• Music, Violence and Militarism: A Study on the Reflexivity of Culture

    Marco Accattatis (see profile)
    Violence, Popular culture
    Item Type:
    Militarism, Reflexivity, Popular music
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    The unique kinship between music and power – as originally outlined by Kant in the Critique of the Power of Judgment and more recently by Attali in Noise – can be observed in how the former has been put at the service of the latter throughout the history of warfare. In recent times, with her seminal 2006 study Music as Torture / Music as Weapon in the “global war on terror,” Suzanne Cusick has brought the use of music as an instrument of warfare to the attention of the musicological community and beyond. By contextualizing Cusick’s research within a broadened historical, cultural and social context, this essay explores connections between the increasing militarization of American society and the normalization of violence in its cultural production. The circular nature of this relationship is put into focus through the analysis of the song and music video “Bodies” by heavy metal band Drowning Pool, as well through the examination of such non-musical productions as the Fox TV series 24 and Burgess’s novel A Clockwork Orange, with its controversial American debut. The relationship between music and power, war and heavy metal is traced through the progressive democratization of music-as-weapon beginning with the introduction of high-fidelity sound systems in the late 1940s and continuing in recent times with the use of mp3 players by U.S. military personnel. Related manifestations of the growing synergy between the military and the culture industry at large may be seen in songs such as “Soldier” by Drowning Pool and “Citizen Soldier” by rock band 3 Doors Down. Examples from TV (Stars Earn Stripes), film (Act of Valor) and video games (America’s Army) underscore the rise of a new “military-entertainment complex.”
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