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Lecture 9

MUS240H1 Lecture 9: Sound as/and Violence

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University of Toronto St. George
Alia O' Brien

MUS240 Lecture 9 Heavy Stakes II: Music and/as violence • Ross and Hirsch: divergence in taste can be exploited as social control • rage against unwanted sounds or discomfort of unwanted sounds • spread of digital technologies, Muzak is easier to expose on space and impact people psychologically • sonic violence: musical torture/PSYWAR, LRAD/sound cannons o sound is a waveform and using certain technologies can produce significant impact on the body o we listen to sound with our bodies as well • non-aggressive music deterrent: programmed music in semi-public spaces Case study 1: operation wandering soul • war in Vietnam/resistance war against America • 1955-1975 • civil conflict-turned-proxy war between communist and anti-communist allies; North Vietnamese forces supported by USSR, China etc., and South Vietnamese supported by USA, South Korea • young people in the USA were drafted o people didn’t have a choice to fight • critiques re: drafting, interventionist/imperialist foreign policy, war crimes • iteration of psychology warfare used in US military PSYOPS o use of sound for PSYOPs/PSYWAR to assist the Phoenix Program o exploited local beliefs rooted in Buddhist-Daoist practice ▪ individuals that suffer from traumatic death and those who fail, their spirits ends up wandering the earth ▪ they assume that all enemy/troupes subscribes to this belief ▪ souls died and return to government o 1969: USA issued “Vietnamese spiritual beliefs” that talks about operation wandering soul o Influencing their powers, sense of self, behaviour etc. • “Operation Wandering Soul” o USA exploit this belief using sound o 6 psychological operations sounded like science fiction, amply reverb and sounds recorded in echo chambers o sounds are reminiscent o used by reggae and con artist to regulate dread o abstract but frightening noises, made through noise but also radio, recorded by psychological operations in Vietnam o intended to represent the wandering souls of North Vietnamese forces who had not found peace o sounds of Buddhist funerary rituals ▪ unsettling, fear and disarming a population o voice of dead male solider and his mourning daughter o broadcast from backpacks, plans and other vehicles • Listening Example: Operation Wandering Soul/Ghost Tape number 10 o lots of distortion o a composite of several recordings created under Operation Wandering Soul o a form of musical warfare, in and as a violent context th o the success of this operation wad debatable but it was a mid-20 century example of how music and sound was employed in the practice of war o because of the wartime context and militarize exclusion of sound and tactic, falls into the category of sonic violence and labelled as aggressive music o falling into Musical torture/psychology warfare, PSYWAR • Unpleasant sound design o police pacification of Brazil’s favelas – silence o PSYWAR operations o sound cannons/LRADS/acoustic weapons o programmed musical deterrents • sounds that are created/cultivated for social control/purpose, and violence is involved Case Study 2: Music and torture at Guantanamo • Sonic violence and the war in Iraq o music as weapon: long range acoustic devices/LRAD that were used in Iraq to disarm, confused military soldiers st o because of the volumes and sound technology that were developed in the 21 century, it seems that this sonic warfare was effective and violent for the military, not the Iraq subjects o not how the music is used, but the way the music is played: volume, distortion o military music culture arose from this operation o “the politics of the playlist” – individual PSYOPS soldiers would often select the music themselves ▪ suggested that the music was played at nearly deadening levels o music used as a form of “no touch torture” at Guantanamo ▪ aims to provide sensory orientation ▪ cause prisoners identity ▪ deprive of sleep ▪ severe results from music ▪ battlefield use = bottleneck affect ▪ but there’s a lot of overlap, the effects such as deprive of sleep are bottly impacts of interrogation o a specific repertoire came to stand for Western/American conquest and/or a defiling of Muslim values (Cusick 2006) ▪ includes heavy popular music ▪ metal, rock, rap ▪ commercial popular music, sexual lyrics ▪ some light music: children theme songs and jingles ▪ and noise, played on repeat ▪ sounds came for devilling Muslim values and Western conquest o the composers of the songs did not anticipate their songs to be used as torture • When music not intended to be violent is used as a weapon o Roland Barthes: death of the author, 1967 o meaning lies not only with the author’s intent but also hinges upon the context in which a work is read, heard, seen o he does not believe there’s only one true reading of literat
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