Media Release: Spinal injury rehabilitation on stage at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Headspace – Tuesday 11 October 2011 at 6pm

HEALTHCARE professionals from all over Scotland will gather at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland later this month to see a remarkable piece of music technology that has the potential to transform how those with spinal injuries are treated.

Virtuoso trumpeter, Clarence Adoo’s musical career was tragically cut short at the age of 35 by a road accident that left him paralysed from the neck down. However, an unique collaboration between the musician and composer/inventor, Rolf Gelhaar, has enabled Clarence to continue with his musical career.

Headspace is a computer-based virtual instrument which is controlled by breath and minute head movements alone.

Developed by Rolf Gelhaar, Headspace has been a lifeline for Clarence, providing him with a platform for his musical return.

“I was introduced to a cornet through the Salvation Army from the age of six,” said Clarence. “I later became a professional trumpet player, so playing a musical instrument is something I have done all of my life, it is as natural as eating and drinking to me.

“The arrival of Headspace has given me more than half of my life back after a near fatal accident in 1995, which left me paralysed from the neck downwards. Nothing can substitute the adrenaline, thrill, rewards and pleasure, in sharing music with others again.”

Spinal injury specialists, surgeons, social workers, speech therapists and nutritionists will attend the Research Colloquia at the Royal Conservatoire on Tuesday 11 October at 6pm to hear from Clarence and Rolf on their experience with Headspace.

Amongst the spinal injuries experts to attend the event will be British-born physiotherapist, Valerie Taylor, from the Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed in Bangladesh.

Ms Taylor set up the centre in India more than 30 years ago to provide medical care, retraining and education for those with spinal injuries. Before her intervention, there were no facilities to help those with spinal injuries.

Ms Taylor has followed Clarence’s return to work since his accident in 1995 and hopes that one day, Headspace may be developed for use in India.

Rolf Gelhaar will present the history, concepts and technology behind the Headspace instrument, with Clarence Adoo demonstrating its musical capacity and potential.

Principal of the Royal Conservatoire, Professor John Wallace CBE, said: “I was a teacher at the Royal College of Music when Clarence Adoo was a student.

I followed his subsequent career at the Northern Sinfonia with great interest, as it was the orchestra with which I started my career as second trumpet, and Clarence went north to fill that very same position.

“His career in Newcastle, subsequent to his car accident, as a musician, animator and organiser has been revelatory.

“Clarence has developed into an all-round impresario of making things happen for other people, and the new instrument which he has pioneered, Headspace, is his new medium for his own self-expression through his own music making.”

Notes for Editors

Clarence Adoo – You can’t spend time with Clarence Adoo and fail to be touched, inspired and impressed by him. He was a top trumpeter and committed Salvationist whose career was tragically cut short. Paralysed from neck down in a road accident – but no insurance payout!. Saved from iron lung by strong diaphragm due to his trumpet playing. Was declined physiotherapy, but can now move an arm – “a miracle”, say doctors. An exceptionally positive and inspirational man who doesn’t complain.

Rolf Gelhaar – was born in 1943 in Breslau (Silesia, Germany), emigrated with his family in 1953 to the USA, grew up in New Mexico and California, attended Yale University (class of ‘65) and the University of California, Berkeley.

After working closely with Stockhausen during the period 1967-71, he concentrated on composition and performance of over 50 commissioned electronic and instrumental works.

In 1974, he also began to carry out research in the area of digital sound synthesis, automation of musical processes and computer-aided composition. At present, Gehlhaar lives in London and Coventry, where he is postgraduate course leader in Design & Digital Media at Coventry School of Art & Design, Coventry University.

HEAD SPACE – Hailed as a revolutionary new instrument, Head Space has been developed by veteran composer and inventor, ROLF GEHLHAAR, that will change the face of music making by the disabled.

Musicians who have lost the capacity to manipulate their traditional instruments through illness or accident can now perform again.

The performer wears a headset which controls a pointer on the screen.

Simply by moving his head, he can play a virtual keyboard to trigger an instrumental sound such as a trumpet, and control sounds and effects like loudness and softness, reverberation, filtering and playing loops.

It is a powerful and expressive instrument capable of making sophisticated music.

This elegant invention of the digital age can be updated and adapted to specific needs not only of the disabled but also of any player wishing to make music with HEAD SPACE.

Valerie Taylor – Is a British physiotherapist who first arrived in Bangladesh with Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) in 1969.

She was appalled at the desperate plight of people paralysed by spinal injury or disease and the fact that they were often left to beg or to die.

Valerie committed herself to bringing about a change in the situation she saw.

It took ten years of persistence but, finally, in 1979 she opened the Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed (CRP).

In recognition of her unique contribution to disabled people in Bangladesh, Valerie received the ‘Shadhinota Dibosh Podok’ the highest civilian award of the country and in 1993 she was awarded the OBE.

Originally four patients in a disused cement warehouse, the centre now has over 100 in-patient beds.

It has a mother and child unit; a hostel and integrated schooling for children with cerebral palsy.

In addition to the in-patient services offered by the centre, over 15,000 out-patients are seen every year.

There is also an independent living centre for disabled women, which has recently attracted funding from UK-based high street retailer, Marks & Spencer


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Contact: Katie Bell
Phone: 0141 270 8387