Kurzweil K250
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Kurzweil K250
Kurzweil K250 (1984)

The Kurzweil K250 a.k.a. "Kurzweil 250", "K250" or "K-250", manufactured by Kurzweil Music Systems was the first electronic musical instrument which produced sound derived from sampled sounds burned onto integrated circuits known as read-only memory (ROM), without the requirement for any type of disk drive. Acoustic sounds from brass, percussion, string and woodwind instruments as well as sounds created using waveforms from oscillators were utilized. Primarily designed for the professional musician, it was conceived and invented by Raymond Kurzweil, original founder of Kurzweil Computer Products, Inc., Kurzweil Music Systems and Kurzweil Educational Systems with consultation from Stevie Wonder; Lyle Mays, an American jazz pianist; Alan R. Pearlman, founder of ARP Instruments Inc.; and Robert Moog, inventor of the Moog synthesizer.


In the mid-1970s, Raymond Kurzweil invented the first multi-font reading machine for the blind, consisted of the earliest CCD flat-bed scanner and text-to-speech synthesizer. In 1976, Stevie Wonder heard about the demonstration of this new machine on The Today Show, and later he became the user of first production unit, Kurzweil Reading Machine. It was the beginning of a long-term relationship between them.[1]

In 1982 Stevie Wonder invited Raymond Kurzweil to his new studio in Los Angeles, and asked if "we could use the extraordinarily flexible computer control methods on the beautiful sounds of acoustic instruments?"[2] In response to this query, Raymond Kurzweil founded Kurzweil Music Systems, with Stevie Wonder as musical advisor.[1] A prototype of the Kurzweil K250 was manufactured for Stevie Wonder in 1983. It featured Braille buttons along with sliders (potentiometers) for various controls and functions, an extensive choice of acoustic and synthesized sounds to choose from, a sampler to record sounds onto RAM and a music sequencer utilizing battery-backed RAM for compositional purposes. During production of the Kurzweil K250 at least five units were manufactured for Stevie Wonder.

The Kurzweil K250 was officially unveiled to the music industry during the 1984 Summer NAMM trade show. Shortly thereafter the Kurzweil K250 was commercially manufactured until 1990 and was initially available as an 88-key fully weighted keyboard and as an expander unit without keys called the Kurzweil K250 XP. A few years later into production a rack mount version called the Kurzweil K250 RMX a.k.a. K250 X also became available.

The Kurzweil K250 was the first electronic instrument to faithfully reproduce the sounds of an acoustic grand piano[]. It could play up to 12 notes simultaneously (also known as 12-note polyphony) by utilizing individual sounds as well as layered sounds (playing multiple sounds on the same note simultaneously, also known as being multitimbral). Up to that point in time the majority of electronic keyboards utilized synthesized sounds and emulated acoustical instrument sounds created in other electronic instruments using various waveforms produced by oscillators. Five other manufactured digital sampled sound musical instruments were available at that time: E-mu Corporation's E-mu Emulator and E-mu Emulator II; Fairlight Corporation's Fairlight CMI; and New England Digital's Synclavier I and Synclavier II.


  • "All I Ask of You" - from: Phantom of the Opera composed by: Andrew Lloyd Webber - performed by Christopher McGilton and Nancy Smith using the Kurzweil 250 solely as the accompaniment [1]
  • "Gesù bambino" composed by: Pietro A. Yon - performed by Christopher McGilton and Nancy Smith using the Kurzweil 250 solely as the accompaniment [2]
  • Christopher Yavelow - Countdown (For the Nuclear Age) - The Worlds First Computer Opera, completely synchronized from the baton of the conductor to the Kurzweil K250 [3]
  • Christopher McGilton - Religious/Sacred Music in .mp3 format performed on the Kurzweil 250 and Yamaha MU-50/80 Sound Module [4] or [5]
  • Craig D. Tollis - The Happy Frog: Kurzweil K250 - Two demo recordings of the Kurzweil 250 [6]
  • Jane Brockman - Kurzweil Etudes: original compositions performed on the Kurzweil 250, listen to 3 excerpts from the Opus One recording:[7][8][9]
  • Pamela J. Marshall - Spindrift Recordings - Noises, Sounds & Strange Airs, "Child's Play"[10]
  • Pauline Oliveros - Dear. John: A Canon on the Name of Cage [11]
  • Steven Johannessen - K250 Demo Music Showcase at the Middle Of Nowhere [12]
  • The Kurzweil 250 Rock Block - Play the 45 RPM Kurzweil 250 Demo Record virtually! [13]
  • The Kurzweil Rocks! - Play the 45 RPM Kurzweil 250 Demo Record virtually![14]
  • The Virtual Kurzweil 250 Sound Sheet - Play the 45 RPM Kurzweil 250 Demo Record virtually![15]
  • Philipp Koltsov - Russian composer & pianist plays Kurzweil 250's patch #1 Grandpiano Demo [16]

