Updated: Thursday, 6th August 2020 @ 6:47am

Chilean death camps used music from Clockwork Orange in brutal torture, Manchester researcher reveals

Chilean death camps used music from Clockwork Orange in brutal torture, Manchester researcher reveals

By Tim Hyde

Music that was used in the brutal torture of more than 25,000 political opponents in concentration camps run by sadistic Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet has been researched by a University of Manchester historian.

Dr Katia Chornik investigated how torturers used the medium of music to physiologically torment captives in the camps where he imprisoned political opponents.

According to former prisoners, guards selected a handful of songs that they would repeat during torture sessions.

Songs such as George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord and the soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange were played at high volumes for days at a time.

Dr Chornik said: “Music brought prisoners together because it was a way to deal with their terrible suffering.

“But music was also a form of testimony. Many prisoners did not officially exist; so many were to disappear without trace and songs were a way of remembering who they were and what they believed in.

“Pinochet’s system also used music to indoctrinate detainees, as a form of punishment and a soundtrack to torture.

“Played at intensely high volumes for days on end, the otherwise popular songs were used to inflict psychological and physical damage.”

One former prisoner said how her jailers would sing the Italian pop hit Gigi l'Amoroso especially for her as they were taking her to the interrogation room, and carry on whilst they were torturing her.

According to the University of Manchester researcher, many prisoners used music to escape from the torture often singing, sometimes secretively, and in the less violent camps, they were able to play musical instruments and put on shows.

Dr Chornik, who is Chilean, is also researching the revival of a remarkable choir formed in Tres Álamos (Santiago), one of the largest camps for political prisoners.

Picture courtesy of Kathleen Maher via Flickr, with thanks.

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