This is the story of M, a man suffering from obscure symptoms best approximated by the description of a sensation of ‘hearing without ears’, the ability of a body to process viscerally and register immediately sonic potential that are consciously inaccessible to it. This noncognitive feeling, whose power he would only grasp much later, is Hyperrhythmia and is neither an innate quality of the body nor exclusively dependent on external stimuli. In fact, the condition is significantly more complex. It can be outlined as an incipient sensation able to contain a lingering moment between consciousness and hallucination. In this halted moment the sufferer accesses unknown energies subsisting in the virtual realm of sound; imperceptible pulsations of unspecified scope that might range from a mere instant to a day or a lifetime.
Hyperrhythmia had always been a problem for scientific studies of sound perception. Before M’s capture and subjection to experiments, the closest psychoacousticians had got to it was in confusing it with absolute pitch perception in certain types of rats, white-throated sparrows, black-capped chickadees – and, rarely, humans. It was more myth than reality – but, as we learn from Sun Ra, ‘Myth’s potentials are unlimited’. Hyperrhythmia was defined by the American Nonstandard Holosonics Institute in 2039 as ‘the rare auditory phenomenon in terms of which rhythm (for slow events – or pitch, for very fast ones) may be recognised and recreated without external reference’. In 2043, Professor Traven added to the definition that, in some cases, the identified rhythm does not appear to be an actual perceptual attribute of sound at all or belong to any known timescale; in other words, it is a rhythm that does not yet exist. But this was as far as molar scientific apparatuses concerned with the study of subjective perceptual phenomena had been able to go.
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