Music torture is a form of torture used by playing specifically chosen music incessantly to prisoners, or those being interrogated.

Instances of useEdit

"These people haven't heard heavy metal. They can't take it. If you play it for 24 hours, your brain and body functions start to slide, your train of thought slows down and your will is broken. That's when we come in and talk to them."[1]

Other instancesEdit

  • Bombardment with loud music has been known to have been used in other occasions
Manuel Noriega

"When the United States invaded Panama in December 1989, Noriega took refuge in the Holy See’s embassy which was immediately surrounded by U.S. troops. After being continually bombarded by hard rock music and “The Howard Stern Show” for several days, Noriega surrendered on Jan. 3, 1990.[4][5]"


According to the FBI[6][7]:

"W[itness] observed sleep deprivation interviews w/strobe lights and loud music. Interrogator said it would take 4 days to break someone doing an interrogation 16 hrs w/lights and music on and 4 hrs off. Handwritten note next to typed synopsis says "ok under DoD policy".

"Rumors that interrogator bragged about doing lap dance on d[etainee], another about making d[etainee] listen to satanic black metal music for hours then dressing as a Priest and baptizing d[etainee] to save him - handwritten note says 'yes'."

"W[itness] saw d[etainee] in interview room sitting on floor w/Israeli flag draped around him, loud music and strobe lights. W suspects this practice is used by DOD DHS based on who he saw in the hallway."

The Washington Post, quoting a leaked Red Cross report, wrote:[8]

"The physical tactics noted by the Red Cross included placing detainees in extremely cold rooms with loud music blaring, and forcing them to kneel for long periods of time, the source familiar with the report said."


According to Amnesty International[9]:

"Detainees have reported being routinely subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment during arrest and detention. Many have told Amnesty International that they were tortured and ill-treated by US and UK troops during interrogation. Methods often reported include prolonged sleep deprivation; beatings; prolonged restraint in painful positions, sometimes combined with exposure to loud music; prolonged hooding; and exposure to bright lights. Virtually none of the allegations of torture or ill-treatment has been adequately investigated by the authorities."


On January 12 1998 the Supreme Court of Israel declined to ban the use of loud music as an interrogation technique.[10]

The use of music as a weapon in fiction and popular cultureEdit

In the movie A Clockwork Orange a rebellious outsider is subjected to brutal experimental brain-washing techniques -- including bombardment with very loud music.

In Back to the Future, Marty used music made by Van Halen to scare his dad, George McFly, awake, implying that since that kind of music didn't exist in that time, it would scare him.

Public awareness of the use of this technique is widespread enough that it can be used in satirical attacks on popular culture:

"Hollywood — Several days after Paris Hilton announced that she will release a music album, the Pentagon has decided to buy 50,000 copies of her upcoming album to use against insurgents in the volatile Anbar province in western Iraq."[11]

Royalty paymentsEdit

The Guardian reported that the US military may owe royalty payments to the artists whose works were played to the captives.[12][13]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "BBC article Sesame Street breaks Iraqi POWs", BBC (May 23 2003). Retrieved on 27 November 2007. 
  2. A.L. Bardach, Jac Chebatoris (May 19, 2003). "Periscope", Newsweek. Retrieved on 27 November 2007. 
  3. "The Love's not mutual", Newsweek (May 26, 2003). Retrieved on 27 November 2007. 
  4. "Ret. Lt. Gen. Marc Cisneros to Discuss Capture of Former Panamanian Dictator with A&M-Corpus Christi Students", Texas A&M University (September 19 2007). Retrieved on 27 November 2007. 
  5. Ronald H. Cole (Winter 1998-99). "Grenada, Panama, and Haiti: Joint Operational Reform", United States Department of Defense. Retrieved on 27 November 2007. 
  6. "Guantanamo Bay Inquiry (released under FOIA)", Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved on 27 November 2007. 
  7. Dan Eggen, R. Jeffrey Smith (Tuesday, December 21, 2004). "FBI Agents Allege Abuse of Detainees at Guantanamo Bay", Washington Post, pp. Page A01. Retrieved on 27 November 2007. 
  8. Josh White, John Mintz (Wednesday, December 1, 2004). "Red Cross Cites 'Inhumane' Treatment at Guantanamo", Washington Post, pp. Page A10. Retrieved on 27 November 2007. 
  9. "Iraq: Torture not isolated -- independent investigations vital", Amnesty International (30 April 2004). Retrieved on 27 November 2007. 
  10. Gwen Ackerman (January 12, 1998). "Israel refuses to ban loud music torture", Birminghan Post. Retrieved on 27 November 2007. 
  11. "U.S. MILITARY TO ATTACK INSURGENTS WITH PARIS HILTON ALBUM", Dateline Hollywood. Retrieved on 27 November 2007. 
  12. "Gitmo's Greatest Hits", Light Reading (2008-07-21). Retrieved on 21 July 2008.  mirror
  13. Sean Michaels (2008-07-09). "Music as torture may incur royalty fees", The Guardian. Retrieved on 21 July 2008.  mirror

Further reading Edit

  • Cusick, Suzanne. 'You are in a place that is out of the world . . .': Music in the Detention Camps of the 'Global War on Terror'. Journal of the Society for American Music 2/1 (2008): 1-26.
  • Cusick, Suzanne. 'Music as torture / Music as weapon.' Revista Transcultural de Música/Transcultural Music Review 10 (2006). Available at

See alsoEdit