New Media Music | Ray and Ramona: The genius of Kurzweil
April 30, 2001
New Media Music — April 30, 2001 | Mary Lyn Maiscott
Raymond Kurzweil does some virtual gender bending, among other things. Most inventors repair to their labs or basements or wherever it is they cogitate and ruminate and finally shout “Eureka!” But Raymond Kurzweil is different.
It started in 1965, when, as a high-school student, he appeared on I’ve Got a Secret and whispered to Steve Allen that his self-built computer had written the song he’d just played. Since then, this mild-mannered visionary has dazzled the public with his diverse creations.
The latest also involves music: Kurzweil’s alter ego, the virtual rock-star personality Ramona, who “performed” at the New York Music & Internet Expo (produced by New Media Music) on April 21st. Several days after that remarkable presentation, Kurzweil won one of science’s most prestigious awards, the Lemelson-MIT prize of $500,000 for “outstanding inventiveness and creativity.”
A key person in nominating Kurzweil for this award was Stevie Wonder. Wonder could personally attest to the effect that Kurzweil’s work has had on people’s lives (producing a “significant benefit to society” is one of the requirements for the prize). The consummate musician met the consummate inventor in 1976, when he decided to buy the Kurzweil Reading Machine after Ray demonstrated it on the Today show. “I could read anything I wanted with complete privacy,” Wonder has said of the breakthrough invention, which reads printed pages aloud. “It gave blind people the one thing that everyone treasures, which is independence.”