Remarks on Accepting the American Composers Orchestra Award
November 14, 2001 by Ray Kurzweil
The Second Annual American Composers Orchestra Award for the Advancement of New Music in America was presented on November 13 to Ray Kurzweil by American Composers Orchestra. Kurzweil reflects on creativity and the jump from the blackboard to changing peoples’ lives.
Originally presented November 13, 2001. Published on KurzweilAI.net on November 14, 2001. See related news item on KurzweilAI.net.
Music is the most universal form of expression
known to human civilization,
more so than other art forms
such as dance, painting, and literature.
Every known culture that has been discovered
has expressed itself through music.
What we express in music represents our most universal ideas,
themes of life and death,
of our connection to each other
and to our spiritual origins.
While music has its roots in our primal history,
it is also the case
that music has always used the most advanced technologies available,
from the cabinet making crafts of the eighteenth century,
the metalworking industries of the nineteenth century,
the analog electronics of the 1960s
to the digital signal processing chips of the 1990s and early twenty-first
Music is both ancient and modern,
and embraces both our folk traditions
and our cutting-edge science.
Music looks both backward
and thereby embodies Winston Churchill’s maxim
that, “the further backward you look,
the further forward you can see.”
is a fitting citation
for the American Composers Orchestra.
The ACO has dedicated itself to giving voice to innovative composers
who are pioneering modern ways
to apply all of our musical traditions and methods.
Coming from a musical family
and an upbringing that valued diverse musical idioms,
it is a special honor for me
to accept this unique and wonderful award.
The exciting thing for me
as an inventor
is that magical leap
from dry formulas on a blackboard
to actual transformations in people’s lives.
That’s the delight of inventing.
What my colleagues and I had tried to accomplish
in the area of musical technology
was to provide a technological bridge
between the old world of acoustic instruments,
and the new world of artistic control
provided by synthesizers, sequencers, sound processors, and controllers.
Today we’ve broken the link
between the physics of creating signals
and the playing techniques required to generate sound.
A musician today can apply any form of playing skill
to produce any timbres,
can create music in non-real-time,
and can jam along with the focused intelligence of cybernetic musicians.
The pace of change is growing exponentially,
and we can be sure that the means of creating music
will accelerate as well.
Of course, it takes more than technology to create music.
Music will remain the expression of human ideas and emotions
through the medium of sound.
And we can be confident that the American Composers Orchestra
will remain a inspiring center of innovation and excellence
for musical creativity.