Monday, October 19, 2009

ARCHIVE: My Experience with Retro-Intention

[Originally published on my page at The Living The Field Community on April 3, 2009].
Of course, I didn't know what I was doing or even that I was doing it at the time. In the late 1980s, I sang with a local community chorus. We were all amateurs. But late in my tenure there, a woman who had been a professional singer I'll call S. joined us. She was older than most of us and more used to being a soloist. We did our annual Christmas concert, which was recorded, as usual, on cassette tape, the high technology of the day. Each of us were then given cassettes as a remembrance of the concert. When I listened to my cassette, I was disturbed by the fact that S. was much louder than the rest of us. She just couldn't, or made no effort, to blend.

I was listening again to the tape at my friend D's house over the holidays. I remember sitting on the floor staring intently at the cassette player while children around me were playing, but it did not bother me that they were making noise. I was focused intently on the tape and seemed to hear it with S's voice pushed back so that she blended in more with the chorus. I was shocked when I listened to the tape again at home and heard exactly that: a better blend of the chorus. I listened again to make sure I was hearing correctly. Indeed S's voice had been pushed back. 

Several weeks later, D was at my office and I had her to listen to the tape. She heard the new blend as well and said that I had pushed S. back. (She had seen me focused on the tape at her house). But what was really amazing was that she then listens to her copy of the tape at home for the first time and found the same phenomenon: S. had been pushed back on her tape as well. D. hadn't listened to her tape before that because she had heard the imbalance on my tape when I played it at her home, and had lost interest in listening to the concert recording. 

I tried this experiment on other tapes I had but found that I could not replicate the results. I think that was because I had achieved a peak level of focus that I was not able to replicate. Sometimes when you don't know what you're doing, you do it better than when you do know. But I would like to achieve that focus again someday and put it to better use than just rearranging chorus tapes!