Old, Potent LSD Found on a Vintage Buchla Red Module

[Photo of Ken Kesey's Buchla system as displayed at Calgary's National Music Centre]

When comparing Don Buchla's wilder take on modular synth design to Bob Moog's early East Coast units, much has been said about the experimental nature of his West Coast synthesis. And one of the enduring tales about the Berkeley, California-based Buchla is just how much the countercultural movements of the late '60s seeped into his work.

For decades, some have claimed that Buchla's red-panel modules were covered in LSD, allowing players to easily imbibe the psychedelic as they explored the instrument's possibilities. Considering Buchla's association with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, The Grateful Dead, and guerrilla acid chemist Owsley Stanley, it seemed a plausible story. In the popular 2014 synth documentary I Dream of Wires, the rumor was circulated again.

Yesterday, San Francisco's local CBS network, KPIX, ran a story that both sheds light on and obscures the truth of these tales.

KPIX's own broadcast operations manager, Eliot Curtis, took on some freelance work rehabilitating an old Buchla 100 system that had been stored away for years at Cal State University East Bay. In the process, he got dosed. KPIX writes:

During his repair work, Curtis opened the module and saw something stuck under a knob.

“There was like a residue … a crust or a crystalline residue on it,” said Curtis.

He sprayed a cleaning solvent on it and started to push the dissolving crystal with his finger as he attempted to dislodge the residue and clean the area.

About 45 minutes later, Curtis began to feel a little strange. He described it as a weird, tingling sensation. He discovered this was the feeling of the beginnings of an LSD experience or trip.

The sensation lasted roughly nine hours.

After his trip, Curtis got the remaining residue tested, determining that it was indeed LSD.

While it may be fun to conclude definitively that this was standard-issue on a Buchla red module, there are, of course, other explanations, not least of which is that some student or Buchla enthusiast added his own supply years or decades after it was first built.

Go read the whole story over at KPIX here.

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