When I first encountered Bill Kenny at my talk about Billy Gawn’s work, at Chumleigh in mid-Devon, I didn’t immediately appreciate that his line of research was a dowsing application at all. It seemed an interesting idea, and I had some vague memory of having heard about it in passing, years earlier, but that was about all.
However, Billy Gawn’s breakthrough that dowsing could be the retrieval of information about a target subject, rather than from it, is so profound that it requires us to revisit even those aspects of dowsing that we thought we almost understood.
My first foray into the world of information-bearing labels was not very inspiring. I tried to print off a page of labels that Bill had emailed to me, but my printer didn’t really want to know about them, and the output appeared so blurred they looked as if they wouldn’t be of any use at all. So, I waited until I visited Bill at his cottage near Bideford in north Devon, to acquire some samples of the ‘real thing’.
Whilst there, Bill demonstrated how the labels worked on each of his two hi-fi systems. I certainly became aware that there seemed to be a difference of some kind, with and without the labels, but being neither a hi-fi specialist nor an opera buff, I was left wondering if I had actually heard anything new, or whether it was just that I was listening harder to a musical style with which I was unfamiliar.
However, the proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the listening. I brought some labels home that Bill had kindly printed off for us. He explained the structure of the information on the labels to me. As a dowser, I have learned by experience never to accept or discount anything I am told, but to examine it for myself in the quiet of my own home.
The first attempt at applying the labels to our own audio equipment wasn’t very promising either. I tried attaching them with blu-tack to the speakers of our kitchen ghetto-blaster, and played a range of our rather eclectic musical archive. Did anything change? Well, if it did, it seemed only that I was expecting it to happen. I ventured into the sitting room, labels in hand and stuck them next to the small integral speakers in the television. Having now assumed a stance that I would not be likely to hear anything different, I was a bit surprised to find that there did appear to be a slight change.
Having played a track of pizzica (southern Italian folk music) first without the labels, then with, then without (until I could stand the track no more!), I was obliged to adjust my judgment to the point that it seemed that something might be happening.
Pizzica is the local traditional music of the Salento region of the ‘heel’ of Italy. The recording that we have is quite recent and consequently of good studio quality. It is a lively and largely uncluttered musical form and, on the recording, the instruments and vocals are well separated (although it does sound more ‘authentic’ live on stage, with much less definition!). One distinctive trademark of pizzica is the strident, almost harsh, female vocal delivery. Without the labels it was very much ‘in your face’ – with them, it was that little bit more mellow.
However, it wasn’t whether the music is more or less pleasant that mattered here (and I’ve loved the pizzica style ever since we encountered the very first bars of the genre at WOMAD in 2013), it’s the fact that there seemed to be a slight, subtle difference to the sound with and without the labels. Something might actually have been happening.
Our TV has rather modest audio reproduction, and the speakers on our ‘hi-fi’ haven’t worked properly for years. Indeed, the system has become more of a monument to our record-listening past, rather than an actively useful piece of equipment. So, I ventured up to our den, where we have a Mac desktop, which has speakers that are invisible and tiny but, being quite new, are the best in the house that still work!
I was just in the process of playing through various types of music when my wife, Ros, returned from a clog-dancing display – and was plonked in front of the Mac, with a minimum of introduction. I decided to try her straight away with a track that we both know to death, and have boogied to all of our lives – well, from the mid-sixties onwards –Get Ready by The Temptations. For those readers too young to remember them, I should explain that The Temptations were one of the star acts of the Tamla Motown label. Motown, short for Motortown i.e. Detroit.
Having been brought up in the Newbury area, we lived in close proximity to the then vast Greenham Common Airbase (later the base camp for the renowned Greenham Women). Darkest Berkshire in the 1960s was an almost homogenous white locality, with the Asian population that became so prominent in the Thames Valley in later decades yet to make much of an appearance that far west. South Newbury, however, was quite different in that Greenham Airbase had a large contingent of black American servicemen, who brought with them their radical and exciting homegrown musical genre – soul. We teenagers lapped it up whole. Briefly, The Soul Club in Newbury, became the third best known in the country, with just the Marquee in London, and the Torch Club in Stoke-on-Trent, having a higher status. Soul was the heartbeat of the local youth, and its anthems have stuck with us throughout our lives. Get Ready is therefore very well known to both Ros and I, and consequently it was the place to start a serious scientific study.
Tamla is famous not just for breaking the likes of The Supremes, The Four Tops and Marvin Gaye, but for its unique ‘sound’ – acoustically compressed, very high register, a ‘wall of noise’ rather than a clearly differentiated collection of performers. Even as youngsters we remarked that it sounded like a couple of dozen singers and musicians using a cheap mic in a phone box. Tinny, raucous, infectiously danceable and hugely addictive. Would this re-mastered analoguerecording, getting on for fifty years old, be susceptible to Kenny Label treatment?
