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Making Music Come Alive with Words

We recently came across an article in the Washington Post about a woman who relies on closed captioning to watch television programs. Her husband Stephen decided to compile a list of the descriptive terminology used during musical interludes to determine if it was helpful or not. The verdict was the more accurate the description, the better.

So [music] or just music notes wasn’t as helpful as a fully descriptive phrase. This is especially true when the music is pertinent to the meaning of the program. For example, on an episode of “Glee” where someone is auditioning to sing and is singing poorly, it is helpful to note that in the captioning. Otherwise, the deaf or hard of hearing viewer loses the meaning of that particular scene.

Some of the more descriptive phrases for music on Stephen’s list: “piano and clarinet playing mischievous melody,” “orchestra playing accelerated frantic,” or “flute fluttering bird song.” Think of the difference between “piano” versus “sinister piano” or, “upbeat piano.” Sometimes just one descriptive word can make the difference!

To read the full article, go to