For the people who hear, music is not just an audible experience; music is intimately related to the memories of our lives. But, have you ever wondered how deaf people experience music? Impelled by that question, the members of Nerven&Zellen, a Chilean performing arts group, have been working on making it easier for deaf people to create visual memories associated with songs.

Nerven&Zellen started doing very creative videos of popular songs in 2009.  These videos have captions, and, most importantly, they are interpreted in sign language by the women members of Nerven&Zellen.  They wear the same tight and short outfits and the same flashy wigs.  Their interpretations are basically a theatrical choreography!  Besides the videos and other projects, Nerven&Zellen have performed live with musical bands, interpreting the band’s songs in sign language.  Their work is nothing like the interpreters that sometimes you see on TV, Nerven&Zellen go to great lengths to make their performances memorable. 

All this work brought the group to experiment another way of bringing music to the deaf and, in 2015, they created a show called "Transmisor - Radio Visual." It is, according to María Siebald -Transmisor’s director-, “a radio to see.”

To achieve the intended visual transmission, Nerven&Zellen designed a structure with 4 independent spaces that was assembled at the Teatro IF in Santiago, Chile, in April 2015.  In each space of the structure, a dancer/sign language interpreter performed a song.  They used 4 different songs in Spanish by 4 different artists.  In addition to the sign language interpretation, the spaces had 2 other visual elements.  LED lights on the sides of the structure showed the pitch and volume of the sound.  On top of the structure, an oscilloscope screen showed a live image of the sound.  The whole performance was done in silence, putting the hearing and deaf audiences on a leveled field. 

In Maria Siebald’s words, their mission with this performance was “more than to get excited about the music, it is to transform ourselves into the extension of the artist’s voice and transform ourselves for a minute into music. We are music.” That is a very ambitious challenge! 


Take a look at these performances. You don't need to know Spanish to enjoy them! Tell us what you think in our Facebook page, did Nerven&Zellen accomplish their mission?

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