EXTREMELY LOUD by Juliette Volcler


Sound as a Weapon
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Everything you ever suspected or feared about music as a weapon, sound as torture and the expansion of the military-industrial complex to encompass entertainment.

Much of this could be very funny if the implications weren’t so serious and the tone of the journalistic prose so matter-of-fact. As the aural equivalent of waterboarding, the United States has subjected trainees to “babies crying inconsolably” and “a Yoko Ono album.” Before the Branch Davidian attack in Waco, Texas, the FBI subjected the sect to “jarring music including Tibetan Buddhist chants, reveille, marches, Mitch Miller Christmas carols, selections from Alice Cooper, and Nancy Sinatra’s 1960s pop ode, ‘These Boots Are Made for Walking.’ ” The composer of the Barney singalong, “I Love You,” thinks the very concept of his music as a repetitive torture device is “absolutely ludicrous,” but any parent subjected to that tape loop would beg to differ. A French broadcast journalist, Volcler examines the use of sound in the “war of the mind” and as “no-touch torture,” from a physiological perspective and within a historical perspective, showing how long the potential of sound as weaponry has been recognized, how widespread is its use and how strong has been the condemnation. She shows how easily and how often a sonic assault can lead to disorientation, diarrhea and even death. Yet so often, the effectiveness of the weaponry lies in the ear of the target, and the line may well be blurring or disappearing between what is entertainment within one culture and an aggressive assault on another. As the book quotes James Hetfield of Metallica, “We’ve been punishing our parents, our wives, our loved ones with this music forever. Why should the Iraqis be any different?” Who needs nuclear weaponry when we’ve got Eminem?

Dry but disturbingly illuminating in the possible ramifications.

Pub Date: June 4th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-59558-873-9
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: New Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2013


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