Forbidden Music, Forbidden Jukeboxes: Listening Anxieties and the Hyper-amplification of Violence in Rio de Janeiro

Published in “Border Listening / Escucha Liminal”, Volume 1 (2020), pp. 21–33. Edited by Alejandra Luciana Cárdenas and published by Radical Sounds Latin America, Berlin. Previously presented as a lecture at Humboldt-University Berlin (2019), CTM Festival Berlin (2018), as well as a paper for the IASPM-DACH Conference in Bern, Switzerland (2018).

This paper interrogates one of the many articulations of racialized sonic violence in Brazil; specifically, what I call “listening anxieties” perpetrated by the Military Police of Rio de Janeiro. The paper explores how the Police make extensive use of sonic design practices not only to exercise direct violence against marginalized populations in the city, but also to hyper-amplify a sense of permanent threat in the so-called “pacified” favelas of Rio. Conducting this narrative is a Jukebox that sits in a bar in a neighborhood in northern Rio. This jukebox dwells on the fringes of legality, illegality, and a third state of “imposed” illegality defined by the police and articulated through the listening practices it affords. The jukebox is a clear example of how sound marks territory for both the police and the drug factions that control Rio’s underprivileged neighborhoods. The cultural and political function of this type of jukebox subverts its intended design, articulating a non-verbal language within the social configuration of a neighborhood. 

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This publication is an updated, revised version of the lectures. Listen to the one given at CTM 2018 below: