicate effectively with people who have communication disabilities.” That can include a qualified sign language interpreter.
But not all interpreters are created equal, particularly when it comes to interpreting music. Amber Galloway Gallego is an American Sign Language interpreter and the owner of Amber G Productions, a company offering interpretation services for all different kinds of music.
Gallego said she has been interpreting for more than 14 years and has also worked with Rothschild-Cross.
“If you think about this analogy of how people sing, not everyone is good at it,” Gallego told ABC News via email. “The same thing goes for interpreting music — some are better at it and some of them look like a person who is scraping their nails against a chalkboard.”
If venues choose to go with the cheapest interpreter available, she said, “the deaf person often will miss out on the experience which they paid good money to see.”
Signing music is about much more than just conveying the meaning of the lyrics, she said.
“Every instrument has a voice. If we choose to ignore those voices, we are taking away from the experience and deaf people are constantly having things not be accessible,” Gallego said. “If you only look at the lyrics, then it just becomes poetry. All the layers of music are what drives us to listen. You have to show all of them. And no, we are not playing air instruments, we are showing language.”
Rothschild-Cross said multiple interpreters usually cover a concert, and at the June 20 gig, each covered four to six songs. While they try to prepare ahead of time, “sometimes they play a song and you just have to roll with it,” she explained.
Her passion for conveying the music was evident to the band’s fans — both those who can hear and those who are deaf. The video was filmed by Freddie Ibarra, a fan who could hear but was so amazed by Rothschild-Cross and the response from deaf fans nearby that he started recording. But the experience also gave Rothschild-Cross a new take on heavy metal.
“I don’t normally listen to that music. But after listening, I gained a whole new appreciation,” she said.
Rothschild-Cross has always been passionate about communicating with her friends in the deaf community in Austin and eventually pursued sign language in college as well. She said she has been interpreting at concerts for about four years and hopes the video will also help challenge stereotypes about deaf people.
“I just want people to understand that they can think, they can have religion, they can do anything we can do. Except hear,” she said.
Gallego agreed, saying that the response from deaf fans is what makes her job special.
“My favorite experience is when deaf people have told me that this was their first time ever truly experiencing music and now have a better understanding of what each instrument sounds like,” Gallego said. “When I see the deaf and hard of hearing patrons signing the instruments with me, it gives me chills every time.”
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