The Billion-Dollar Synthesizer

Here’s something interesting I found at the ORIMA website, specifically their “History of Experimental Music in Northern California” section. Rich Gold; a digital artist and technology lecturer, composed a set of instructions for “Billion Dollar Synthesizer”… better known to most as two phone handsets taped together, each “speaking and listening” to the other.

From my online searching, I don’t find a lot left about Mr. Gold. He died in his sleep in early 2003. His novel “The Plenitude” still hasn’t found a publisher. his online memorial is experiencing technical difficulties, and the best pictures I can locate are named rather unflatteringly; referencing his graying hair. Other pictures weren’t even taken by humans, but by the Palo Alto Research Center’s ZombieBoard, a whiteboard scanning machine. Even Rich’s homepage has reverted back to an advertisment for the hosting company. Afterlife online can be bleak.


It occurs to me that posting Gold’s “Billion Dollar Synthesizer” scores, and inviting reader to realize them is a good idea. I’m sure the composer will forgive you if you have to use a cell phone. If you do attempt your own performance of any of these pieces, please send me a message, so I can post the results here.

IMAGINARY UNITED STATES-SCAPE #1. Element #1: Randomly dial a telephone number. Element #2: Randomly dial a telephone number. Note: Just let them work it out for themselves.

IMAGINARY WORLD-SCAPE #1 Element #1: Randomly dial a number in say Japan. Element #2: Randomly dial a number in say Spain.

PIECE WITH RELATED ELEMENTS. Element #1: Somebody. Element #2: The brother, sister, mom, or dad of element #1. Note: Don’t let them know. Long lost cousins might be nice.

POLITICAL MUSIC #1. Element #1: Dial somebody. A real nobody. Element #2: Dial a government agency that might be able to help.

DEGENERATE MUSIC #1. Element #1: Dial a number. Element #2: Dial the same number. Note: Let the phone company work it out.

A STUDY IN CONSTIPATION. Element #1: Randomly dial a number. Element #2: Dial the time-temp number.

Rich Gold, Berkeley CA, Feb. 1974

One Response to “The Billion-Dollar Synthesizer”

  1. startlingmoniker Says:

    Be sure to see my OWN submissions for the Billion Dollar Synth at: the next day’s entry.

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