Steve Goodman – Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear

Steve Goodman - Sonic Warfare: Sound

The MIT Press, ISBN-13: 978-0262013475, U.S.A., 2010, English
Sound waves can’t usually damage your ears unless you constantly keep headphone volume too high,or you insist on standing very close to tall speakers during a concert for too long. Used in the right way (or wrong way), however, they can be a scary armament, able to inflict various degrees of harassment, from vexation to irreversible injure (as we already explored in Neural issue #24 “Directional Audio sonic weapons and other stories”). Goodman is compiling here a history of sound as a weapon, in all its horrifying applications: from the legend of the wall of Jericho through to the prototype of a Whirlwind Cannon built by a Nazi scientist. It also includes the audio harassment in Vietnam, the “Squawk Box” in Northern Ireland in the seventies and “The Scream” used by Israel in the evacuations of the West Bank in 2005. But his research is fruitfully enriched by an analysis of core concepts like vibration, acoustics, speed, and of course noise, giving a much broader and interesting context. We come across Burrough’s theories on using music for generating riots in the streets as well as frequent quotations from the major Attali’s “Noise.” Then, the “rippling shockwaves”, as the author calls them, are at the core of a florid discussion on use of sound waves for social and political purposes. They have one very sinister aspect, invisibility, that is also strictly associated with their pervasiveness. The discussion of sound outside of its usual pleasant context is the disturbing and unique characteristic of this must have book.