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Music that can be used as torture without busting anyone's eardrums

Updated on June 19, 2013

This week Arabic news outlet Al-Jazeera published a documentary called Songs of War, featuring a Grammy award-winning composer, Christopher Cerf. In the documentary Cerf delves into reports that his music composed for the popular TV kids' show Sesame Street (and that of other composers/musicians) has been used as a means of torture. According to the reports shared with Cerf, the U.S. relied on a backdrop of his music from Sesame Street as a means of breaking the will of suspected terrorists for a long time.

While Cerf was obviously in the dark about this not-so-recent unfriendly use of music, some of us have known about it for years. Back in 1989 the music of Van Halen was used to drive Manuel Noriega out of the Vatican embassy in Panama. In the post-WWII days the OSS and Russia were experimenting with music played at deafening levels as a "No touch torture" form of brainwashing detainees.

Now I'm no fan of torture. As I see it, it is an unreliable method to any constructive cause, because of three things: 1. a person, when in wracking pain is very likely to tell you whatever it takes to make the pain go away 2. It is MEAN and 3. somewhere along the way the torturer will find somebody who takes pleasure in that pain, and where can you go from there? But reason #2 is my primary concern. I don't like inflicting pain, especially if it inflicts wounds. I do concede, however, I can't promise what I'd resort to if the life of one of my family or friends,even some innocent child or animal I'd never met before, depended on doing whatever I had to get info out of some evil scum-of-the-earth.

But with this said, I will say when it comes getting information out of a person you don't have to damage that individual. And music played at thundering decibels can damage eardrums, send their blood pressure skyrocketing or turn them into zombies. And civilized human beings don't do this to other people.

I love classical music, but even Mozart played at decibels loud enough to make my eardrums ache is cruel. LOUD music can DAMAGE. And well, breaking the body is not the same as breaking defiance.

When you consider the types of music that are known to have been used in torture, it is quite easy to see it wasn't the genre of music chosen that was the torture:



Van Halen

See what I mean? There's no accounting for good taste. These are fantastic bands.

Then there's Celine Dion.

Ok, Celine Dion is an acquired taste for some. But she does grow on you.

Bruce Springsteen.

Bruce's voice is as flat as day-old beer but he can belt out a good tune.


Alright, I'll concede, the best kind of noise to play if you are tone deaf, like juvenile rhymes and spittle drilling intimately into a microphone or simply miss your days plowing a jack hammer through concrete.

Rage Against The Machine

Even as this group minces rock with rap, I already mentioned Rap so we we'll move on...

Music from Sesame Street.

See what I mean? Yes, even at low-level audio settings, there are just some sounds so utterly depraved it a crime against humanity to play them.

With evidence before us, we see there's no reason to use deafening sound to force someone into cooperation. All you really need is BAD music. Take me for example; if you want to break my will just play that Sesame Street theme. Play it enough times and I'll be turning over the deepest, darkest secrets of my soul and maybe even my recipe for spaghetti sauce.

So here's a list of suggested music that doesn't have to be played at deafening levels in order to "torture" others into submission:

"It’s A Small World After All"

Also known as the Stop cruel world and let me jump off! song

The theme from “The Brady Bunch”

I knew a dog that howled whenever this theme song came on the airways, and that poor fellow lived outside and two blocks away.

John Anderson’s “Swingin”

A romantic redneck ditty that will have you swingin by your neck from a rope if heard too often..too often being more than once in any given month.

Anything by Weezer

So chipper and retro you just want to vomit.

Anything by Bananarama

So plastic you could suffocate just singing along.

Napoleon XIV’s “They’re Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-haaa!”

The combination of frenzied, disharmonious music and Napoleon XIV's horrible voice is enough to make anyone welcome the men in white coats with wide open arms.

The theme from “Diff’rent Strokes”

Anything this upbeat and family-friendly is from the darkest recesses of hell, you know.

Anything sung by Tiny Tim

Known to some as the maestro from those darkest recesses.

Anything sung by “Elva Ruby Connes Miller”

Remember the days when, if you didn't make your bed, eat the broccoli or stop arguing with your kid brother your parents threatened to play those albums? Yep, this is that singer they held over our heads. And if it is legal to use someone's voice to intimidate young, innocent children, then by golly it should be legal at Guantanamo.

