Implications of Interactivity: What does it mean for sound to be “interactive”

Video games have had a turbulent life in the short time they have been around. With sales exploding over recent years however it is no surprise of the quality of sound development that has been made. Cheng tells us in her “Monstrous Noise” article, how In the early days of video games composers took limited sounds and had to make grandiose effects with them. The technological restraints limited the early development of these interactive features. In Keren Collins article she talks about this growth and how over time music has been developed in games to provide feedback to a player. Feedback is all those sounds that you hear every second of the game. Some are interactive while others are non-interactive. I’m a video game enthusiast and although I dont play as much as I would like, I can personally attest to the benefit of sound quality development over the last decade. Games of course can be played with the sound off, but turning the sound off in a videogame can be detrimental to some. I mentioned during my presentation that I was watching my friends play NFL Blitz 2001 on Nintendo 64 one night, when one of them decided to put on some music instead of listening to the game through the television. My other friend protested saying he likes to hear the “hike” sound from the quarterback, and that having the game audible helps him play better. When my other friend initially refused to raise the volume, he put the game on pause and refused to play until the volume was adjusted. While this may have been an extreme reaction, after reading Collins article, it is more understandable.

The main issue the article deals with is how interactive sound differs from non-interactive sound. This next generation of sound style focuses on how interactive sound literally helps the user. As Bert Bongers notes “Interaction between a human and a system is a two way process. The system is controlled by the user and the system gives feedback to help the user to articulate the control or feed-forward to actively guide the user.” An example of this is in  Cheng’s article. “The white noise causes fear but also guides the player through the game and helps identify enemies.” Interactive sound “steers the players actions with masterful efficiency.”

Music as torture

There is an incredible amount of irony to the fact that music, something created by artists in order to invoke enjoyment in others, could be used to torture. It reminds me a lot of a famous Monty Python sketch where someone writes a joke that is so funny that anyone who reads it laughs so much that they actually die. The british army realizes the deadly potential of this joke and figures out how to use it as a weapon. They have it translated into German so that British soldiers can say the joke in German and not understand it but the German soldiers hearing it would die. One would never think that one would use comedy as a weapon just like nobody would usually think of music as a weapon. It also reminds me of another Monty Python sketch where someone is being tortured during interrogation by being forced to sit in a comfy chair. That’s what it seems like being tortured with music would be like. Although of course in reality it’s done more specifically through hours of repetition of typically unpleasant sounding music it’s not really like that, rather it sounds like it’s quite atrocious.

Here are the 2 Monty Python sketches:

Joke Warfare:

Comfy chair torture:



The Real Jay-Z

In the article “I’m From Rags to Riches: the Death of Jay-Z,” by Cynthia Fuchs, the author seeks to portray Jay-Z as a series of fictional personas. Fuchs recounts many of Jay-Z’s famous songs and videos, and demonstrates how he purposefully represents himself. Many of his songs and videos portray a young man struggling in the “hood,” and how he deals with such a lifestyle. What must me called into question is whether this and many other rap personas are real, and if so, to what extent? The first red flag in the “hood” persona of Jay-Z is the frequent flashes of opulence alongside the ghetto imagery in his music. While it is clear that the artist is attempting to depict a “rags to riches” story, it leaves the audience wondering which of these dichotomous lifestyles is the real Jay-Z? Fuchs main focus is on Jay-Z as somewhat of an enigma, a manikin able to put on whatever costume suits him at the right time. While this may be an acceptable way for a star to conduct oneself in other aspects of the music industry, a rapper is granted far less leeway. This is due in part to the nature of the rap industry. Rappers are expected to tell their story through thoughts and feelings, manifested in rhyming patterns. This is why it seems surprising to the author that Jay-Z now can be seen wearing professional attire such as suits with bowties. It is clear that Jay-Z is attempting an image change, but the change is so radical, and so antithetical to the image that made him famous in the first place, that it can potentially call into question the authenticity of his previous work. Fuchs notes however, that if one analyzes Jay-Z’s lyrics, they would understand that this was his goal all along, and he makes it quite clear. When asked about violent imagery in his music Jay-Z responded that he is “Just like Denzel in Training Day, I was acting out a part.” Furthermore on his “Black Album” he admits, “I dumbed down for my audience to double my dollars, they criticized me for it, yet they all yell holla!” Jay-Z continuously alludes to the many roles he plays, and the article focuses much of its attention of his latest role as a classy entrepreneur. The most interesting aspect of the article however is the debate whether Jay-Z has the “right” to be a mere actor. While it is true that Shawn Carter is a boy from the Brooklyn Marcy projects, is he granted the leeway to morph in and out of personas? Rap is an industry in which the artists are expected to come as close as possible to authenticity. If Jay-Z is indeed just playing roles he seems to be violating one of the cardinal sins of rap music. But a closer look reveals that he is as clear as day in what he represents. Jay-Z is a self-proclaimed hustler, who will win over fans and make money in whichever way he can, sporting any persona in order to make it to he top.

