The impetus for much of their research over the past few years was the revelation of the ways music was one of the tools used to degrade and destabilise prisoners in the war on terror in locations including Iraq and Guantanamo Bay.
For example playing music – often chosen to be as culturally offensive as possible to the cadre of detained prisoners – at devastatingly loud volume for long but unpredictable periods, meant that prisoners were deprived of control of sleep but also of their ability to find an aural space that was not invaded by their captors.
Music at loud volumes goes into your bones and violates a prisoner’s inner being as well as their external environment.
But this isn’t just a feature of the recent past: as Grant and Cusick’s research – and that of others – and the testimony of captors and prisoners makes clear – the use of music in conflict in general and in torture in particular has a long and grim history –
– especially in totalitarian regimes throughout the 20th century – but also in many other contexts from the Middle Ages on.