Extremely Loud

Sound as a Weapon

A bold and original look at the insidious and growing use of acoustics by armies and police departments around the globe

“Rap, metal, and even children’s songs become repressive weapons, symbolizing the links between the entertainment industry and the military-industrial complex. This book is a genealogy of sound as a weapon—both when it has succeeded and when it has failed—throughout the twentieth century.”
—from Extremely Loud

In this disturbing and wide-ranging account, acclaimed journalist Juliette Volcler looks at the long history of efforts by military and police forces to deploy sound against enemies, criminals, and law–abiding citizens. During the 2004 battle over the Iraqi city of Fallujah, U.S. Marines bolted large speakers to the roofs of their Humvees blasting AC/DC, Eminem, and Metallica songs through the city’s narrow streets as part of a targeted psychological operation against militants that has now become standard practice in American military operations in Afghanistan. In the historic center of Brussels, nausea-inducing sound waves are unleashed to prevent teenagers from lingering after hours. High-decibel, “nonlethal” sonic weapons have become the tools of choice for crowd control at major political demonstrations from Gaza to Wall Street and as a form of torture at Guantánamo and elsewhere.

In an insidious merger of music, technology, and political repression, loud sound has emerged in the last decade as an unlikely mechanism for intimidating individuals as well as controlling large groups. Extremely Loud documents and interrogates this little-known modern phenomenon, exposing it as a sinister threat to the “peace and quiet” that societies have traditionally craved.


“Rioters, street protestors, if you think you know your way around clubs, tear gas and water cannons, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! The worst is yet to come with sound. . . . Extremely Loud makes you shiver, or cover your ears, at the technological buildup now at the service of the most sophisticated forms of repression.”
“Thorough and well researched, this is a timely glimpse into the development of these revolutionary technologies and approaches.”
Publishers Weekly

News and Reviews

The Washington Post

Juliette Volcler discusses the torturous effects of sound as a weapon in an interview with The Washington Post

The Nation

The Nation reviews Extremely Loud

Goodreads Reviews