The Sounds of Violence

An artistic research workshop on high-tech warfare and sonic ideology


Karachi, July 2018



Violent events are often accompanied by particular sounds: explosions, air raid alarms, aircraft engines, the whistling of projectiles flying by, but also sounds of people and the silence that often emerges afterwards. At the same time – especially in the case of high-tech warfare methods – such events are oftentimes connected to imagined, largely fictional sounds for those who don’t experience their actual occurrence in their everyday lives. The representation of US military drones is a prime example of this. Whereas Hollywood movies and promotional material predominantly use slick sounds of jet engines and robotic motors, in reality ‘they [sound more] like a small plane — a Piper Cub or Cessna’ (Rohde, 2012). Through an emphasis on polished and futuristic sounds, the sonic imaginaries of drone warfare seem to promote the vision of infallible technological efficiency and clean warfare that often surrounds official narratives of military technology. In this way, the sounds of technologies of violence are political.


The project

In July 2018, a small group of artists and other creative people from Pakistan and the UK will meet in Karachi to exchange memories and imaginations of technologies of violence. What does the presence of military drones in North-Waziristan sound and feel like? How do air force exercises above civilian space in NATO countries sound? What were the sounds of 9/11? How do we imagine the sounds of the Hiroshima atomic bomb explosion? The group will make sound recordings of their narratives and vocalizations of their sonic memories and imaginations, play with and record the sound of a tiny toy drone, and create visual documentation material that connects to the sound recordings. This will form the starting point for reflection on the role of sound in ideologies of global security and violence.


The project is organized and coordinated by Alison Baskerville, Joseph DeLappe, Mehreen Hashmi, Yasir Husain and Dani Ploeger, with support from the Global Challenges Research Fund, UK. Further participants are envisaged to be artists and other creative people who are locals from Karachi or who have relocated to Karachi from the Tribal Areas in the North. The project will mostly be conducted in an informal and improvised way, based on what participants contribute. It will start with several trips to various areas around Karachi to meet people from different backgrounds. This will be coordinated by Yasir Husain.

Promotion videos for military drones:


Below: US Air Force MQ9 Reaper drone, Black hornet military reconnaissance drone, Cheerson CX-10 toy drone

David Rohde in Robert Naiman, 2012. When a Drone Flies Over Waziristan, Does It Make a Sound? The Huffington Post, 17 Oct 2012. [accessed 1 May 2018]