Communicating lyrics is an artistic process

Understanding and then communicating lyrics can be all gray area in the absence of an actual meeting with the artist, but interpreters try. Here's how Seattle's JoAnna Ball and Pam Parham dealt with particular situations.

U2, "Elevation"

At the corner of your


As the orbit of your



You elevate my soul

"When I looked at the overall meaning of the song, I felt it was about religion, but that first piece was very sexual," Ball says.

To interpret effectively, she says, you have to let yourself become the artists and imagine what they're trying to say. She gave sexual meaning to "lips" and "eclipse," but says that later in the song, Bono talks about still not being satisfied and wanting to be closer to God.

"I've had people say, 'I don't think that was right at all.' Others go, 'Really? That's what it means?' But I'm never gonna meet Bono. I'm never gonna sit down and have him tell me what it means."

Le Tigre, "FYR (Fifty Years of Ridicule)"

You know these days no one's


Sorry dude can't hear ya with

my head in the toilet

Parham did get the chance to meet with the band before a performance at Michfest, a women's summer festival in rural Michigan.

This particular song addresses female subjugation; the lines above are intended sarcastically. "I told them, 'What I'm going to sign is, a guy saying 'Everyone's equal' to a TV monitor, and then a girl reading teen mags who then turns to vomit.'

"They were like, 'That's beautiful.' But to tell that story, I have to use role shift... . What it really means is, someone's anorexic, and society's contributing. In English, you're used to hearing these words and making that jump, but in the deaf world, that doesn't happen."

"Music means nothing to us," says AJ Granda, a deaf and partially blind woman who has been interning with Parham. "You interpret the story in the song."