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Electronic Music Innovations: Raymond Kurzweil

Hello, greetings and salutations.

In this blog post I will be discussing electronic music innovations and how the inventor, Raymond Kurzweil plays an imperative role in electronic music and the industry.

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It’s true that when we hear the name Raymond Kurzweil we think of the keyboard that he designed. That is really a small scope of all the amazing accomplishments he has achieved. In 1970 he graduated from MIT with a degree in Computer Science and Literature and is admired as a futurologist, inventor, author and in recent days the director of engineering at Google. Kurzweil has authored seven books, five of which have been national bestsellers. He has written books regarding technological singularities, artificial intelligence and futurism He specializes in complex fields of optical character recognition (OCR), speech recognition technology, text-to-speech synthesis and of course electronic keyboard instruments. He also speaks publicly on the future of nanotechnology, biotechnology, robotics, life extension technologies and several futuristic technological advancements. Kurzweil speaks broadly to all audience’s presenting keynote speeches at industry conferences like SXSW, DEMO and TED. Kurzweil invented the first CCD flatbed scanner, the first commercial text-to-speech synthesizer, the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, the first omni-font optical character recognition, the first commercially sold, large-vocabulary speech recognition and the first music synthesizer, the “Kurzweil K250”. This magnificent keyboard was capable of recreating orchestral instruments and a grand piano. This keyboard invention had a major impact on music and revolutionized a world of new possibilities for electronic music.

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In 1982 Raymond Kurzweil founded Kurzweil Music Systems, dubbing Stevie Wonder as his musical advisor. In 1983, the original Kurzweil K250 was created and specially mass-produced for Stevie Wonder. The K250 included a multitude of acoustic and synthesized sound options. It had a music sequencer using battery backed RAM and a sampler to record the sounds on the RAM. The K250 had Braille buttons beside the sliders for assorted controls and functions. The Kurzweil K250 was officially released to the music industry during the 1984 Summer NAMM trade show and was then commercially manufactured and available as a fully weighted 88-key keyboard with an expander unit and without keys called the “Kurzweil K250 XP”. A rack mount version was also obtainable called the K250 RMX. This electronic music innovation impacted the music industry in a gigantic way.

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The K250 is predominantly recognized as the first electronic instrument to authentically reproduce the sounds of an acoustic grand piano. It is able to play up to 12 notes concurrently, which is known as 12-note polyphony or multi-timbre, playing multiple sounds on the same note simultaneously. Before that, the bulk of electronic keyboards used synthesized sounds and mimicked acoustic instrument sounds integrated in other electronic instruments using assorted waveforms constructed by oscillators. So many artists and composers have used Raymond Kurzweil’s K250 keyboard. Artists like Stevie Wonder, Tori Amos, Prince, Neil Diamond, John Williams, Herbie Hancock, Huey Lewis and the News, and countless others.

The impressions that Raymond Kurzweil leave with me as a listener, musician and industry professional is mind blowing. His accomplishments in his life and with the K250 led to many great creations in music and the Kurzweil Music Systems. As music continues to advance into bigger technologies and expansions, Kurzweil’s genius was a major gain in the music industry that will continue to ignite the creative outlet for musicians and composers.

Thank you for reading my post on the genius inventor Raymond Kurzweil.

By Adrianna Parnagian

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