Dedicated to Cuatro Puntos & The American School for the Deaf.
SQUISH! is a love story, King Kong’s love story. But not the conventional one immortalised in the 1933 Hollywood film - the terrifying giant ape astride the Empire State Building who clasps the fainting heroine, while swiping hopelessly at the planes which eventually send him crashing dead to the ground. This is the American Sign Language (ASL) version which has something of a twist at the end:
‘Deaf King Kong: The signer starts off by describing King Kong (showing his massive head, huge sausage like fingers, and big teeth) and then the city itself, showing the buildings first then the windows on each of the buildings. King Kong looks in one of the windows and sees something so he reaches his hand in and grabs it. He notices that it is a very attractive woman and he holds on to her. As he is walking the ground is shaking, people look up and see him and scream in fright, they all run away from him. He then sees a huge sky scraper and begins to climb it. When he gets to the top he can see everything. He then looks at the girl he has been holding on to and notices her beauty and signs that she is beautiful. He then realizes that she understood him and that she is Deaf. He tells her he is also Deaf. He signs "I want to Marry..." (the sign for marry is clasping two hands together) and in the process of signing this he squishes her. Oops…’ (© Danielle Holdridge)
ASL stories are a very important part of deaf culture, serving to entertain as well as teach and this musical interpretation attempts to capture something of the humour of the King Kong story as well as conveying the main narrative elements - the noise of New York, the thunderous footsteps of Kong, climbing the skyscraper, the tender love song and the tragic squish as the Beast kills the Beauty!
Squish! was written during my time as Composer-in-Residence with Cuatro Puntos and was commissioned with funds from the Connecticut Office of the Arts. The premiere took place at the American School for the Deaf (the oldest permanent school for the deaf in the United States founded in 1817) in West Hartford, Connecticut on 7 December 2016.