Thursday, December 11, 2008

Against Music Torture

Tempting as it is to make cheap jibes about the torture of having to listen to Limp Bizkit under any circumstances, musical torture is a serious business. Playing the same songs over and over again at high volume without a break - sometimes for weeks on end - might not leave any bruises but it's easy to see how it could literally drive somebody mad. There have been many reports of the use of this kind of torture across the world, including in the secret prisons run by the US and its allies.

So the new Zero dB campaign (zero decibels = silence) against musical torture launched this week by Reprieve is welcome. So too is the support for this campaign by the Musicians Union and musicians including Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine (RATM), Massive Attack, The Magic Numbers and Elbow. It must be very dispiriting as a musician to know that your song is being used in this way, especially if, like RATM's Killing in the Name Of, the practice is the complete opposite of the song's sentiments.

Looking through the list of songs that have been used in torture, it appears that they fall into a number of categories. Some seem to have been chosen because of their aggressive sound - AC/DC, Metallica, Nine Inch Nails, Limp Bizkit, RATM etc. Others though seem to have been chosen for their saccharine banality - perhaps the contrast between children's TV themes like Sesame Street or Barney the Purple Dinosaur and the reality of being tortured is itself an assault on people's sanity.


Mr Tear said...

Hello Mr. Transpontine,

Thanks for posting on this disturbing subject. In November I gave a talk at a conference at Goldsmiths on this very subject...the paper became an article which you can read over here:

The article is broadly about music as a technology..."music is possibly one of the oldest technologies available to humans, a means of communication, a playful way of strengthening communities, and a form of transport to carry us out of ourselves. It's also currently used to terrorise, dehumanise and narcotise individuals and populations around the globe, in ways that allow us to draw tentative lines connecting spaces that seem to be in different worlds, the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, the detention centres of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay or Diego Garcia, and the shining consumer wonderlands of the modern shopping mall or office space; spaces of chaos, control and of a particular, possibly perverse idea of freedom".

Anyway, if you read it and enjoy it then please come and have a look at my blog:

Keep up the great work!

Transpontine said...

That's funny, I was planning on coming to your talk but work got in the way. I have now posted on Nyx (see next post);