Sound in Torture and Surveillance

The use of sound for the purpose of what was officially referred to as “enhanced interrogation” gained notoriety during the Iraq war. Its role remains controversial, as some continue to think of sound as “torture light” (as opposed to methods that cause visible physical harm), but experts have long argued against such a distinction. At the same time, several incidents in the last few years have drawn attention to the government agencies keeping tabs/taps on phone conversations. This session will examine the role of sound in the context of intelligence gathering and warfare. Suzanne Cusick was one of the first musicologists during the Iraq War to raise attention to these practices and has published widely on pertinent issues relating to sound and torture.  Thomas Y Levin has published on a wide range of related topics, including surveillance and sound media, from the Weimar Republic to the present.

With response by Kay Kaufman Shelemay.