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?


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.

Eat Pray Bali

In reading Eat Pray Love, I thought Bali was a place rich with a religious, musical and traditional culture. What I didn’t know before reading the Harnish article was that these words are synonymous in the Balinese language and cannot be parsed apart. this is highly fascinating to me because of the way it conveys an idea about music- that music is of tradition, art and religion all at one time. Eat Pray Love addresses the religiosity of the culture but does not show the deep seated notion of all of these terms coming together to make up a whole.

The idea that cultural tourism was used to attract Western outsiders to come visit Bali is also interesting. The Balinese government used pictures of naked breasted women to show the “seduction and viability” of the Balinese. I think this can be applied to the book Eat Pray Love because the main character, Elizabeth goes to Bali to “discover herself” and to be more connected with her body. So it seems as though the culture has been transmitted to Westerners in a mostly accurate way but the question lies in whether the culture has changed its focus towards Westerners ideals of what Bali should be in order to promote tourism.

Slavery and Cuba

I am writing about the slave trade from Africa to Cuba because of its influence on the music there. According to Sublette, Havana had a bigger music scene from “the early days of Spanish Colonization of the New world” than “the rest of the Antilles put together.” However, Sublette doesn’t delve into this point right afterwards but rather goes into the similarities and differences in African American and Afro-Cuban music (probably because of the slave trades influence on both America and Cuba), citing, “call and response, importance of rhythm, and spirit possession.”

I was interested in these three aspects because of how they related to other music we have studied in the call and response aspect and in the importance of rhythm. Though I’ll admit I don’t always understand the direct references to rhythm and beats, I will say that I’ve recognized that the patterns in rhythm are very crucial to the definition of types of music. I wish the author had gone into a deeper analysis of how the slave trade affected music though- of how slaves brought their regional musicality together into a cohesive sound.


Fair Play

This post is about the Fair reading. I found it easy to read and to understand, as well as relatable to a degree. Obviously I have never had the government make me wear a uniform if I was in a band and make me sing about nationalism, but I understand the freeing powers of music. Growing up in a very musical family has taught me to free my mind through both the practice and listening of music, and without that I feel like my life would have lacked the richness that it has had so far.

The Fair reading touches on some points about how taarab music is strongly tied to freedom, particularly women’s rights and livelihoods. One woman said that it was the thing she most looked forward to in the day, which I can understand after going to many concerts and having them be the highlight of my week. I guess the main point I wanted to make in this post is that I really liked the discussion of how music can be freeing, particularly for women, because it was understandable in a sociopolitical context.

Divided Spaces

The main point I got from the Shian reading was that the different social spaces that bands could play emphasized a certain kind of audience, reception and status. The audience at say, The Meridian Hotel is, according to Shian, quite different from that of a local club where they charge between $2.50-$5 US dollars. There also is a difference in reception, the people at a certain hotel didn’t even dance, the music was just there for entertainment during a buffet dinner. And their status by playing at each of these places was highly socially constructed as in the bands themselves had an idea of what it meant to play at a certain place and the place had an idea of status and where it fell in the rankings as well.

This seems to reflect similarly to the USA places of listening to music, for example the Hollywood bowl is a very different venue than the Los Angeles House of Blues or the Mondrian hotel. However, the author did not talk about the equalizing effect that recordings have on music. Anybody can pick up any recording pretty much, in the USA at least, which reflects a kind of musical democracy that makes the audience, reception and status of the venue all not matter as much as the band themselves. I wish the author had explored this pathway a little more because I wonder if it is different in Dakar/Africa as it is in the USA.