“Do Ra Mi Fa” from The Sound of Music

That movie about minions from the darkest recesses frolicking in the Alps alongside their skinny, pale, breastless nether-leader.

Anything sung by Wing

Sweet enough lady, but OUCH!

The “Let’s Get Together” song from Disney’s The Parent Trap

Sung by the devil's own children, or so I've heard.

“Old-timey” Gospel music performed by people who can't sing

There is some gospel music that is absolutely beautiful, inspiring and uplifting. Unfortunately, among evangelical Christians there are a bunch of people who think they can sing, but in reality can't carry a tune, possess no shred of vocal discipline, sing through their nose and/or are simply tone deaf. In other words these folks put the awful in "God-awful" and the god in "God, have mercy!" But please, heaven hears everything that comes out of our mouth, so if you're one of these type of gospel "singers" then for the love of you-know-who just don't.

Helen Redding’s “I Am Woman”

Better known as "I am a man-hater, hear me as I lay waste entire armies of the listening-enabled with my amazonian mating call!"

Anything by Victorious Secrets

Best known as the band temporarily used in FreeCreditReportDotCom commercials before the original Pirate Band returned to the airways. The public really disliked this group and for good reason: commercial jingles can be endearing, but it is very hard to warm up to a bunch of smug hip-hoppers, especially when their music makes the Pirate Band sound like operatic virtuosos by comparison.

Awash, aka Ululation or The Xena Yell

This type of wail, still popular in many parts of the world, is a unique type of sound emitted by women on joyous occasions. Shrill, unnerving and decidedly hateful-sounding the Awash was introduced to western culture via scenes of Afghanistan women exuberant over the 9-11 attacks and the Xena, Warrior Princess show. But just as that misandric show, it gets under the skin of most males of our species, and is especially reputed to be hated by men in the Mid-East. I happen to be able to do the awash and quite effectively, but out of love for my husband I don't do it often. However, I will happily belt out an Awash any day on behalf of my country, so if Homeland Security ever needs my service, I'm here for you.

The racist crap of Johnny Rebel

Unless the person you're wanting info from is already a hardcore white supremacist, this guy's ugly song lyrics are enough to make any captive longing for a merciful end and any self-respecting Southerner -captive or otherwise- wishing Johnny Rebel would just crawl back into the gator-infested sinkhole he came out of.

Anything from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast

Legend has it that composition of this soundtrack was inspired by the ghost of the Marquis de Sade, so listen at your own risk.

The Barney Dinosaur theme

Here's one that documentation proves has already been used in torture. But really, it doesn't need to be LOUD. Just play repetitively at a moderate level and in no time your suspected terrorist will be BEGGING to give up his last testicle if you'll just turn that vicious sound off.

Death Metal and Thrash Metal

Fans of real heavy metal (such as yours truly) know that groans, growls and other ungodly forms of angry bellows echoing from the deep core of the lower intestines does not a heavy metal song make. Ten minutes of listening to this kind of crap and Weezer sounds like a dulcet heavenly choir.

Any Rap

I already mentioned this form of entertainment, enough said.

Anything from William Shatner’s album, “The Transformed Man”

I heard this ONE TIME. But once was enough to send me into a week-long frenzy of playing every AC/DC and KISS album in my collection. Well, I guess the end result wasn't all that bad, but still...

Any disco song -except Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive"

Because all the rest will give you major doubts on the subject.

Elton John’s “Can You Feel The Love Tonight?”

That's hard to say, Elton, as I'm not aware of any sensation beyond the need to hurl. Honest to the gods, dude, if you had to turn into a complete sell-out did it have to be for an overly-commercialized piece of drivel like The Lion King? Hell, you could have relied on your genuine talents and came up with a new Juicy-Fruit jingle and the world would have been a lot nicer place to live in. Jeesh, the waste.

Anything sung, er performed, no I mean tortured by Yoko Ono

Because she has that rare mix of voice and talent that no self-respecting torture facility should be without.

