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Sound Targets

American Soldiers and Music in the Iraq War

Jonathan Pieslak

Publication Year: 2009

Though a part of American soldiers' lives since the Revolutionary War, by World War II music could be broadcast to the front. Today it accompanies soldiers from the recruiting office to the battlefield. For this book, Jonathan Pieslak interviewed returning veterans to learn about the place of music in the Iraq War and in contemporary American military culture in general. Pieslak describes how American soldiers hear, share, use, and produce music both on and off duty. He studies the role of music from recruitment campaigns and basic training to its use "in country" before and during missions. Pieslak explores themes of power, chaos, violence, and survival in the metal and hip-hop music so popular among the troops, and offers insight into the daily lives of American soldiers in the Middle East.

Published by: Indiana University Press


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Contents, Acknowledgments

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p. vii

Map of Iraq

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p. xii

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pp. 1-15

When the Iraq War began in March 2003, I was involved, like many Americans, with sending care packages to troops. My sister-in-law’s brothers had been deployed, and our families took turns sending them monthly boxes filled with socks, deodorant, toothpaste, and other basic necessities. ...

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1 Music and Contemporary Military Recruiting

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pp. 16-45

The Continental Army began recruiting soldiers in 1775 to fight in the American Revolution. Since then, American military forces have been mostly comprised of volunteer soldiers, though with periods of conscription (known in more recent times as the draft) during wartime, as in the Civil War and World War I. ...

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2 Music as an Inspiration for Combat

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pp. 46-57

Throughout history, music has often inspired soldiers for combat. Plato believed that music could directly affect human behavior and that certain musical modes, like Phrygian, were likely to arouse emotion and incite aggressive behavior. The war or battle cry is possibly the earliest form of music as an inspiration ...

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3 Looking at the Opposing Forces

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pp. 58-77

Having discussed how music figures prominently in military recruiting and the ways in which it motivates U.S. soldiers for combat, it is now appropriate to turn to the question of how music is utilized by those fighting against the U.S. forces in Iraq. Limiting the question to strictly anti-American militia groups ...

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4 Music as a Psychological Tactic

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pp. 78-99

Sun Tzu argues that causing an enemy to surrender before conflict begins is one of the most desirable means of waging war and can be achieved through psychological tactics. This type of warfare has been employed throughout history, operating typically as the first form of attack because of its capacity to increase ...

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5 Music as a Form of Soldier Expression

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pp. 100-134

In almost every American military conflict, it has been common for soldiers to sing songs and make music within the context of the combat theater as a means for individual as well as collective expression. While song topics have varied widely, many times the lyrics addressed aspects of war. ...

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6 Metal and Rap Ideologies in the Iraq War

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pp. 135-184

The musical genres of metal and rap figure prominently in the lives of some American soldiers serving in Iraq. From the advertisements employed in military recruiting to the psychological tactics, personal expression, and pre-combat rituals characteristic of the deployment period, metal and rap appear to be an integral ...

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pp. 185-188

As mentioned in the introduction, this book raises more questions than it answers. Many of the ideas proposed in this study suggest that the influence of music may be more potent in the context of war than in daily life. Songs expressing power, violence, death, patriotism, home, the memory of loved ones, ...

Appendix 1: Soldier E-mail and Sample Questions from Soldier Interviews

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pp. 189-190

Glossary of Military Ranks

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p. 191


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pp. 192-208


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pp. 209-215


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pp. 216-226

E-ISBN-13: 9780253003003
E-ISBN-10: 0253003008
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253220875

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 12 b&w illus., 1 map, 4 figures
Publication Year: 2009

OCLC Number: 646814566
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Sound Targets

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Popular music -- Social aspects.
  • Iraq War, 2003- -- Music and the war.
  • United States -- Armed Forces -- Iraq.
  • Soldiers -- United States -- Social conditions.
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