We listened to the track once again (all 2 minutes 36 seconds of it) without labels, tapping our feet and waving our arms involuntarily. Then I put the labels on. As the track started, that familiar drum sound was prominent – as flat as a child hammering a cardboard box, so no change there. But as soon as Eddie Kendrick’s 1966 high-pitched vocal cut in, we looked at one another. His voice was a smidgeon clearer, ever so slightly smoother than on the original. The difference was so evident on a track that we knew so well. Something was definitely happening – at least in this instance.
At this point, we had an enforced break, which corresponded neatly with the arrival of a new set of labels from Bill. This spurred us into putting some effort into sorting out the ‘big’ speakers on the old hi-fi system. Today, these are regarded as being very much old technology, but in their time (about 20 years ago), these aging monsters in their 10” x 20” black wooden cabinets, were considered to be respectable mid-market equipment. As a trial, and seeing that these older speakers have exposed feeder leads, we opted to put the new labels on the incoming speaker cables themselves, rather than on the wooden cabinets and . . . wow!
If there had been any doubt in my mind up to that point, it was blasted away by the first super-crisp notes. We went back to playing the pizzica track from Southern Italy, and this time the edge had been taken right off the strident vocals of the powerful Maria Mazzotta. She had become, once again, the strong distinctive singer that had captured my attention in a marquee in a field in Wiltshire a year earlier. The acoustic guitar accompaniment suddenly had a distinct ‘ching’ instead of a duller strum, and each of the vocalists and musicians had their own place in the sound image – including a castanet player, who was so deep in the mix that I had never heard them before. We were – how you say in UK? – gobsmacked.
The last link in this particular chain took us back to the Mac, with its equally embedded speakers (i.e. it has no exposed acoustic cables on which to stick labels). For consistency, and to reduce the temptation of getting carried away, we went back to our pre-digital Motown masterpiece – with the new label on the incoming mains lead.
Again, we listened to the track in the buff, as it were, before affixing the label and playing it again. Bearing in mind that we’d already experienced quite a sound shift by putting labels on the outside of the speaker locations, if we had had any preconceptions, they would have been that putting the label on the mains lead might possibly work about as well. However, never have pre-conceptions when dowsing –never! In this latest incarnation, Eddie Kendrick’s voice had mellowed and expanded to a point that it sounded more like a cover version than a tarted-up reproduction of the original.
The classically jumbled Tamla backcloth now had separate instruments; the strings sounded like actual violins, not some synthesized mush added to pump up the volume. As a personal clincher, I had always found it amusing that the brief saxophone solo towards the end of the track seemed to consist of the staccato repetition of just two notes, a kind of cameo audio in-joke. With the assistance of the label, it was quite apparent that there are, in fact, at least four or five notes played repeatedly in rapid succession and it’s not something that a faint-hearted or inexperienced brass-blower would ever attempt in public. Stunning, conclusive, game over.
Our experience has raised many new questions – some of which Bill has sought to answer himself, but others that spring to mind are corollaries to other work that I have undertaken. We will go on to discuss some of these, and their implications, shortly.
However, we were able to throw one small glimmer of light on to the dark and formless void of incomprehension that confronted us. When the labels arrived, I put them on the kitchen table for Ros to see. The way they were printed left them looking a little indistinct, and Ros leaned over them to look at them more closely. Being a far more sensitive soul than myself, she immediately felt a force (perhaps an aura) emanating from, or surrounding, the page of labels, which she dowsed as reaching at least six inches above the surface of the page. Even a single label had a tiny, but distinct aura, about an inch above the surface of the print, which was itself considerably more than the aura of the paper itself, which measured just a few millimetres.
This might not explain how the informational aura arrived in the label in the first place, let alone how it could have been copied and transmitted digitally, but it does suggest the first element of a meta-mechanism, that might just be the seed of an explanation.
However, it certainly doesn’t explain why the labels seemed to work better for us on the more distant mains cable than on the closer speaker cabinet. Could it be that the electrical flow in the mains cable is carrying information to the sharp end of the player – perhaps in a similar way to underground water transferring detrimental energy from a disused quarry to some nearby resident’s home?
All we can tell is that, seemingly ‘homeopathically’, about 50 years ago, a group of iconic soul singers sang live in a studio in Detroit, which created an analogue recording (which itself would probably have been repeatedly reprocessed, before being released), and that the master tape has been transferred to a digital format at some stage, which I have then changed to a modern-style file format on my Mac – only for elements of the original event seemingly to resurface in 2014, courtesy of a photocopy, on plain paper, of a hand typed digital label, composed in north Devon by a retired opera critic.
As my mother used to say at moments like this ‘I think it’s time for a cup of tea’.
Nigel Twinn 2015