Daily Bulletin

The Conversation

  • Written by Lawrence English, Adjunct Lecturer, The University of Queensland

Each September, Brisbane Festival climaxes with Sunsuper Riverfire, a fireworks show that is preceded by a pair of low-flying RAAF Super Hornets and a variety of army attack helicopters looping in and around the CBD. Visually, Riverfire’s effect is pure spectacle; its sonic dimension, however, may be more polarising.

Riverfire was originally known for the “dump-and-burn” – where an F1-11 drops fuel from an auxiliary tank and ignites it mid-air, creating a huge flaming tail and a howling roar. In 2010, the RAAF retired these planes, and the dump-and-burn. In its place, came the fly-bys from F/A-18 Super Hornets and helicopters including the ARH Tiger and the Globemaster.

The sound of these aircraft is genuinely powerful. For some, it’s awe-inspiring. But for others, who have lived experience of a war zone, it may simply be terrifying. A sound, after all, does not hold the same meaning for all people.

Our engagement with sound, and its affective relationship to us, operates at both a physiological and psychological level. In the bodily sense, sound can affect us through vibration and trigger very specific physical reactions. These, when combined with a listener’s psychological responses (built upon their history and lived experience), can have a profound impact upon their mental and physical health.

Recent studies of returned US service men and women, for instance, have shown that periods of intense fireworks activity, such as the Fourth of July, can cause significant anxiety and lapses into states of trauma. It is not just service people who suffer, but anyone who has lived or worked in a zone of military conflict. Adding the intense sonic presence of warplanes to a fireworks display may well heighten the level of trauma experienced.

For those such as refugees or migrants from war-torn countries, the sounds of military aircraft can bring distress and acutely painful associations. After all, these aircraft exist primarily to destroy targets (and people).

In his book Listening To War: Sound, Music, Trauma, And Survival in Wartime Iraq, J. Martin Daughtry coins the term belliphonic (a portmanteau of bellum, Latin for war, and phone, Greek for voice) to describe the particular acoustic qualities that exist in the environment of war. These sounds are loud, dynamic, relentless and sometimes carry huge physical force.

As well as soldiers with sonically activated PTSD, studies such as Living Under Drones have extensively documented the impacts of the hovering tone of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (drones) on civilian populations. Among the syndromes reported by various medical professionals interviewed was “anticipatory anxiety”. One person observed that as soon as people heard drone sounds, they ran around “looking for shelter”.

This study of the effects of drones, including the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper, which Australian military agencies are considering buying, demonstrates the social trauma that occurs through merely hearing the signature hum of these aircraft. It’s a fear born of the knowledge that one could be “attacked at any time”.

Of course Riverfire doesn’t feature drones. And we don’t know if it will be heard by ex-soldiers or survivors of war. But given that it is audible to hundreds of thousands of people, this seems likely.

If it is the awe of flight and roar of engines that excites audiences, surely other aviation partners, beyond the military, could also be used at civilian spectacles such as Riverfire.

For instance, the sight, sound and physical affect of experiencing a jumbo flying low along the Brisbane River could be thrilling. I can testify to the exhilaration of this experience, having stood at the end of the main tarmac at Brisbane Airport while working on a commission for Queensland Music Festival called Airport Symphony. (Although post-9/11, even this experience could evoke the anxiousness of commercial aircraft and skyscrapers in close proximity.)

Those of us enjoying an event such as Riverfire need to recognise, or at least acknowledge, our privilege as listeners. For most of us, this enjoyment will come from an emotional rush connected to the pornography of war, not the trauma that is the lived experience of war.

Authors: Lawrence English, Adjunct Lecturer, The University of Queensland

Read more http://theconversation.com/riverfire-sonic-awe-and-the-pornography-of-war-84201

Writers Wanted

Asian countries do aged care differently. Here's what we can learn from them


The Conversation


Prime Minister Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News

KIERAN GILBERT: Kieran Gilbert here with you and the Prime Minister joins me. Prime Minister, thanks so much for your time.  PRIME MINISTER: G'day Kieran.  GILBERT: An assumption a vaccine is ...

Daily Bulletin - avatar Daily Bulletin

Did BLM Really Change the US Police Work?

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has proven that the power of the state rests in the hands of the people it governs. Following the death of 46-year-old black American George Floyd in a case of ...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer

Scott Morrison: the right man at the right time

Australia is not at war with another nation or ideology in August 2020 but the nation is in conflict. There are serious threats from China and there are many challenges flowing from the pandemic tha...

Greg Rogers - avatar Greg Rogers

Business News

Top 5 US Logistics Companies

Nothing is more annoying than having to deal with unreliable shipping companies for your fragile and important packages. Other than providing the best customer service, a logistics company also ne...

News Co - avatar News Co

Luke Lazarus Helps Turns Startups into Global Stalwarts

There are many positive aspects to globalization. It is no secret that those who have been impacted by globalization tend to enjoy a higher standard of living in general. One factor that has led to ...

Emma Davidson - avatar Emma Davidson

Digital-based strategies that grow and expand your business

Small and medium-sized businesses are increasingly relying on new technology solutions to strengthen their product development, marketing, and customer engagement activities. Technology adoption...

News Co - avatar News Co

News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion