American soldiers use iPods on the battlefield

What kind of music one listens to can certainly say a lot about one's character. Professor Jon Pieslak, a music theorist at the City College of New York, has based an interesting project on this notion. For over three years now, he has discussed American soldiers and the music they like.

He began thinking about it more thoroughly when he read an article about the heavy metal band Slayer. The Guardian reports in their Science Blog, that 40% of the band's fan mail, during the Gulf War, came from soldiers stationed in the Middle-East. Though as expected, Mozart or the Beatles are not the tunes floating around the deserted towns and desolate deserts of Iraq. Playlists are dominated by heavy bands, such as Slayer, Metallica and Eminem.

When one listens to the interviews — some are available here — it becomes clear that what's important is not the actual choice of music. The real subject is the effect certain music had on the soldiers, often in very extraordinary circumstances. Sometimes it's actually the person which reflects the music, when the soldiers have to become inhuman so they can do inhuman things.

Pieslak's interviewees are among the first generation to take their iPod's to the battlefield. While the seriousness of the subject may seem inappropriate to relate it with technology, it's fascinating to learn how people use gadgets also to make things easier for them. On the project's website the aim is stated as follows: "The goal is to gain an understanding of how soldiers listen to music, what they listen to, and how they feel music may have affected them. I want to create an open platform for soldiers to express, in their own words, their relationship to music while on tour in Iraq."

One of the soldiers tells how they played Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries", and played it over speakers on their assault vehicle, during a thunder run in Bagdad. While these soldiers fight for a cause, whether right or wrong, they seem to feel that music allows them to prevent a cultural shock. In any case, the interviews provide a very thoughtful and personal insight into the minds of those who truly believe in what they do.

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