Violinist Rosemary Johnson has fought a long battle with her disability for the last 27 years, never fully coming to terms with the fact that she cannot make music again.
In 1988, at the age of 22, Rosemary Johnson who was also a member of the Welsh National Opera Orchestra, survived a devastating car accident that left her in a coma for seven months. The serious head injury that she sustained robbed her of speech and gave her little to no movement at all.
Johnson, who is now 50, was destined to become a world class musician but suddenly found herself in a horrible position that left her totally disabled. This meant she could only pick a few chords on the piano, and only with the help of her mother.
Despite this, thanks to this latest breakthrough, she can now play music again after a 27-year break.
In a groundbreaking 10-year project led by Plymouth University and the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability in London, Johnson’s brain has been wired to a computer using Brain Computer Music Interfacing software.
#Happiness: Brain damaged violinist makes music for first time in 27 years with mind-reading technology: "Rosemary Johnson had made music f…— Joy is a Lifestyle (@feedingjoy) February 8, 2016
By wearing an EEG cap that reads electrical information from the brain, the musician can select notes by focusing on different colored lights on the computer screen. She is even able to alter the volume and speed of the piece by adjusting the “intensity” of the mental focus. A proxy-musician then reads the musical phrases off the screen and plays in real time, on Johnson’s behalf.
Professor Eduardo Miranda, composer and director of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research at Plymouth University, told The Telegraph that seeing Johnson perform was a moving experience.
He shared, “The first time we tried with Rosemary, we were in tears. We could feel the joy coming from her at being able to make music. It was perfect because she can read music very well and make a very informed choice.”
Johnson and fellow patients Clive Wells, Richard Bennett and Steve Thomas are called the Paramusical Ensemble and have already recorded a piece called Activating Memory, which will debut at the Peninsula Arts Contemporary Music Festival in Plymouth later this month.