Traditionally thought of as soothing and relaxing, or at least pleasurable in some way to the subjective listener, music can also be the cause of pain and suffering.
You have probably heard that classical and other music is sometimes used to disperse loitering adolescents at malls, as in the case in New Zealand a couple of months ago when Barry Manilow songs were blasted to alienate and drive away unwanted teens. But that is nothing compared to the US armed forces' use of music as a form of torture against detainees in US operated detention centers in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay. It has been reported by journalists and human rights advocates that the music of such artists as Eminem, Nine Inch Nails, Queen, Rage Against the Machine, Britney Spears, and even Barney and Sesame Street tunes have been blasted at deafeningly high decibels as a means of physical torture in interrogation at these centers.
Not surprisingly, word of these tactics has shocked many, including the artists whose music was unknowingly appropriated, and has resulted in the formation of an organization, UK non-profit group Reprieve, to protest the use of music as torture and to make sure it never happens again. Reprieve is supportive of the anti-torture initiative called Zero dB that is hoping to bring an end to the technique by gathering the support of musicians whose songs are used in controversial interrogation techniques by US forces. So far they have gotten overwhelming support from outraged artists including Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine and Lars Ulrich of Metallica who was interviewed recently on the topic by Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. Sesame Street composer Christopher Cerf's reaction is captured in the video news report below, courtesy of AP, that also includes an interview with former detainee Donald Vance.