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A Short History of Music as a Weapon

From: Aaron Henkin
Length: 05:25

From Scottish bagpipes to Metallica, this radio essay takes listeners on a short tour through the history of music as a weapon.

Default-piece-image-2 This sound essay starts in 1745 with the bagpipers of the Jacobite Rebellion and winds its way through the standoff with the Branch Davidians in Waco and into US Psychological Operations in Iraq. I tried to formulate the piece as a sort of 'theatre of the mind' tour through these three historical moments. I was inspired to put this thing together after reading an incredible essay by Maryland Institute College of Art historian Kerr Houston. The essay is entitled "Start Walking Boots: Music as a Weapon in Iraq and Beyond." I aired my radio essay as an intro to a subsequent interview with Houston about his research, which covers a lot of other related historical moments. I think the radio feature is a nice stand-alone think-piece, but if you're the host of a long-form talk program and you really want to do it up, you could get in touch with Houston for a live follow-up interview, maybe take some callers. He's a really nice guy, and he knows this subject thoroughly. Just send me an email and I'll put you in touch with him. One warning: You'll probably never want to listen to Nancy Sinatra again after hearing this! (This piece aired originally 03.18.05 on WYPR's weekly arts program, The Signal.)

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Piece Description

This sound essay starts in 1745 with the bagpipers of the Jacobite Rebellion and winds its way through the standoff with the Branch Davidians in Waco and into US Psychological Operations in Iraq. I tried to formulate the piece as a sort of 'theatre of the mind' tour through these three historical moments. I was inspired to put this thing together after reading an incredible essay by Maryland Institute College of Art historian Kerr Houston. The essay is entitled "Start Walking Boots: Music as a Weapon in Iraq and Beyond." I aired my radio essay as an intro to a subsequent interview with Houston about his research, which covers a lot of other related historical moments. I think the radio feature is a nice stand-alone think-piece, but if you're the host of a long-form talk program and you really want to do it up, you could get in touch with Houston for a live follow-up interview, maybe take some callers. He's a really nice guy, and he knows this subject thoroughly. Just send me an email and I'll put you in touch with him. One warning: You'll probably never want to listen to Nancy Sinatra again after hearing this! (This piece aired originally 03.18.05 on WYPR's weekly arts program, The Signal.)

5 Comments Atom Feed

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Review of A Short History of Music as a Weapon

A very nice piece by one of my favorite PRX producers. Well produced, written and voiced.
As a news guy, I'm always looking for a "peg" - so we're airing this story this week to coincide with the report in Time that detainees were awakened by the music of Christina Aguilera.
Better than Jessica Simpson, I suppose....

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Review of A Short History of Music as a Weapon

It is amazing what human beings do to one another. This short piece is chock full of information that shows that while music might have charms to soothe the savage breast, it can also be used to scare, humiliate and destroy human beings. A sound-rich piece, the listener will learn that, two centuries ago, the British banned the bagpipe and declared it a weapon of war. Now the bagpipe is used as a heartwrenching instrument during funeral marches. (Is any instrument more plaintive? Maybe the harmonica.)A variety of other musical artists,instruments, and sounds are featured as weapons of torture. It would be the sound of a dental drill that would finally break me. This piece would fit in whenever there was any news from Iraq. The piece could also stand alone. Five minutes well worth a listen, it would grab me wherever I was and whatever I was doing. I would turn to my friend and say, "Shhh . . . listen to this."

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Review of A Short History of Music as a Weapon

This is audio narrative at its finest and worth 5 minutes of your time.

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Broadcast History

This piece aired originally 03.18.05 on WYPR's weekly arts program, The Signal.