David Pasivirta


Violent Music as Peace Propaganda, Ones and Zeroes in System of a Down’s Propaganda.


This paper will explore the relationship between the inherence of sound as coding for emotional response to human relationships, and the way that the music of System of A Down draws a blurry line between peace and violence by violently protesting for peace through their music. Possibly adding to it the strong sense of belonging through intense meaning created by mimetic violence that is driven by Dionysian responses from groups of listeners.

That said, the specific outline will be as follows.

Meaning in music is created by notational relationships, of sameness or difference. The relationship of the notes used by system of a down is one of violence. The sonic relationship brought forth by the form of the music codes for violence in human relationships, which contradicts directly the message of anti-violence, whichthey claim to promote.

The first section will explain the nature of meaning as it pertains to musical notes and their relation to other notes placed in the same context, with an example taken from the language of binary code, ones and zeroes.

The second section will show how this relationship is manipulated and contradicted through a form/content contradiction. The violent sounds created are used to spread a message of ant-violence, which is confusing to listener.

The third section will show how Dionysian responses and mimetic violence are tools used to create a sense of community that though intense, is not deep, therefore deceptive in its trustworthiness, which is then manipulated towards the political ends of the band. Often rendering the listener without awareness of what has happened to them.

This is the kind of manipulation that System of a Down claims to fight against through its music, but unwittingly finds itself guilty of at the same time. Is it possible for popular art to be popular and yet remain outside of this interpretive cave of emotional manipulation?


David Pasivirta graduated from TWU with a BA in music, major in voice.
While concentrating in one discipline, he enjoyed the cross disciplinary nature of TWU's humanities departments, and took many courses in theology, biblical studies and Philosophy. He is currently working on his thesis for the MA in Humanities program at Laurentian University in Sudbury Ontario. After graduating from TWU, he was offered entry to this program with a teaching assistantship and a grant. He is working on a thesis that entails exploring the meaning of relationship as it applies to music and its context. Much of the development of music throughout the history of the west has taken place in the church, so the interpretation of church music has become a direction he will pursue. After completing his MA studies, he will take a break before applying to post graduate programs.