from the “Autovivisection” project
November 2008
Tactus is meant to be read aloud. I imagine it introduced by a slow heartbeat that fades in and out.
During the Renaissance,
musical tempo was constructed around a time-interval called
the tactus.
It was the duration of a typical resting heartbeat.

The word tactus is Latin.  It means contact, or influence,
or touch.
Some pictures of Renaissance choirs show the chorus members
touching each other’s shoulders
to tap out the tactus as they sang—
sharing, in a way, a single heartbeat
by consensus.

A note whose duration was
one tactus
was written as a hollow circle, an o—
Today we call this a whole note.
So the rhythm of the heart could be written
like this:


If you play this on any drum-like instrument—say, a table—
the pattern will be
recognizable to most humans.

lub dub ...
lub dub ...
lub dub ...

The first note, the lub,
is created when the ventricles of the heart contract, squirting some of the blood
into the mitral and tricuspid valves.
The flaps of these valves catch the blood, causing them to snap shut.
Like a fist pounding on a closed door, the blood

lub lub lub lub lub

The second note, the dub,
is created in a similar fashion
when back-flows of blood crash into the aortic and pulmonic valves.
So really, the sound of the heart is just
the slamming
of two little pairs
of doors ...

slam slam ...
slam slam ...

Now, because the rhythm of the heart
is a drumbeat so primal it predates drums themselves,
you would think it would merit
some sort of name.

And by an odd coincidence, the rhythm of the heart
is Morse code for the first person singular pronoun:
the name you call yourself—

affirming that you exist
by the very act
of keeping you alive.

dot dot ...
dot dot ...
dot dot ...
I ...
I ...
I ...

.. .. .. .. ..