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Violinist plays for first time in 29 years after life-changing accident

Photo: Sky Atlantic

A promising violinist, who lost her ability to play after a catastrophic car accident, has been given the chance to play again using breakthrough computer technology.

Rosie Johnson, who had been a leading member of the Welsh National Orchestra until she sustained life-changing injuries in the accident 29 years ago, robbing her of her speech, movement and confined her to a wheelchair, unable to play her violin.

Professor Miranda and Rosie Johnson Credit: Sky Atlantic

But following work alongside Professor Eduardo Miranda, an expert in computer music at Plymouth University, who has created a way in which she can tell the computer what notes to play, she has been able to perform once again.

"She can choose the musical phrase that someone will play for her by looking at the light that is just next to them, and we can detect that information in her brain."

– Professor Eduardo Miranda

“We told Rosie she can make choices between these four options that are changing all the time,” said Professor Miranda.

“She can make choices, she can choose the musical phrase that someone will play for her by looking at the light that is just next to them, and we can detect that information in her brain."

In a short film made by Sky Atlantic (clip below) Rosie has once again become part of an orchestra for a special concert with her friend Alison Balfour, who she performed with before the accident, playing the notes that Rosie chose using the technology.

Alison said it was “very special” to have Rosie in her wheelchair beside her and, under the guidance of Professor Miranda and the crew, they “were able to make some music”.

At the moment, Rosie is choosing pre-programmed phrases to create her own composition. The next step for professor Miranda is to create away for people to make their own music, note-by-note, simply with their thoughts with research ongoing.

Research taking place at Plymouth University Credit: ITV West Country