The final and most cultishly sought-after artifact in the line is the somewhat redundantly christened "LP Record Clamp". A product that is 'legendary' even by this company's normally diffident estimation, the clamp is popular even among well-bankrolled vinylphiles outside Shun Mook's regular fan base. It is prepared from a far rarer version of the already rare ebony that branches its way throughout the catalog: "Extra heavy" pieces of dried ebony briar and gnarled knots of ebony root that have spent a century or more marinating in the foreboding swamps of the dark continent's very Heart of Darkness.

The clamp is said to be made in "very, very limited" numbers due to difficulties of raw material supply and Shun Mook's own promotional material -- such as it is -- even hints that this item may in the foreseeable future vanish into tweak history for this same reason. Hey, are you going to wade into that black, writhing quagmire to stock us up, Tarzan? I didn't think so. Here, I couldn't help pressing Bill on the whole gestalt of basing an entire line of consumer goods on resources many consider to be on the botanical endangered species list; sort of the sound world's equivalent of marketing Panda-skin boots and Spotted Owl teapot cozies.

Just in case you may have assumed that left-field theoreticians couldn't comfortably bunk-mate with right-wing politics, get a load of the gusher that particular probe released: "Ebony supply is limited but not as bad as the eco-nuts are saying", replied Bill rather testily, plunging me snout-first into a Winnie The Pooh-like anxiety over my dwindling honey supply. "The rain forest is destroyed but [by] people not related to the use of hardwood. Mostly, the reason [for this sensitivity] is political. These so-called environmental experts have never stepped foot into the rain forest nor have they any idea of [what the situation] is really like. They just base [these scare tactics] upon their own junk science and lie to make a living. Then there are a lot of fools in this country listening to them".

Holy crude in the Artic Preserve, Batman! Seems like maybe Shun Mook has had to field this line of enquiry before, and they're just ever so slightly fed-up with it. "Exotic hardwood use in furniture making and musical instrument manufacturing is so tiny in quantity that is has hardly any effect on the whole picture", Bill Ying concluded. And if I had any hope left of getting more out of this fledgling relationship, "concluded" was what I would be wise to consider this topic. But eco-politics aside, why go through the hassle, expense and wide-ranging vagaries that come with relying on the availability of some of the planet's more singular resources for raw material? The answer is simply because nothing less, nothing more and nothing else will do.

"Here we must mention the awe felt for this plant by the Gauls. The Druids -- or so their magicians are called -- held nothing more sacred."
[Pliny (A.D. 23-79)--from Historia Naturalis]

The 'superstitious' canonization of any number of naturally occurring but uncommon elements is nothing new in the Annals Of Man. And sure 'nuff, contemporary studies reveal a fair helping of astute, aboriginal intuition at work behind many of them. Careful examination of an ebony cross-section will reveal that this wood has a cellular structure consisting of countless hollow shafts reminiscent, according to one of the very few Shun Mook scriptures obtainable, of a "micro-sized pipe organ". Due to this unique biology, the designers assert, ebony displays the most musical properties of all woods in its resonant behavior. A claim that puts your scribe roughly in mind of the even-order/odd-order harmonic conduct at the heart of the Tubes vs Solid State hostilities (such subjects as Shakti, Shun Mook and even bare-naked, unicycle-riding offshoots of Kabbala representing passionless small talk when compared to that dynamic contretemps, so forget I mentioned it, k?).

It is for this reason, Shun Mook tells us, that ebony is the unchallenged material of choice for the fingerboards of stringed instruments and the bodies of the woodwinds. This in turn leads us to the founding principal of the Mook method: Sympathetic resonance.

The concept of sympathetic resonance is familiar to those of us who have ever toyed with tuning forks or attempted a reverberating rendition of "Innagoddadavida" on the Thanksgiving crystal after too far a swallow of mulled cider. And the reason these misunderstood mavens of musical magicks want us to be sympathetic to resonance is simply because, like it or not, resonance will always be with us. It is a basic law of physics that energy cannot be destroyed, Shun Mook would remind us. And devices designed to dampen, absorb or isolate the resonances associated with recreating music are often times up to more mischief than miracles (I would soon discover that Shun Mook finds the current crop of higher-end vinyl spinners especially guilty in this regard. More later).

Reacting not unlike a musical instrument, the Mpingo disc is said to become sympathetically charged with the musical resonance output of the loud-speakers. Singing along in response, the disc radiates vibes of a tonally complimentary quality into the surrounding atmosphere (I'm struggling not to visualize a Disney movie, with ordinarily inanimate things like cups, saucers and black wooden discs boogying along in full voice with the soundtrack). Placed strategically throughout the listening room and on-or-near sundry electronics, these discs are meant to redirect normally unexploited "musical resonances" back into the main aural attraction. All this as our wee disc goes about "overriding harmonic distortion" and, one can reasonably infer, reciting The Song of Hiawatha from memory whilst juggling roaring chain saws. But seriously folks, these effects are further purported to allow the listener a broad palate for the fine tuning of soundstage width, depth and center focus merely by adjusting the location and directional orientation of the discs themselves.

