The Power of Sound

I had never thought about sonic warfare before these readings. I mean it, I really had no idea that there was a category of sounds that have been used throughout history to promote warfare. Something that the Goodman book forgot to talk about was the historical use of war cries, battle drums and rallying military speeches throughout early history to promote sonic warfare. Noise as threatening music is a new concept to me, though I have heard of some (I believe) Chinese interrogation attacks using high pitched noises to crack people (and this was used in French prisons according to a mostly factual movie I watched whose name I forget). But where I am confused is the boundaries of the term “sonic warfare.” It seems to encapsulate all of these issues- war cries, hitlers loudspeakers, jihadist cassets, noise pollution and more, but how does that all culimate in warfare? Is it that all of these things contribute to warfare or is one type predominante?

The Cusick article would say that things such as noise pollution and terrorizing enemies with certain sounds is sonic warfare – speaking to the torture mentioned earlier.

But I believe that the term encapsulates all of the things that the Goodman book was discussing, as a term can be fluid and define a category instead of one specific thing. I am glad to have read about these issues as I really hadn’t considered the effects of sonic warfare until now. It is scary to think about every public speaker in a town or city blaring rebel radio blasts, such as in Rawanda (I learned that from the Hotel Rawanda movie), influencing and terrifying groups into action. The power of sound goes far beyond political statements such as those we saw in Egypt, it can cause an all-out war…. terrifying, no?!


Who run the world? DJ’s???

(yummmmmm pizza… sup DJs Diplo and Chief Boima)

“Its essence is appropriation” says Boima Tucker. So how can you accuse a DJ of being more popular than another? There is a sense that its the DJ’s fault for being in the top 100. Yeah they have more money, but does that mean they have more access to venues? Can you buy fame? To some extent you can because you can have a bigger public relations committee and you can get your name “out there” more but truly if your music is good then your music is good and there’s nothing stopping a DJ from becoming famous (even if she/he doesn’t want to like DJ Venus X). By approporating songs, all DJs are kind of on the same level- they don’t really have more access to songs than others if they use limewire or (other free music sites that are more legal) so the capitalist property that Boima discusses is sort of a moot point. When you take into account what DJing is and comes from you can see a democracy and only when you get into the specifics of what their motives is where you see popularity- like the guys in Egypt who suddenly became sensations once they included political statements- they didn’t intentionally put themselves out there they just became popular. There is a sense of spontaneity in DJing and its stardom.

Boima speaks of a “right place right time” phenomenon where artists sought him out after word got out that a United States DJ was exploring. The US is seen as pure moneybags to some, and as an opportunity to rise up out of poverty for others- like we saw with the Journey musician earlier on in class. He also says that globalization has made artists return to pop-y cheap thrill types of music, which upsets him. In order to counteract this, he hopes to get non-profit DJ sponsorships up and running in order to create a more just environment. But again, I rest my case that if a DJ is good, and enough people spread the word about him or her, they will become popular.

DJ Diplo has a similar agenda with his Australian non-profit organization. But the main rhetoric in the conversation between him and Chief Boima is about rights and writing about each others music. I don’t really understand why this is an issue. DJ’s “steal” from other artists. DJ’s shouldn’t feel offended when other artists “steal” ideas/thoughts about their music. I just don’t understand why there is so much aggression in the DJing community about music if their whole purpose is to get music out into a community that is good solid work. If their purpose was to compete then wouldn’t they use original stuff and avoid the problem of sounding similar?

They work with popular artists so what’s their beef with the artists sounding pop-y, especially if they use clips of their music?


(sorry i did tuesdays post for today! my bad, heres todays post)

The transition of music from its original context into something “dubbed” or rather appropriated is discussed in Felds article. The geneology of sounds is completely disrespected- much like taking pictures at the Dartmouth Pow Wow would go against spiritual beliefs of the people. By this I mean that the original intent of the music or performance is ignored or disrespected by a Western person/group. But the people who made the music in the beginning didn’t have the resources to contest the copy-write issues or maybe didn’t even know about the asymmetry of power that existed outside the Solomon Islands. Sacredness is ignored, as culture becomes generalized and sounds become “forced grooves” according to Feld. Sacredity if that is a word doesn’t necessarily have to refer to rituals or religiosity but rather the essence of something- something powerful and unique that is unsullied.

There are asymmetries of power that exist. As I said before- the people who originally made the lullaby didn’t know or didn’t have the power to change are placed at a lower ranking- they don’t get the royalties from their music and they don’t have the popularity that the other group does. There is a relationship between people, institutions and states that pervades his article in terms of a disjunctive and inequality between the way in which they interact.


“Infinite choice + infinitesimal cost = nomadic eclecticism as the default mode for today’s music fan.”

