Response to “Across an Invisible Line: A Conversation about Music and Torture” By Suzanne G. Cusick and Branden W. Joseph

I found this article difficult to read, and at first it wasn’t catching my attention. By then Cusick said, “Detainees were not asked questions while subjected to music; they were subjected to music and then sent back to their cells to sleep it off and be interrogated the next day.4 The use of music to manipulate prisoners’ behavior has always been a “condition of detention,” but subsuming acoustical violence at these levels of intensity under that rubric is another sleight of hand.” Her statement immediately reminded me of marketing practices today in grocery stores. “Condition of detention” sounds to me like how malls, grocery stores, etc., play certain types of music to make you stay shopping longer. Of course this is a much less extreme example than Cusick’s example of prison, but I feel the examples relate.

They also go on to discuss how these practices are normalized because this type of audio torture seems less harmful than others, which is why it is often easily dismissed by other’s when it comes to speaking on the topic, but personally I feel it may be a harsher punishment. Physical torture is just that, physical. When torture becomes psychological, I feel it may hurt you in more ways than one, and this doesn’t heal as quickly as maybe a bruise would heal. Audio is also not the only “no-touch” torture they discuss, they also speak about light bombardment, sleep deprivation, and temperature transformations, to which Joseph says could be a minor annoyance but “can transform an annoyance into something physically, psychologically, and even metaphysically devastating,” and I completely agree.

I’m also not trying to say physical torture cannot change a person psychologically, I just believe the damage could be much worse if the intention was to break someone down that way since the start. Considering how important music is, and how it has the power to affect our mood, this form of torture is pretty terrifying especially when you think about how awful it would be to be “forced to vibrate” with music you did not choose.

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2 Responses to Response to “Across an Invisible Line: A Conversation about Music and Torture” By Suzanne G. Cusick and Branden W. Joseph

  1. Luisa says:

    “Considering how important music is, and how it has the power to affect our mood, this form of torture is pretty terrifying…”

    I totally agree! It’s really terrifying to know that people use music as a means of torture. We normally associate music as something that brings us joy. I would hate to think that music could ever be used to torture me. I think I’d much rather get tortured physically. I agree that any type of torture that isn’t just physical is a lot worse. With physical torture, you can endure the pain. But with psychological torture, it starts to really mess with your head.

    Over the summer, I went to Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. While I was there, one of the tour guides showed us an underground tunnel where they would keep the inmates in solitary confinement. It was completely dark. You couldn’t see anything. The inmates would be kept there for a really long time. Most of them ended up going crazy. I felt really spooked hearing the tour guide say all of this. I can’t imagine how awful it must feel to be alone, in the dark, with nothing to do, for who knows how long.

  2. Megan says:

    I completely agree that psychological torture can hurt a person in more ways than one. It’s like how many people overlook the importance of mental health. People will be all concerned about Vets who are missing limbs or are in wheelchairs. But PTSD? No one really thinks about the ones who have to suffer through that. Mental illnesses are often demonized by the media cause they portray mentally unstable people as violent and unpredictable. No one can really see the extent of psychological damage unlike physical damage and so most people think of it as nonexistent or brush it off as unimportant. Psychological wounds is much harder to heal compared to physical ones.

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