The script from Marie’s talk for the 21st Century Research Group can be downloaded as a PDF here: Everyday Sonic Warfare: Affect, Ideology and Weaponised Classical Music
Over the past thirty years in Britain, Canada and the United States, classical music has come to function not just as art or entertainment but as a sonic weapon. It is used a means of dispelling and deterring ‘loiterers’ from certain social spaces – including shopping mall, bus stations, fast food outlets and car parks. This talk examines the affective and ideological dimensions of the weaponised use of classical music. I propose that weaponised classical music functions as an audio-affective deterrent, referring to two seemingly conflicting claims. On the one hand, classical music is suggested to ‘improve’ the behaviour of ‘undesirable’ loiterers through due to its purported capacity to soothe and calm. On the other, classical music is understood to drive away and inhibit loiterers from occupying a space by generating ‘negative’ affects – feelings of irritation, alienation and annoyance. As that which both soothes and removes, the weaponised use of classical music can be connected to two overtly affective musical practices: the use of muzak in the Fordist and post-Fordist workplace; and the use of music as a mode of torture. However, classical music’s effectiveness as a repellent is partly informed by its ideological and symbolic associations. Consequently, the weaponised use of classical music highlights the complex relationship between affect, ideology and signification.