Dangerous Music

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Taught by Kristy Barbacane

Kristy Barbacane received her Ph.D. in Historical Musicology from Columbia University and has taught at Barnard College and Fordham and Columbia Universities.  Her research interests include nineteenth-century France, music in Algeria and its diaspora, and the relationship between colonialism and music. Kristy spends her spare time playing flute, running in Central Park, and searching for the best patisserie in the city.

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Music and sound are powerful tools of communication and expression. Music has long been used to express emotions, such as joy or sorrow, as well as reflections of unrequited love or worship of a deity.

Music can also serve as a weapon or form of torture. For example, sound played at loud decibels may instigate physical pain and cause irrecoverable damage to the mechanisms of the ear. Constant noise or the repetitive playing of a song over extended periods of time can cause psychological torture by disorienting and exhausting the listener.

This class will investigate the ways music has been used as a weapon as well as the uniqueness of sound as both inescapable, as the listener cannot easily close their ears, and covert, a perceived type of "no-touch torture" that leaves behind little to no traceable mark on the outward appearance of the physical body. 

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