The Article 5 Project:

Researching Music Torture


Article 5. No-one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

In the past decade, musicologists and other have begun to investigate and reveal the wide extent and devastating impact of uses of music in the context of torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. The Article 5 Project, which began as an initiative of researchers in the now closed research group “Music, Conflict and the State” at the University of Göttingen, seeks to bring together and disseminate knowledge on this topic.

If you have information on the use of music in torture that you wish to share with us, you can send an e-mail to

article5 [at]

You can also follow the Project on Twitter @musictorture

This project is currently unfunded, and organised on a voluntary basis by musicologists working in this field.

News and documentation (last updated August 2016)

Newest stories and publications first. Please note: this is not a complete list of sources on this topic, and is currently being expanded and reorganised to include older resources. If you know of a resource that should be added to the list, please contact us at the address above.

Blog by Carl-Henrick Bjerström on torture techniques in the Spanish Civil War, includes reference to the use of metronomes along with clocks and projections of abstract art.

Available at:

Article by Katia Chornik, “Cantos Cautivos: Online Archive of Songs of Political Captivity in Pinochet’s Chile”, Leonardo Music Journal 25 (2015); discusses the remit and contents of the archive, linked separately below.   

Available at

Article by M. J. Grant, “Unfinished: On Music and Torture” published in the online classical music magazine Van.

Available at

Article by Juliane Brauer, “How can music be torturous? Music in Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camps” As well as providing an excellent summary of research into this topic, the article uses a discussion of theories around music, emotions and the mindful body to provide a convincing explanation of why music can be such a devastating method of ill-treatment and torture. 

Available at

“Cantos Cautivos” – new online sound archive relating to music, detention and torture in Chile under Pinochet

This archive, conceived by Dr. Katia Chornik in the context of her research into music and political detention in Chile, containing both music used and composed by detainees themselves and music used in the context of torture and ill-treatment.

More on the project in via the Press Office of the University of Manchester here.


The Executive Summary of the official report of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence into the CIA’s interrogation programme – the so-called “Feinstein Report” is available here. The report contains several references to the use of music in detention and torture: a brief summary of these instances will be uploaded here as soon as possible.

Article by M. J. Grant, “Pathways to Music Torture”

Available at

Suzanne G. Cusick, Afterword to “‘You are in a place that is out of the world...’”

The journal Transposition: Musique et sciences sociales has published a French translation of Cusick’s 2008 article along with a new afterword.

The afterword is available at

Panel discussion (in German) on “Kann Musik Folter sein?” organised by the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights

Musicologist M. J. Grant, lawyer Gerrit Zach (Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Human Rights) and psychotherapist Barbara Preitler (Hemayat Centre for Survivors of Torture and War) discuss the history, prevalence and impact of the use of music in torture, and the legal context. The discussion was chaired by journalist Irene Brickner from the Austrian newspaper Der Standard.

Available online at

Article by M. J. Grant, “Rein, schön, fürchtbar: Musik als Folter”

in Gerhard Paul & Ralph Schock (eds.), Sound des Jahrhunderts. Geräusche, Töne, Stimmen - 1889 bis heute (Bundeszentrale für Politische Bildung, 2014).

This is a general, German-language introduction to the topic with a focus on the twentieth century. The article was also republished in an updated volume, Gerhard Paul & Ralph Schock (eds.), Sound der Zeit (Wallstein, 2014).

Thematic issue Music in Detention issued by Torture: Journal for Rehabilitation of Torture Victims and Prevention of Torture

Articles by Johann S. Buis, Marie-Louise Herzfeld-Schild, M. J. Grant, Inna Klause, Áine Mangaoang and Anna Papaeti.

Available online at

Article by Katia Chornik, “Music and Torture, as Experienced by Political Prisoners in Pinochet’s Chile”

Available at

Thematic issue Music and Torture | Music and Punishment in the world of music (new series) 2/1 (2013)

Articles by Katia Chornik, M. J. Grant, Katarzyna Naliwaje-Mazurek and Anna Papaeti, and an interview with Prof. Manfred Nowak, former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.

For more information and to purchase the journal, please see

Master’s thesis by Natasha Lin, De-trivialising music torture as torture-lite, submitted to Melbourne Conservatorium of Music/University of Melbourne, 2012

Songs of War: Music as a Weapon: Film by Tristan Chytroschek

Documentary following Sesame Street composer Christopher Cerf as he tries to understand why his music was used to torture. The film, which was awarded an International Emmy in 2011, explores the history of the use of music in war and torture and includes discussions with former prison guards, interrogators, and prisoners.

Across an invisible line: A conversation about music and torture between Suzanne G. Cusick and Branden W. Joseph

Andy Worthington, A History of Music Torture in the War on Terror

One of the first journalists to cover this story, the article draws extensively on first-person testimony from former detainees.

Suzanne G. Cusick, article “‘You are in a place that is out of the world...’: Music in the Detention Camps of the “Global War on Terror”