Zane Van Dusen

Adaptive Use Musical Instruments for the Physically Challenged

Band Photo
Screenshot of the current instrument interface


The goal of the Adaptive Use Musical Instruments for the Physically Challenged project is to research and design a musical instrument for people who are unable to play traditional instruments due to a physical disability, like Cerebral Play. The instrument will allow people who suffer from certain physical disabilities to produce electronic sounds and compose music in both solo and ensemble settings.

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a neurological disorder that permanently affects body movement and muscle coordination. Although CP affects the brain, it is not a mental disorder. However, many people with CP are mentally “locked-in” by their inability to speak and/or move.

Software Interface

For this project, I developed a program that tracks head movements using a standard webcam. The software continually tracks the X and Y coordinates of a point on the user's face (usually the tip of their nose). The software then uses this data to trigger notes in a scale or percussive sounds. I developed the software using Max/MSP/Jitter.

Benefits of the Project

This instrument will give a voice to those who are all too often ignored, due to their physical disability. Although the goal of this project is to allow for musical communication, one could use this interface to enable people to communicate in many different ways. For example, one could adapt this interface to create speech software, which would enable those who suffer from CP to form full sentences, rather than “yes” or “no” responses.

Team Members

Pauline Oliveros, Don Millard, Leaf Miller, Kyle McDonald, Nan ---, Zevin Polzin, Zane Van Dusen