Al Jazeera is currently running a very interesting short documentary on the use of music in war called “Songs of War”.
Most of us don’t like to think of war and I don’t know of any musicians who ever think of their music being used as a part of war.
The focal point of this documentary is musician Christopher Cerf who has composed music for the famous children’s television show Sesame Street for 40 years. The composer learned that his music had been used to discomfort detainees held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Stunned by this use of his music, Cerf pursued the use in general of music as a part of modern warfare.
“In Guantanamo they actually used music to break prisoners. So the idea that my music had a role in that is kind of outrageous,” he says. “This is fascinating to me both because of the horror of music being perverted to serve evil purposes if you like, but I’m also interested in how that’s done. What is it about music that would make it work for that purpose?”
The songs themselves are inoffensive children’s songs but they were played repeatedly and at a very high volume.
This use of music with war prisoners is only one aspect of the “Songs of War”. The documentary also touches on the use of military marches to boost morale and the personal use of heavy-metal music by soldiers during the Iraq war.
A thought-provoking look at a rarely considered aspect of music.