Workshop Sound and Music in War from the Middle Ages to the Present, University of Fribourg, 13th of November 2018.

During the wars in Irak and Afghanistan, soldiers commonly listened to music in order to "motivate" themselves before action. Their most frequent choices to this effect were gangsta rap and heavy metal, with the latter being occasionally turned upon the opponents too as an acoustic weapon or torture tool. At a different end of the "motivational" spectrum, Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik reported listening to a selection of tunes in the preparation of his massacre and possibly also during its perpetration. His musical choices sounded radically different from metal and rap (which he despised as being "agressive"), yet they had also been previously associated with graphic violence in popular movies and video games. Beyond the demonstration that mainstream media interact with common imaginaries of violence, how do specific musics "work" in being motivational for specific kinds of confrontations? This presentation explores the hypothesis that the differences between the terrorist’s and the soldier’s playlists reflect the contrasted nature of their engagement with the opponent (rather than mere variations of individual taste). I will propose that music becomes motivational inasmuch as it provides a relational environment to forecast the encounter in a realm where extreme violence appears morally acceptable.