Of course, not all resonances are of the desirable musical variety. Mecha-nical resonance is no more welcome at the Mpingo Pagoda than it is at your place or mine, and it is into this mêlée that the Diamond Resonators are deployed. The only items in the Shun Mook
line to be covered by US Patent
(#D364168), the Ultra, Giant and Super Diamond Resonators are said to provide an unusually encompassing service compared to more conventional equipment support options. Here, in one seemingly lifeless puck, we find the musically sympathetic and -- in the case of the Resonators -- distortion-filtering properties of a Mpingo "reservoir" coupled with mechanical grounding courtesy of a steel shank tipped with a natural (i.e. not a faux or cultured) diamond (Oh baby. Diamonds. Yet another political potboiler of an African natural resource). This diamond is of 1/10, ¼ or ½ carat weight depending on the variety of Resonator employed. And speaking of employed, you'd better be. Gainfully so.

An admittedly hasty check on Shun Mook pricing turns up approximately zip, with retailers typically penning in only "various" or "call" in the price column of any Mook merchandise they may carry. If you have to ask... figure roughly $50 - $60/pop for the basic Mpingo disc, $40 - $475-ish per 3-count set for the "Super" version of the Diamond Resonators. The LP clamp goes for just about Two Large. Don't quote me (and if you're budgeting for this black magic, err on the higher side for safety). I guess at the very least, you must accept that for your investment, you're coming into ownership of small works of Zen art that are hewn from precious hardwoods occasionally festooned with genuine diamonds, laser- etched and honed by hand, one at a time and with no small effort (this lumber is tough) by someone who really wants you to get the most from your music and doesn't give a right rodent's rectum who might say otherwise.

"This is only a sideline for me", Bill felt compelled to remind me in another recent exchange, "and now if anything, we have too much business. So anything good or bad [said] about Shun Mook does not concern me". Vive la liberte. "I just want you to find out for yourself the result of the disc and go from there". And as if on cue, the promised package at last arrives. But let us first take a moment to reset our scopes squarely upon what it is we are gathered here to do.

Tweak: verb 1 twist or pull with a small but sharp movement | 2 informal: improve by making fine adjustments - noun an act of tweaking - ORIGIN probably from dialect twick pull sharply; related to TWITCH.
[Compact Oxford English Dictionary]

My colorful stereo-pair colleagues from The Netherlands, Marja & Henk, recently related a native account on the origin of tweakery. It is thought-provoking indeed to imagine that this anal-retentive activity of often exorbitant outlay for sometimes miniscule returns was hatched in what is commonly thought of as the most frugal and down-to-earth of all nations. Holland, even technically is, as nations go, a measure or two below the earth. But I digress...

Tweakville, the flying Dutch duo maintain, is a small fortified village founded around the year 1550 by "the first Tweaks", brothers Jan and Kees Twykinga. These siblings were but two of dozens in the impoverished but pious family of a preacher and his long-suffering wife, a woman forever engaged in the reliably fruitless labor of making domestic ends meet on a meager clerics' wages. One fateful day, the legend goes, Jan found a penny on the way home from church. He showed his treasure proudly to Kees exclaiming "Look! A penny! Now with one, I can save for more!"

"No!" protested Kees, "that's not yours! I saw it first!" "Fibber!" protested Jan. "Looser!" howled Kees. "Doofus!" "Dweeb!" "Puke!" "Double dog puke!" and so on. It degenerated into a scene not unfamiliar to parents throughout the ages. Dear mother tried but could not separate the two brothers as they set upon one another, rolling in the sodden Dutch dirt, flattening tulips, flailing wildly and swearing juvenile oaths that scandalized any and all priggish patrons of the congregation still in earshot.

At length, both boys staggered to their wooden-clogged feet, each still holding his own half of the penny and each pulling for all his worth. They pulled and they pulled and, one more stubborn than the other, neither would relinquish his pincer-like grip on the coin. The most firmly set of molecules, when subjected to such constant and steady stress, must eventually yield and become pliant; especially in antique European morality plays. So in due course, the penny grew longer and longer, stretching from its originally minted roundness first into an ellipse, which only served to allow the brothers to redouble their pulling efforts, now able as they were to apply both hands to the innocent currency at the axis of this tireless Twykinga tug-o-war. The brothers were at last nearly three sweaty meters apart, the penny now wholly unrecognizable as such and solid-core, gently room-temp extruded single-crystal 100% copper wire -- seen at least by our in-house Netherlanders as the world's first tweak -- was born.

What the brothers Twyk or anybody else were supposed to do with an electrical conductor of any sort in 1550AD is up for grabs, but it is certainly not the purpose of an article such as this to trod upon anyone's enthusiasm for the sake of pinch-faced, bookish coherence.