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Sound Targets: American Soldiers and Music in the Iraq War Paperback – May 4, 2009

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Editorial Reviews


"All in all, the author has amassed a profusion of valuable information and data about music and the Iraq War... Research into music's role in armed conflict is in its infancy... and we are in need of the kinds of histories and contexts he establishes and the accounts he records, especially in such an eminently readable and accessible text.... [W]e must recognize Jonathan Pieslak for having bravely opened the door for further exploration through his pioneering study." ―American Music

"I highly recommend this book for all those interested in relationships between artistic expression and politics, war, militarism, and psychology. Its writing style is both accessible and sophisticated, making it appropriate for use in either undergraduate or graduate courses." ―Journal of Folklore Research

"[This] book documents and explains various ways in which music is intertwined throughout the lives of many American soldiers... serving in Iraq. The author's purpose for this work is to offer a glimpse into these military lives and add to the literature on music and war." ―Music Reference Services Quarterly

"Pieslak's Sound Targets offers a serious and insightful examination of how music was used by American soldiers in the Iraq War." ―Times Higher Education

"Pieslak's careful consideration of soldier accounts about music and his detailed analyses of specific musical texts, videos, and repertoires make Sound Targets an important and timely contribution to the growing discourse around music and war." ―MUSICultures

"Sound Targets reveals just how pervasively popular music has shaped contemporary U.S. military culture.... This thoughtful and provocative study will certainly attract a wide audience concerned with music's roles in the time of war." ―W. Anthony Sheppard, author of Revealing Masks: Exotic Influences and Ritualized Performance in Modernist Music Theater

About the Author

Jonathan Pieslak is Associate Professor of Music at the City College and Graduate Center, CUNY. He lives in New York City.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press; 1st edition (May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0253220874
  • ISBN-13: 978-0253220875
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #998,232 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jonathan Pieslak (b. 1974, Wilmington, DE) teaches music at The City College of New York and the Graduate Center, CUNY. A graduate of Davidson College (BA, 1996) and the University of Michigan (MM 1999, MM 2002, PhD 2003), Jonathan has published among the top music journals on topics including critical theory, popular and metal music, and music and war. He is the author of the first interview-based book to explore the relationship between American soldiers in Iraq and music, Sound Targets: American Soldiers and Music in the Iraq War (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2009). In 2006, he founded the American Soldiers on Music project, which makes many of his soldier interviews available for listening, Also a composer, Jonathan's music has been performed and broadcast throughout the United States and internationally, receiving awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2006 Goddard Lieberson Fellowship for "mid-career composers of exceptional gifts"), Jerome Foundation, American Composers Forum, among others. His orchestral works have been recently recorded by the Kiev Philharmonic, and can be heard at: He is also an eletric bassist, playing in Turiya Sun (

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By H. A. Friedman on July 30, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Sound Targets: American Soldiers and Music in the Iraq War, Jonathan Pieslak, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN, 2009.

This 225-page lightly illustrated book tells the story of American soldiers in Iraq and their use of music to build their own morale, to destroy the willingness of the enemy to continue the fight, and to weaken the resistance of prisoners during interrogation. I was aware of the author since he had written to me earlier requesting permission to quote some text from my article "The Use of Music in Psychological Operations" in his book.

Pieslak starts off by mentioning some historical uses of music; the trumpets used by Joshua at the battle of Jericho, General Santa Anna playing El Degüello at the Alamo, and of course the hard rock broadcast at General Noriega in Panama hiding in the Vatican Embassy in Panama. He goes on to discuss Iraq but since he admits that he only interviewed 18 soldiers and several of them were hesitant to talk, he doesn't really get into the subject in great depth. He discusses music in recruiting, in combat, as used by the enemy in Iraq, as a psychological tactic, as a form of soldier expression and then attempts to explain "metal" and "rap" ideologies. Pieslak gives the lyrics of some of the songs and explains that often soldiers about to go into battle will steel themselves with music. In my day we didn't have Ipods, but I do recall that when I was training troops in infantry tactics I would sometimes play "The Ballad of the Green Berets" on the car radio as I drove to the student barracks to get myself fired up. And of course, when I had the soldiers march themselves to class or to chow as part of "drill and ceremonies" I demanded that they do loud "Jody" calls all the way there and back.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Stephen M. Johnson on July 13, 2009
Format: Paperback
I have had a good time reading this book. The author has taken the time to not fill his book with politics or tactics. But with the feelings of the soldiers in his book. Focusing more on the music then the war. I recommend for those looking for a book about the lives of soldiers and not just the combat that soldiers deal with on a daily basis.
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