Juliette Volcler

January 25-30, 2018

Juliette Volcler is an independent researcher and sound curator. She is the author of two essays, Extremely Loud: Sound as a Weapon (The New Press, 2013) and Contrôle: Comment s'inventa l'art de la manipulation sonore (La Découverte / La Rue musicale, 2017). She is the co-editor of Syntone.fr, a website dedicated to radio and sound art critique.

About Extremely Loud: Sound as a Weapon

A bold and original look at the growing, insidious use of acoustics by armies and police departments around the globe

In this disturbing and wide-ranging account, acclaimed journalist Juliette Volcler looks at the long history of efforts by military and police forces to deploy sound against enemies, criminals, and law–abiding citizens. In an insidious merger of music, technology, and political repression, loud sound has emerged in the last decade as an unlikely mechanism for intimidating individuals as well as controlling large groups. Extremely Loud documents and interrogates this little-known modern phenomenon, exposing it as a sinister threat to the “peace and quiet” that societies have traditionally craved.

“Rap, metal, and even children’s songs become repressive weapons, symbolizing the links between the entertainment industry and the military-industrial complex. This book is a genealogy of sound as a weapon—both when it has succeeded and when it has failed—throughout the twentieth century.”
—from Extremely Loud

Suggested talks

1-Life and Death of a Sound Engineer and Conjuror
Harold Burris-Meyer (1902-1984) is not listed in the encyclopedia. Yet, as a theatre expert, engineer, sound effects pioneer, and an experimenter in the behavioral sciences, he thoroughly shaped the sonic environment of the 21st century. Burris-Meyer's story is that of the first attempts at manipulating the masses with sound in three different domains: theatre, industry, and war. Whether his efforts succeeded or failed, his research contributed to building a scientific and commercial discourse on the behavioral efficiency of sound that is still relevant today.

2-A Short History of Sonic Weapons
Music used as an instrument of torture, directional alarms as “non lethal” weapons in demonstrations, high frequencies as a means of repelling young or homeless persons from certain areas: the recent development of the use of sound by the police and army has grown out of half a century of military and scientific research. The genealogy of these efforts and of the few effective devices or practices they led to give us a new insight into the 20th century and the present day, enhancing the evolution of crowd control in western democracies.

3-Sonic Fences in Public Spaces
Sonic space is under construction. There is no bulldozer alarm or pneumatic drill to be heard on this building site, but rather carefully worked silences, voices, and sounds. There are no workers in sight, but instead designers, academics, advertisers, weapons manufacturers, and composers. An aural geography slowly emerges, which can be attractive or repulsive, depending on the targets, the areas, and the time of the day. When sound behaviorism shapes public spaces: a commented selection of sounds and videos of the emerging city.


Note that we have limited funding available for our tours. Please let us know if you would be able to arrange for domestic travel to/from the event. If you would like to invite this author to speak at your university or bookstore, please fill out the application form and email it to Anne-Sophie Hermil.

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