Billy Ray Cyrus’s “Achy Breaky Heart”

Billy Ray isn't exactly what I'd call an artistic virtuoso in the first place, but this song is so bad that it was parodied by Weird Al Yankovic about how bad it is. And if you've ever been in a C/W club and witnessed a swarm of drunken women trying to line dance to it then you know the zombifying effects this travesty has over the human psyche. If you are curious enough to tempt life and limb to play it, please be sure the children are safely out of hearing distance and that all exits are clear for the stampeding traffic from your horrified guests

This Hub ©January 23, 2013 by Beth Perry


Submit a Comment
  • bethperry profile imageAUTHOR

    Beth Perry 

    6 years ago from Tennesee

    Hey EJ! Yeah, I imagine the choir has made that a regular favorite down in the underworld!

  • EJ Lambert profile image

    EJ Lambert 

    6 years ago from Chicago, IL

    The one that jumped out at me was the Small World theme from Disney World. At first you're fine with it but the repetition starts to get to you after the second and third times. Totally torturous in the right hands.

  • bethperry profile imageAUTHOR

    Beth Perry 

    6 years ago from Tennesee

    Dexter Yarbrough,

    my good friend - I suspect somewhere down the line you were yourself the victim of some kind of torture if you're tough and resilient enough to like the BB theme today! You have my respect..and sympathy of course, too ;)

    Thanks much for reading sweetie; always good to hear from you!

  • bethperry profile imageAUTHOR

    Beth Perry 

    6 years ago from Tennesee


    you may be right, but my husband concurs with you about Justin Bieber. And Nickleback came mighty close to making my list here..hard rock my Aunt Fanny!

    Thanks much for reading and commenting!

  • Dexter Yarbrough profile image

    Dexter Yarbrough 

    6 years ago from United States

    Hi Beth!!!!!! I loved this hub! But please know, I actually really like the theme from The Brady Bunch! So a torturer wouldn't be able to get me on that song!

  • spartucusjones profile image

    CJ Baker 

    6 years ago from Parts Unknown

    Very funny and amusing hub, I really got a kick out of it!

    Of course to a certain extent bad music is a matter of personal taste, but I do agree that music can be an effective means of torture. To me being forced to listen to Justin Bieber & Nickleback would definitely qualify as cruel punishment. The Bieber fever epidemic needs to be eradicated. I also wholeheartedly agree about Yoko and I give you props for including the Weird Al video!

  • bethperry profile imageAUTHOR

    Beth Perry 

    6 years ago from Tennesee

    Dont Taze Me Bro, I think you've pointed out an ironic but glaring connection there. Imho, the "party of double standards" is a very accurate description!

    Thanks much for reading and commenting.

  • Dont Taze Me Bro profile image

    Banned cause of PISSANTS Promisem and Dean Traylor 

    6 years ago

    Now I am confused - you mean that although the Democrats are against the use of torture yet they promote government support of PBS and Sesame Street? Maybe they should have listened to Romney?

    No, no on second thought they have always been the party of double standards so I guess they remained true to form. I'm glad I figured that out, thanks for a hub that makes you think... I think?

  • bethperry profile imageAUTHOR

    Beth Perry 

    6 years ago from Tennesee

    Will, I remember playing those and my own kids, too, and yeah sometimes you just had to turn the volume down. But I will say I always loved the Mario Bros. theme!

  • WillStarr profile image


    6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

    Not to mention the synthesized music of early video games! After several hours of that, parents would threaten violence if the kids kept playing it!

  • bethperry profile imageAUTHOR

    Beth Perry 

    6 years ago from Tennesee

    JohnGreasyGamer, I hadn't even thought of video game soundtracks, but you're right! I'd definitely would have added the TMNT game soundtrack to the list if I had.

    Thanks much for reading and glad you stopped by :)

  • JohnGreasyGamer profile image

    John Roberts 

    6 years ago from South Yorkshire, England

    Some great ideas here, and I'd also add to the list "Most NES soundtracks" like Hydlide, Back to the Future, or Cheetahmen. Not to mention some Atari sound effects.... *shudder*

    There's so many video game soundtracks that're bad, and the worst part is that I had to listen to them in order to add them to my "auditory sadism" playlist on iTunes.

    Anyway, voted up, useful, funny and interesting. Yes, I did just say useful.


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