I completely agree with this statement- and would go even farther to describe the way that people can do voiceovers on their cats singing a musical number from Cats the musical or whatever they want and it can be called music.

“Xenomania and retromania are both forms of exoticism. The difference is that xenomania is about geographical remoteness, whereas retromania is about distance in time” Okay, what? First what does xenomania mean? Well Samantha says that it is a play on xenophobia and xenophilia but what does the intersection imply? Is she trying to say that there is a craziness implicit in Western fears of other cultures and their love of cool new music? Not sure. At all. The clarification that it is about geographical remoteness doesn’t take into account the words definition as fear of outsiders. Next, retromania: is she explaining the metaphysical concept that all things have happened in the past or in the future but never in the present because of the way in which people think about themselves and life? I don’t think so. I think she is probably commenting on retro music- or rather “musical pasts” of nonwestern countries. She does say that it is about distance in time but how much distance and what kind of music is she referring to? Thirdly- exoticism. This one is easier for me to digest. These two made up terms are exotic and implicitly convey some sort of “difference” not between each other but within the word.

I know this is a very in depth analysis of one sentence but it seems to be the basis of her whole argument so I wanted to try to grapple with it and seem to have failed but hopefully have helped somebody in some way deal with the words if they were having difficulties like I am with these terms.


Appadurai’s sense of imagination is that it is compiled from the different scapes and through globalization. While Larkin does not disagree with this, and in fact provides examples (below) of how this is a helpful way to understand imagination and culture, his idea is a “parallel” one not an intersected one. Appadurai “provides a theoretical way to understand the complicated identifications of audiences and cultural forms that cross expected racial, cultural and national lines,” according to Larkin and our reading, but Larkin wishes to delineate a different kind of interaction where the universes are not totally enmeshed and cultural lines are not totally blurred but where there are distinctions and authenticity.

He provides examples of Appadurai’s enmeshment statement though which makes me think of habitus- what we grow up knowing and how this course has made me explore what I never knew other people grew up knowing. For example, a Hausa film may include ideas about whether to marry the “right” or appropriate man or the man a woman truly loves- a very western idea of freedom to choose versus a very eastern idea of a family structure. But while we grew up with the Disney princesses all finding true love regardless of who the man was, the Hausa people might choose a different cultural ending- it is unclear from the reading whether they will or not. Regardless, habitus and its delineation is explored in this reading by the way in which Larkin describes a parallel universe in contrast to Appadurai’s definition of the world.


How does music get transmitted from a garage in Berkeley to the streets of Calcutta? Maybe it travelled along because someone gave out ipods at their wedding in India, or because a CD was forgotten in a hotel room or because a person in Calcutta actively combs Bay Area music blogs. The point is that there seems to be too many ways for music to be transmitted for there to be a systemic transmission. One could say that ethnoscapes covers all of these examples, but that just dampens the spontaneity of transmission into an academic term that basically defines diaspora with bigger words.

Slobin sees no hidden agency which controls the cultural capital of the world and Erhlman does see a systemic transportation. In my opinion, academics can write back and forth to each other all they want about whether or not music is transmitted across a system, but what is lacking is the core of that system: people. People are what transmit sound, through technology, through capitalizm, through chance, through all things that are described in Appadurai’s scapes but my qualm with their use of them is that they forget that serendipity of a Bay Area rapper randomly being hired to perform at a Bollywood-esque sweet sixteenth birthday party in India. Where did all the serendipity go?! It got lost in the big words and the academic arguments but I will say that both are on the right track with their thinking and with their use of -scapes.


When I was reading the Reck article, I was most interested in the section about Pop. The “cine songs” are our equivalent of movie soundtracks. I immediately thought of movies like the Justin Bieber “documentary” because of the United States’ obsession with pop stars and their music. But, in the US there is less of a focus on music from movies than there seems to be in India. Perhaps this is because of our focus on the stars rather than the soundtracks, but I thought it was interesting that the “cine songs” were what was prevalent in pop music rather than music by popular artists. The lack of a structure like Hollywood with all of its paparazzi and stars’ flair may contribute to this despite their attempts at mimicking Hollywood with Bollywood.

I liked that the music was a blend of East and West, with Latin rhythms alongside traditional folk instruments. The “‘anything’ today might include harmony and counterpoint, rap,rock, symphony music and jazz as well as Indian styles and sounds” is a quote that immediately reminded me of ethnoscapes. The blending of cultures leads to this embracing of all different types of music- but I was interested that there was such an easy acceptance of  music from around the world rather than an abhorrence as we saw in Egyptian religious music. Despite also having religious and classical music, pop is interwoven into society and completely accepted. Maybe this comes from the long history of conquering and intermixing of cultures, but you’d think that such a past may engender a wish to stick to some sort of roots.