This incredible technology allows a paralysed trumpeter to make music again

20 November 2020, 16:43

Meet trumpeter Clarence Adoo
Meet trumpeter Clarence Adoo. Picture: Sage Gateshead/YouTube

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

‘Making music using technology is an amazing, fulfilling feeling,’ says trumpeter Clarence Adoo, whose Headspace instrument allows him to play despite being paralysed from the neck down.

Clarence Adoo was one of the UK’s top trumpeters, once playing second trumpet in the Royal Northern Sinfonia (RNS), the UK’s only full-time chamber orchestra.

But 25 years ago, Adoo was in a car crash that left him paralysed from the neck down.

“I have great memories of playing with the Royal Northern Sinfonia,” Adoo says. “It was a huge part of my life, but I had an accident which meant I was paralysed from the neck downwards.

“I wasn’t sure that there was any way that I could make music. But, lo and behold, a couple of people got to find out about my situation and approached me and built me an instrument.”

Now, Adoo plays the Headspace instrument, which is controlled by his breath. Wearing it, he says he “feels like a musician again”.

Read more: How technology gave a disabled violinist the chance to make music again >

“I get to wear a headset with sensors on it, that moves a mouse around a screen, and a little blow tube round the side which I blow down to create notes and music,” he says.

“I have quite a one-off instrument and that enables me to be creative and have a different voice again and to be able to participate. To be amongst them, making music using technology, is an amazing, fulfilling, feeling for me.”

Adoo now plays with RNS Moves, an inclusive ensemble of both disabled and non-disabled musicians.

British emerging composer, Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian, talks about the moment RNS Moves gave her a very specific brief, to write for Adoo’s fascinating new instrument.

“When writing for a new instrument such as the one Clarence Adoo is pioneering, there’s no precedent, no examples you can draw in,” she says. “So, both the composer and performer are learning as they go along.

“Instruments have been invented across history and you’ve seen all sorts of fascinating partnerships between composers and performers, so I’m glad to be continuing that process in the 21st century.”

On 28 November, RNS Moves is playing its first Sage One concert at Sage Gateshead, with music by Shostakovich, Vivaldi and Sally Beamish. The concert is pay-what-you-decide, as part of the new Sage Sessions designed to give audiences a taster of a wide range of exceptional artists playing a variety of genres.