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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Music's Dark Side: Why Giant Car Stereos are Evil

Musicophilia: Six Questions for Oliver Sacks—By Scott Horton (Harper's Magazine)
Scott Horton: Anthony Burgess in A Clockwork Orange tells the story of a young Beethoven fanatic who is “programmed” to be physically ill on hearing Beethoven played. More recently, we have learned that the use of music played a key role in the Bush Administration’s torture program. For instance, this weekend the Washington Post reports that psychologist James E. Mitchell directed that one prisoner be subjected to bombardment by music—he specified the Red Hot Chili Peppers. What is it about music that makes it suitable for use as part of a torture regimen?

Oliver Sacks: Music’s power does have a dark side. A daily example of this would be musical brainworms, the annoyingly repetitive musical phrases that may run through one’s mind for days on end. And of course music may be seen as dangerously seductive, as much of our literature reminds us. In Greek mythology, it was the bewitching music of the Sirens that lured sailors to their destruction, and Tolstoy brings up a similar theme in his story “The Kreutzer Sonata.” Using loud music as torture draws on these qualities of music, as well as simple sensory overload. I personally find the assault of loud public music—in stores, restaurants, airports–a minor form of torture. One wants to listen to one’s own music, in one’s own way, not to have it force-fed, especially at great volume.

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Madman from Maui said...

loud music in public places, and the type of loud music that is played is a corporate decision. Many times I have gone to a manager of the store and complained about the music, only to be told that they were instructed by the corporate office to play that particular music. Then I read an interesting story about a Christmas party. apparently there was some issue concerning a large corporate Christmas party, whereby white employees who maybe had too much punch, would ask black employees such questions as" what was it like growing up in a ghetto". These kinds of questions were never asked in the structured atmosphere in the workplace. It was suggested by a professional counselor, that the way to solve the problem was to, turn up the music so loud no one could hear each other talk! This is why bars and restaurants always play loud background music, a sure way to kill any political conversation with a stranger. Consider how effective this probably is, considering that the Nazis rose to power by standing on tables in beer halls and giving speeches. It is interesting to speculate as to whether there would have been a Nazi revolution in Germany if the former government had insisted that loud music be played in bars and restaurants at all times like we now have in the United States.

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