Politics of sound

A sound with political nature can assume various forms, from a political figure’s speech, to a protesters chant. One of the most prevalent political noises are the ones used in warfare. This is because war aside from being an overtly military act is essentially also a highly politicized act (Clausewitz, 1976). During the war in the Middle East and the war in Vietnam the US military often used sound as a warfare tactic. This tactic was part of their PsyOps/PsyWar (Psychological Operations or Psychological Warfare) which entails merely the use of twisted indirect tactics to terrorize and weaken the enemy rather than using lethal strategies to fight the enemy. The whole concept of PsyOps is based on tapping into the enemy’s psychology and altering their emotional states. Sound is a perfect vehicle for this objective as it is hard to simply block a sound out and it can easily “plant” ideas into peoples minds. In Iraq after the destruction of Saddam Hussein’s command and control system the US began transmitting through the same frequency on their own FM transmitter. The broadcasts of this transmitter took over and disguised as the Iraqi radio station Tikrit and emitted sounds such as religious, patriotic music and various conspicuous military commands from the military itself (Whitaker, 2003). Similarly, in the war of Vietnam one of the tactics of American psychological warfare was Operation Wandering Soul during which US soldiers walked around the trenches with loudspeakers attached to their backpacks. The sounds transmitted were eerie voices in Vietnamese saying phrases such as “Daddy, daddy come home with, come home.” These words were meant to spread fear into the souls of Vietnamese as the wandering soul is an important part of their culture. If an individual dies far from their home their soul wanders and is caught in a infinite suffering (Songs of War, 2012).

Clausewitz, C., V. (1976) On War. Princeton NJ: Princeton UP.

Songs of War (2012) Available at: http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/aljazeeraworld/2012/05/201253072152430549.html (Accessed: March 1 2016).

Whitaker, B. (2003) Wargames open with clandestine broadcasts. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2003/feb/25/iraq.brianwhitaker (Accessed: March 10th).


Taste and Authenticity: Daniel Johnston


Inspired by our todays lecture, I have chosen to analyse the aspect of taste and authenticity by examining the music of songwriter Daniel Johnston. Johnston for years has battled with a serious psychotic disease which in turn has caused him great distress but brought about recognition in his musical career. His music is what one would could describe as an acquired taste, as his songs may be ascribed profound meaning, but also be deemed and too simplistic and childish. In any case, the listeners reaction to this music will ultimately be shaped by the knowledge of the complications which mental illness can have on a mans life and creativity.

However, one thing that is indisputable is how Daniel Johnston’s songwriting comes from a place of honesty and authenticity. Contrary to this expected model of the tortured genius which follows every artist in every creative domain, Daniel Johnston’s “genius” is a non romanticized version of this. Simply because a man so vulnerable and idiosyncratic limited by the constrictions of his mental health, does not have the capacity to pretend to be something he is not, in order to gain a wider audience. So in a sense Daniel Johnston’s music is a great example of purely authentic music. This songwriting comes from the heart and mind of a man who does not need to fake his “tortured soul” as so many artists do, to ultimately make their work less bland and boring.


Sound map

In today’s session we were asked to document the sonic environment of our college. We chose the surrounding area outside our university, as the sounds were more intense and frequent than the interior.

We categorised every sound type into the following colours:

Purple: Traffic noise

Green: Conversation

Blue: Construction work

Musical exhibitions

david bowie470887313_1280x720Three years ago I visited a huge archival exhibition about David Bowie, at the Victoria and Albert museum. At the time I wasn’t that much of a fan, I was excited but not overwhelmed. What followed blew all my preexisting expectations out of the water. The experience was amazing as it chronicled with detail every character, and aspect of his life on or off stage. Each visitor was hooked up with headphones which would magically sync up to the audio of every screen or artefact you approached. I was so fully immersed in my visit, as the other visitors around me huddled around the projections and began singing along to the music. Since then I have witnessed only one exhibition, at Brewer Street carpark where sound was used in such an immersive way. However, the sound served more as a backdrop rather as a main force driving the whole experience. Ryoji Ikeda’s supersymmetry was an attempt to present data accumulated at his residency at CERN in form of visuals and sound. Both exhibitions were very interesting and captivating as sound created a multisensory experience for viewers to enjoy.

Historical sound: the internet


I chose to interview people about what I consider a historical sound, the sound of the internet dial up, these are there responses to the question:

What are your experiences and memories of the internet dial up sound?

Yasmine: It mostly remind me of my childhood and spending time in my stepfathers office. Back in the day they would use these huge block style monitor computers. I actually always found the sound to be rather unsettling and scary.

Tom: Back in the day using the internet meant no access to the telephone! Which is crazy nowadays. I also distinctly remember people tripping over the wire connection. My mum would tell me and my brothers that we couldn’t use it because she was expecting a call.

Imogen: The dial up sound for me takes me back to when I was a child, and reminds me of those moments of pure anticipations but frustration until your Windows ’95 connected to the WORLD WIDE WEB!

Emile: When my family first accessed the internet on a desktop computer it was long after the dial sound was a thing. I didn’t know internet connection could make that sound, its ridiculous. In fact it reminds me of when you place two phones side by side and they make tha loud static noise.

Chris: I’ve never heard this sound in my life, that sounds really desperate, it reminds me of when you try to make a failed phone connection. I think I might be to young to have experience this “staple” pf internet history.

Anonymous Imaginative Journey


Music 1: Write the story you hear

A man wakes from his sleeps, looks outside the window. He realizes what time it is and rushes out the door. He sprints through the city franticly dropping and picking up his things. He’s late. He arrives 10 minutes at the square where Michael had arranged for them to meet. He sees him slouching on a rusty lamp post holding his hat. They greet and walk around the busy streets together exchanging snippets of their day and various news. The decide to enter a crowded bar with loud music blaring, girls dancing, drinks spilt. Suddenly its too much, Michael feels nauseous and unexpectedly walks out of the establishment with John quickly following behind him. Under his panting breath Michael murmurs:

– I’m not well enough for this..

John worryingly asks

– How long you got left?

– A month

Music 2: Name the tune you hear

Ode to Endings”

Music 3: Draw the singer you hear (image)

Music 4: Follow the instruction on you Oblique Strategies Card

What is this


Complicated and Simple


Music 5: Write down the sounds you hear


The desk moving

(I know this is john cage)

Industrial sounds

Something like a drum beat outside

Traffic light beep

Pencil drop

Clicking my pen

Dean coughing




Buzzing LED light

Lecturer from other room


Deep breath

Paper crackle

Mouse pad drop