Un réel pour le XXI sciècle
IX Congresso da AMP • 14-18 abril 2014 • Paris • Palais des Congrès • www.wapol.org

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The hum
Scott Wilson
Edvard Munch, 'The Scream' Lithograph version, 1895.


'It's worst at night. It's hard to get off to sleep because I hear this throbbing sound
in the background and you know what it's like when you can't get to sleep
and you're tossing and turning and you get more and more agitated about it …
People assume you must be hearing things, but I'm not crackers … this is not in my head.
It's just as though there's something in your house and you want to switch it off
and you can't. It's there all the time'.
Katie Jacques on 'the Hum' (BBC News, 19.04.09)

The phenomenon of 'the hum', first noted a few decades ago, and reported across the world, consists of 'a low-pitched drone', the source of which, indefinably outside and inside, both domestic and alien, is unidentifiable. It is so persistent that it has caused suicide, and according to the Low Frequency Noise Sufferer's Association, 'the problem is on the increase'. According to the BBC, these people 'are generally over 50 and are mostly female'.

Has the world become a David Lynch movie? Is it this the voice of the Other whose murmur suggests the proximity of the real?

According to Dr Baguley of the Acoustics Laboratory, Salford University, 'the initial "signal" may vary from person to person', but the outcome is the same. It becomes a vicious cycle … The more people focus on the noise, the more anxious and fearful they get, the more the body responds by amplifying the sound, and that causes even more upset and distress' (BBC News).

If the hum is a delusion, it is the very delusion of form itself, and its perception. That is to say, the hum gives minimal form to the infinite resonance of one's own distress and radical meaninglessness that is continuous with the formlessness of the real: utterly singular and yet held in common, heralded by a sound that resonates 'in the manner of a vibration that always gives the same sound' (Roland Barthes).

Scott Wilson
Culture / Clinic, UK