Neurophon

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Fictional high-tech musical instrument that can affect human nervous systems directly at a distance. From the 1980 science fiction novel Cachalot by Alan Dean Foster.

“That’s a neurophon, isn’t it? I thought I felt something picking at me a little while ago.” He smiled explosively, changing suddenly from nondescript to swarthily good-looking. “It’s a Chalcopyritic finish, Twelve Plank model, isn’t it? Made on Amropolus? With the Yhu Hive tuner?”

“That’s right.” Rachael brightened, turned in her seat. “Do you play?”

“No.” The man sounded apologetic. “Wish I did. I’m afraid my musical abilities are pretty nonexistent. But I know enough to be able to appreciate a skilled performer when I hear one. However briefly.” Again the lustrous grin.

...

“Tell me,” he said, shifting in his seat as they skipped a light bump in the atmosphere, “on directional projections, can you change keys and limbs simultaneously?”

“Sometimes,” She sounded enthusiastic. Cora stared resolutely out the port. “It’s hard, though, when you’re concentrating on the music and trying to produce the matching neurologic responses in your audience. It’s so difficult just to execute those properly, without trying to worry about physiological orientation, too. There’s so damn much to concentrate on.”

“I know.”

“Would you like me to play something for you now, maybe?” She swung the lyre-shaped instrument into playing position, her left hand caressing the strings, the right poised over the power controls and projector sensors. “In spite of what my mother says, I don’t think the pilot would mind.”

“It’s not a question of the pilot’s minding,” he said. thoughtfully. “I know you can keep the level down. But it wouldn’t be courteous to our fellow passengers. They might not all be music lovers. Besides,” and he smiled slightly again, “you might accidentally put out the lights, or drop the temperature thirty degrees.”

“All right. But when we get down, if you don’t disappear on me too fast, I promise I’ll play something for you. Tell me,” she went on excitedly, leaning farther into the aisle, “do you know anything about the new cerebral excluder? That’s the one that’s supposed to allow you to add another forty watts’ neuronic power.”

“I’ve heard of it,” he admitted pleasantly. “They say that it can …”

They rambled on enthusiastically, the discussion shifting from matters musical to the latest developments in instrumental electronics.

It was all somewhat beyond Cora. A top-flight neurophon player had to be musician, physicist, and physiologist all in one. She still refused to give her daughter credit for attempting to master the difficult device. To her it represented a three-fold waste of energy.

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