Sonic Booms, D.A.R.P.A., and Dangerous Sounds 

sonic warfare.jpg


Hey Scott:

While America’s best minds, military and otherwise, are transfixed on tensions in North Korea, Africa, and the Middle East, unwitting American embassy workers in Cuba were evacuated from their posts after an attack on our consulate. 

While the investigation is ongoing, we now know that in an August attack twenty-two embassy workers were medically confirmed to be injured during what appeared to be an “acoustic attack.” Yes, that’s right, our United States diplomats and their co-workers were assaulted with (wait for it)... 


Unknown assailants used pitches and frequencies to disorient and sicken the workers. To the ear, the multiple frequencies can sound a bit like dissonant keys on a piano being struck all at once. Plotted on a graph, the sound heard in Havana forms a series of “peaks” that jump up from a baseline, like spikes or fingers on a hand. Symptoms range from nausea and headaches to issues related to loss of balance and hearing. It has come to a point where we have weaponized sound. Scary stuff. 

Political and military implications aside, by using sound as a weapon we are tacitly accepting that sound has properties which can alter us in physical, intellectual, and emotional ways. And whether you use them for good or for bad, it is hard to argue that sound (and music) can impact the mind and body in significant and meaningful ways. 

Think about that for a second… If sound can be used to harm, can it also be used to heal? 

As music teachers, we have always known and believed that music had transformative powers. We espouse that music can transport us to another place. We even have some understanding that when combined with other courses of treatment, music can be beneficial. 

I imagine the in a lab somewhere, our friends at DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) are working on, or have already mastered, some version of their own ominous acoustical devices. I just can’t help but wonder if we shouldn’t also ask them to explore the possibility of musical medicine. If it can harm, I am certain it can help. 

Something to think about. Have a great week!


p.s. If you would like to hear a “sterilized/safe” recording of the attack, it is available on the web for your listening (dis)pleasure. Out of an abundance of caution, I am not hyper-linking the recording. However, should you desire, it is easy to find if you let Google do the searching for you. 

p.p.s If you want to hear my version of sonic warfare, click here.