João Carlos Martins, a classical pianist and conductor well regarded for his great interpretations of work by Johann Sebastian Bach, thought he had reached the end of his career when he retired last March.
Not by choice, but by necessity, the legendary musician stepped away from the piano after a degenerative disease and multiple accidents left him with debilitating pain in his hands. Despite multiple surgeries, Martins had not played the piano with both hands for over two decades and worked mainly as a conductor since the early 2000s.
But last December, the 79-year-old regained the ability to sit down in front of his prized instrument and play once again, a feat he had long written off as impossible. This was thanks to a designer named Ubiratã Bizarro Costa, and a pair of “magic” bionic gloves designed specifically for Martins.
Bionic Gloves for Piano
Costa, who is a fan of Martin’s, attended a concert in the city of Sumaré, Brazil, and approached the conductor afterward explaining he had developed a prototype set of gloves based on Martins’ hands. “But those were far from ideal,” he admits in an interview with the Associated Press (AP).
Following his lead, Martins offered to work with the designer to perfect the invention. A few months, and only around $150 worth of construction costs later, they had their operational bionic pianist gloves.
These extraordinary gloves are designed to lift Martins’ fingers up after he pushes down the piano keys as he plays. This upward motion helps rid him of the pain he typically feels when trying to play. The durable gloves are held together by carbon fiber and covered with neoprene.
Out of more than 100 gadgets Martins has received over the last 50 years to help with his painful hand issues, he tells the AP none of worked like these gloves. He enjoys them so much that he never takes them off, not even when he goes to bed.
After his long hiatus from the piano, Martins’ admits the gloves are not a way for him to pick up where he left off.
“I might not recover the speed of the past. I don’t know what result I will get. I’m starting over as though I were an eight-year-old learning,” he told the AP.
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