Audio and video

  • ASJ Avantius - Muzika u doma?oj kinematografiji ( II DEO ) [17]
  • Bach's Nightmare: The Ultimate Rape, or The Art of Kitsch [18]
  • CBS News Interview with Joel Spiegelman in September, 1988 on New Age Bach and the Kurzweil 250 [19]
  • Chick Corea Electrik Band - "The Dragon" (Note the Kurzweil 250 is to Chick's left on the bottom and string sounds are played on it during the performance) [20]
  • Christopher McGilton - "Magnificat" performed on the Kurzweil 250 and Yamaha MU-80 Sound Module - [21]
  • Christopher McGilton - "No Greater Love" performed on the Kurzweil 250 and Yamaha MU-80 Sound Module - [22]
  • Clinton S. Clark - Film Scoring Portfolio [23]
  • FX - Kevin Loch at Lisner Auditorium Nov. 8, 1986 [24]
  • Joel Spiegelman Interview on the Joe Franklin Show, August 1988 [25]
  • Keith Emerson - Emerson, Lake and Powell with Paul Shaffer and the CBS Orchestra on the Late Show with David Letterman (Note that two Kurzweil K250's are being played live - one by Keith Emerson and the other by Paul Shaffer) [26]
  • Kurzweil - It all started with Ray Kurzweil - The story of Stevie Wonder's technical challenge to Ray Kurzweil that ultimately motivates the inception of Kurzweil Music Systems. [27]
  • Kurzweil 250 Demo Cassette (Jazz / Orchestral demo from a great sampler-synth) [28]
  • Kurzweil 250 Demo Cassette (with voiceover explaining history and features) [29]
  • Kurzweil 250 Rock Block Demo 33 1/3 RPM Record [30]
  • Mutabaruka - "The Mystery Unfolds" [31]
  • Pat Metheny Group - "Daulton Lee" (information in Italian) [32]
  • Ray Kurzweil - Ray Kurzweil Appearing on Worldnet - Demonstration of the Kurzweil 250 [33]
  • Robert Estrin - Piano Questions: A Great Digital Piano - The Kurzweil K250 [34]
  • Santino Famulari - "La Campanella" on a Kurzweil 250 - [35]
  • Steven Johannessen - Visual Music Showcase at the Middle Of Nowhere [36]
  • The Big Cruise - "Don Lampasone" (ASCAP) [37]
  • The Mosquito [38]
  • Wayne Shorter Quartet - "The Last Silk Hat" (North Sea Jazz 1986) [39]

External links

  • Sound on Sound - Size Does Matter Kurzweil K250 Workstation Keyboard (Retro) [40]
  • Sound on Sound - Synth Secrets [41]
  • The Age of Spiritual Machines [42] or [43]
  • The Man and the Machine:An Interview With Ray Kurzweil [44]
  • Time Magazine - Can We Talk? An article about Speech-to-Text recognition and about the Kurzweil 250 [45]
  • Virtual Organ - Virtual Instruments:Joe Barron, Present at the 1984 NAMM Show when the Kurzweil 250 was introduced: [46]
  • What's New In Electronic Music; The Art Advances At Warp Drive: A. Arnold Anderson, New York Times [47]
  • Synthony's Synth & MIDI Museum [48]
  • Mastering the Kurzweil 250, Volume One: User's Guide and Volume Two: Reference Manual, Copyright 1988 Kurzweil Music Systems, Inc. [49]
  • Synrise - Brief information on the Kurzweil 250 (In German) [50]
  • Byrd, Donald, & Yavelow, Christopher (1986). The Kurzweil 250 Digital Synthesizer. Computer Music Journal 10, no. 1, pp. 64-86.[51]


  1. ^ a b "A Biography of Ray Kurzweil". Kurzweil Technologies, Inc. 2008.
  2. ^ The Age of Spiritual Machines (Viking, 1999)

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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