Dylan, the Brits, and the Blue-Eyed Soul

Ive learned that blues is hard to define. In Craig Werners article “Dylan, the Brits, and the Blue-Eyed Soul” the message conveyed is that blues can’t be pinned down with a simple definition. Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters, and The Rolling Stones are three of the main artists depicted in this article but I don’t believe any one them are more “bluesy” than the other. Dylan was famous for challenging himself and his fans by straying away from folk, his initial musical choice, and adding electric guitar. Why was Dylan harassed for this? Werner tells how the “British bands felt none of the aversion to rhythm and volume that drove pacifist Pete Seeger into a violent rage when he threatened to cut the electric cords plugged into Dylan’s guitar at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.” Blues isn’t confined to one musical form. It could be about politics like was thought initially about Dylans “Ballad of a Thin Man”, but its just as likely to be about the sound and how it makes you feel. When questioned on the subject of war Dylan responded satirically “ How do you know, that I’m not as you say, for the war?” Dylan’s work also shows the heart of the artist and portrays the struggles he endured. Werner states “It isn’t about the consolidations of philosophy or the dodge of ideology. Its about how it feels to be existentially adrift, a broken piece of a fallen world.” Dylan work was a new blend of blues. The Rolling Stones were another band that redefined Blues. Werner points out “They introduced black music to multitudes of white americans who didn’t know John Lee Hooker from John Hope Frankin. “Their songs hit hardest in the vanilla suburbs and cream-of-wheat heartland, where American teens lacked exposure to the real thing.” The Stones were just one band that covered songs from other Blues players.Their first U.S. Single was Muddy Waters “I Just Want to Make Love to You”. The relationship between Mick Jagger and James Brown is a perfect example of the interaction between the British rockers and their black idols. Brown describes the Stones as “Brothers” and even revels in the immediate impact he had over Micks performance on the T.A.M.I show. This mixing of types of blues as well as the the impact of the british invasion on blues cannot be overlooked, and “the nation was on the verge of a fundamental change”.

Understanding the Pleasures of Wars Audio-vision

First off all these technical music vocabulary went over my head however I get what Mathew sumera was explaining. The music used in “Die Terrorist Die” and “Taliban Bodies” is used as a form of mind control. The mind unconsciously associates songs like die motherfucker die with specific images after seeing these movies. I found it creepy how solders are manipulated by music . The fact that certain songs are used to amp up soldiers in order to kill with this rage and adrenalin is disturbing to me. Of coarse if we are at war it’s kill or be killed but the way it’s sounding to me in this article is that the music is so that they get excited to kill the “enemy” rather than kill because they have no other choice because they have to defend themselves.

I find it interesting how this music is not controversial and rap artists such as Eminem (one of the most controversial rappers ever) got a lot of heat for his lyrics. Rap gets heat for a lot of teen violence especially in African American/ Latino communities.

Do we really live in a society where we can get amped for killing the “enemy” but killing a neighbor is wrong. Does America see itself as superior than every other country ? Another thing is that somewhere in the world Miley Cirus is twerking and viewers are shocked and appalled but clips of war and people chopping other’s heads off is cool. Priorities are mixed up here.

The Visual Medium and Music

I watch A LOT of television and movies and I find a lot of new music through listening to music in the background emphasizing the specific scene going on. One band I found recently is an underground band in the UK called “Johnny Foreigner” who immediately captured my attention. I was watching “Shameless” on Showtime and they played one of their songs called Absolute Balance. I’ve come across many new artists this way such as Alberta Cross from watching Californication (also Showtime) and Cold War Kids from Entourage. Have you guys found any cool music this way or do you tend to not pay attention to the music that much when watching a show? For me the score and soundtrack are very important and play crucial parts in portraying the mood of the show and emphasizing certain actions. The next time you watch a movie or show and hear the music pay attention and see if its appropriate towards that scene because I’ve also seen some poor soundtrack choices in shows and movies.

