Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Musical Trojan Horse

Imagine what would happen if the sound system in Foxborough this evening were to be hacked by hippies, who installed a Spotify "Chill" playlist. 

Imagine if they played beautiful, soothing songs about sunny afternoons, peace, love, wearing summery windflowers in their hair, and being groovy.... instead of belting out warlike anthems about being champions, not taking disrespect, and assisting ones foes to bite the dust.

Would there be fewer penalties and less unnecessary roughness?

Music matters. Music makes a difference. Music can be dangerous. Or not. Perhaps one does not want music in the wrong hands.

Today, I connect three very different dots.

William R. Trotter's brilliant analysis of music and the art of war, which was published in the June 2005 issue of Military History magazine.

The Pierce Brosnan movie I.T., about what happens when one willingly installs an Internet Of Things home with convenient camera surveillance even in the bathroom, then upsets an unstable hacker.

Liz Pelly's warning about Spotify, emotional regulation by algorithm, mood (if not mind) control through music and curated playlists, and a passing mention of "overpriced, fun-sized plastic and metal surveillance machines."

If one connects those dots, music could be a Trojan Horse.  Since ancient times --even perhaps before Joshua used exceptionally loud music to demoralize his enemies and destabilize their fortress walls... perhaps by causing liquefaction-- music has been used in warfare.

According to Milutin Srbulov
Ground vibration can be caused by very loud noises, including by musical events, and by people marching or dancing. ... Damages can include excessive building settlement, liquefaction of sandy soils, slope instability, collapse of trenches, excavations, and tunnels, exposure of buried pipelines and other services, cracking.. .
Music has been used by the military to motivate troops, increase aggression, promote the "hive mind", to raise adrenaline and whip up violent emotions.

Marching to the beat of a drum was so prevalent that joining the army was called "following the drum". 

As William R. Trotter explains, there is a musical language of warfare. Machiavelli wrote explicitly about it in his Italian "Art of War" manual. Bugle and trumpet calls communicate distinct commands to cavalry or infantry. Warriors had their national anthems, so that when the forces were out of sight, one could identify friend or foe by what they were singing.

(Trotter tells stories where unscrupulous military commanders gained an unfair advantage over their enemies by singing the wrong song, or playing the other army's trumpet command to retreat. Musical dirty tricks!!)

According to Trotter, Music improves the X Factor.
"In his novel War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy observed that the effectiveness of an army is the product of the mass multiplied by something else; by an unknown ‘X’….the spirit of the army. Throughout history, music has had the effect of raising that unknown ‘X’ by a considerable power."

Did Simon Cowell know that?
( )

According to Liz Pelly, music can be sponsored and curated and manipulated for instance to persuade women to buy more exotic brassieres than they need, and playlists can be associated with all manner of product and services marketing... without the consent of the musicians, and perhaps without appropriate compensation.

If there is a playlist for shopping, are there playlists for political causes? What about for rallies, marches, and riots?  Considering the history of music for warfare, is this a good idea?  Should the police on picket lines have playlists?

It seems that music can be weaponized, and can alter moods and behavior. (I suspect, some types of music may be implicated in road rage.) If this is the case, probably an individual tune is harmless, but an extended serious of tunes that are put together for a specific purpose by a commercial or political enterprise might be a Trojan Horse.

One should worry when a government (such as the US Congress with the "Music Modernization Act" ) appears to be inclined to make copyright infringement lawful, or to retroactively absolve copyright infringement for the benefit of music services that produce curated music services.

Richard Bush points out:
"It also seems patently unfair to basically retroactively absolve Spotify of infringement damages, and willful infringement at that, just because a victim has not yet filed a lawsuit."

" technology companies are lobbying Congress to create laws to turn the creative community into workers whose own musical creations are not in fact their own."
How is it in the public interest to make music cheap-to-exploit for billionaire internet players and to prevent musicians from opting out of certain political or marketing uses of their creations if they object to those uses?

For more reading on Orwellian goings on to strip control of music from musicians:

By the way, in FORCED MATE, my alien ruling class explicitly outlawed music in their societies, except for use for patriotic, feel-good occasions such as royal weddings.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

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