József Iszlai

researcher, music artist Budapest (HU)

Sonic Assault of Waco, 1993

An analysis of the natural soundscape and artificially projected sound barriers of the infamous 1993 Waco siege. The FBI took initiative in acoustic bombardment against the religious sect lead by the self-proclaimed prophet David Koresh. The leader of the “Branch Davidians” cult held hostages in the Mount Carmel Center, and asked for his religious messages to be transmitted via loudspeakers, beyond the perimeter of the conflict’s territory. In retaliation, the FBI requested consultation from Russian psychotechnologist Igor Smirnov, to help resolve this conflict through means of psychological operations. Thus, a peculiar strategy of sonic disruption was implemented by the FBI, through methods of sonic assault. This particular sonic barrier had the intent of creating distress, sleep deprivation, and applying questionable means of “psychocorrection”. The audio collage was composed of recorded natural ambiences, sounds of various animals dying, dentist drills, all purposefully severing the cords of the sect from their timetabled existence and daily prayer routines.

Listeners were forced to constantly react to modified sonic contexts, cognitive arrays became psychologically decomposed, and sonic entropy distorted their perceptions of agency. We will explore this material in comparison to earlier applications of militarized soundscapes.