Music Forums

I try to listen to a lot of different music and going on music forums is my favorite thing to do. I’m a big Redditor as well so I like to use to find new music or search other music related “subreddits” to find new stuff. I have always had an eclectic music taste with my taste in music changing constantly depending on what mood I’m in. Mood music is something I’m really into so check out as well for new music. I’m curious as to what sites you guys use to find new music or if you just find music through word of mouth by friends. I’m always interested in listening to new music such as Electro-Swing or anything else that catches my interest. Benji showed me Connan Mockasin recently who my friend and I got really into so tell me about any music sites you’re into (if you are) or check out the links I put in the article to expand your musical horizons.

Killing Me Softly with His Song

I really enjoyed how this reading broke down sound and music as more than what we think of it today. I found it interesting how influential music is to the psyche. The way unified the sound of thousands of men installed fear in others is crazy to me. Also the part of using music as a sign of territory is so smart because it uses music or sound as that universal language that everyone can understand. It made me think of how music used to be, for example, southern music vs New York music, you can tell before the rapper starts reciting their lyrics where they are from instantly. Of course today different styles or genre of music is being mixed and used by all. Also gangs used songs and sounds to mark their territory and let others know don’t come here.
Reading this article really reminded me about this story I saw on a talk show. Since the article mentioned a holocaust survivor and one of the torture methods was that loud obnoxious screeching sound to manipulated them I thought this story would be a positive note. Back to my story, A holocaust survivor made it through life because she was inspired by the infamous song I will survive by Gloria Gaynor. It was so beautiful because the woman met Gloria and the song I will survive was sung live. It was very emotional .

I know this article is about using sound and/or music to oppress or torture but I thought I’d spread a little positivity.

Music and Torture

Too much of a good thing can become a bad thing pretty quickly. In the case of a municipality or Gov’t using music as torture, one must first go beyond the initial shock when imagining being bound and forced to listen to “Call Me Maybe” while being interrogated. It’s not necessarily the content of the music (although I am not the Guantanamo Bay DJ so I can’t be sure) but the presence of loud sound at an unwanted time.

In the case of music as torture, despite what artists like Pearl Jam and Rage Against the Machine have suspected (they filed a Freedom of Information Act request to find out if it was their music and to what extent any music was being used to torture POW’s), it’s not the music that is being used as a  vehicle for torture, it’s the sound. If a loud sound is depriving someone of sleep (like a car alarm or a thunderstorm or a train in the distance), it doesn’t particularly matter what the sound is. So while there is a huge intrigue over which kinds of music is being used for torture, you could point the blame at any artist whose music employs the use of sound. (That’s pretty much all of them, if you’re keeping score). So, why is there so much intrigue about the use of music as a means of torture when there already are so many other methods of torture being used by governments? Because this is one method that people can sympathize with or humanize. It has an emotional pull when you imagine a song that you might enjoy, one that could make your day better and uplift you, being used for someone else’s demise. More so than when you take a shower and thank heavens you can shower under the water and not be forcibly placed under it while being waterboarded.

Music can become “torture” when it’s just not the kind of music you want to be hearing at that moment. One of the readings mentions a mall that would blast Frank Sinatra to keep unruly kids away. To these kids, being forced to listen to ol frankie blue eyes at a mall probably was a form of torture to them. But to a prisoner of war, deprived of sleep and harassed sexually and physically, it doesn’t make a difference which song is being used to torture them, whether it’s Pearl Jam or the Barney Theme Song or dubstep. The key is that there are sounds being manipulated to high volumes which keep them awake when they want to sleep. The torturous thing is taking something which usually is used for pleasure and leisure, either you play the music yourself to listen to it or you walk into a store that’s playing music and you choose to listen to it or possibly even enjoy it. But having no choice in the matter, being forced to listen (or being forced to do anything for that matter) can be torturous. This is one aspect of our Government’s treatment of POW’s in Guatanamo Bay that many musicians and music fans have paid attention to, but imho it is just one small facet of a much larger problem, which is that human beings don’t deserve to be tortured under any circumstances using any method, sonically or otherwise.

I’ll leave you with a Pearl Jam song that is very much not torturous. Just don’t blast it outside my window at 4am or I’ll confess to pretty much anything.

What the Wu?

Within the confinements of a container that took 3 months to be hand crafted will be the 1 of 1 copy of Wu Tangs latest album which is supposedly going to sell for for multi millions of dollars. Personally the only person now who would even buy that is prob Dr.Dre and his 3.2 billion dollars. Some members of the group have actually split up becasue of the route that the Rza who is in charge of the album is taking it.