First Draft – Conceived Space Section

Conceived Space

  1. Prison Guards & Cocaine Blues (Link between perceived and conceived space)

 Alongside the listener’s perceived homogenised identity of the prisoner’s through the cheers, laughter and reactions to Johnny Cash’s music and presence, it should also be acknowledged that there is an overwhelming presence of authority and discipline presented throughout Live at Folsom Prison. The prison guard’s sonic intervention throughout the album demonstrates a supposed, organising authority that often overpowers the romanticised image of the Folsom prisoners and Cash’s music, furthering a perceived space of criminality. This authoritative interruption is particularly present at the end of ‘Cocaine Blues’. Thunderous applause from the prison audience is interrupted by ‘These men have reception, Madlock, 850632’ where the applause then ceases to allow for ‘and Batshelder, 839879. They have reception’. Similarly, at the end of ‘The Long Black Veil’ another announcement is made – ‘I have an announcement here… Sandoval, S-a-n-d-o-v-a-l, Sandoval, 88419 is wanted in reception’. In both of these instances the interruption and abrupt silencing of applause represents imperious orchestrations of the prison guards, while the inclusion of the called prisoner’s numbers creates a feeling of strict systemisation, furthering the homogenised image of the prisoner’s and displaying an overruling, impersonal authority.

These two instances of intercom interruptions are not the only demonstrations of the guard’s authoritative intervention – throughout the album guard controlled cheers and applause can be acknowledged by the listener. In ‘Cocaine Blues’ in particular we see a collective, raging applause immediately after the line ‘they overtook me down in Juarez, Mexico’, which dies down instantaneously and unnatural, as if the guards are stifling the natural reactions of the prisoners. This pattern of applause to silence is explicitly apparent in ‘Cocaine Blues’, as at the end of each verse this wave of appreciation is followed by the domineering disapproval and quietening of applause through the prison guards. The sonic juxtaposition indicates the prisoner’s obedience, despite their instinct of support for Cash’s music, and the furthers the listener’s perception of role-model inmates – the control lies with the prison guards.

However, alongside the continued embedment of the image of collective outlaws, the prison guard’s interruptions and audience commands simultaneously encourage the listener to access a space beyond the music and reactions of the prisoners. Since the interventions outlined above are often used as transitions, should we not ask why these sonic interventions not been edited out?  In keeping the prison guard’s disciplinary calls and intercom interruptions within the album for the listener, there has been an active decision to display the authority and control that the prison space possesses, further creating the perceived space of the typified image of the American outlaw in prison. Furthermore, in acknowledging this purpose of the inclusion of the prison guard’s calls, we have uncovered a greater controlling force than the prison guards themselves – Columbia Records.

  1. Conceived space – Columbia Records & theory

Columbia Records initiated and facilitated the recording of Live at Folsom Prison, and were also heavily involved in the editing process of the album. It can therefore be seen that the inclusion of the guard’s sonic interventions alongside the aural romanticised image of the outlaw, which we have previously discussed, was an active decision on the part of Columbia Records to create a certain perceived space for the listener. The perceived space was in fact conceived by Columbia Records prior to the albums recording and public release.

Looking again at Henri Lefebvre’s spatial triad, we can see Columbia Records as the entity that has conceptualised space, through which we can now identify the perceived space of the listener through the conceived space of the record company. Furthermore, the intention behind Columbia Records’ conceived space is a necessity to resurrect Cash as a high-grossing artist and therefore to control the recording to create the best product possible, rather than to do justice to the prisoners themselves. This ties in with Lefebvre’s idea that ‘the spatial practice of neo capitalism […] facilitate[s] the manipulation of representational spaces’ – the capitalist space of the music industry manipulates the honest reputation of the prison.

  • Columbia Records, Cash & Dark as a Dungeon

Examples of Columbia Records as a greater authoritative force and their position as the composer of perceived space from their conceived space are particularly prevalent in ‘Dark as a Dungeon’. Within the traditional format of his gig list, Cash appears to ad-lib sections, bringing the listener’s attention to Columbia Record’s input in the composition of the gig and recording. Cash initially asks ‘no laughin’ during this song please it’s bein’ recorded’ before hurtling into ‘I know hell, don’t you know its recorded’ in a flippant tone. This glibness towards Columbia Records’ control over both him and the prisoner’s indicates a certain disapproval of the greater authoritative force of the album, bringing the prisoners closer to his image as an outlaw and pushing the idea that the controls in place are enforced by the commanding entity of Columbia Records in order to convert their conceived space of the prison into a perceived space for the listener. Furthermore, prior to the end of ‘Dark in the Dungeon’, Cash again reiterates Columbia Records’ control over the album, joking ‘you can’t say hell or shit or anything like that’. Again, this engages the prisoners further, but, in this instance, the inclusion of Cash’s playfulness and clear engagement with the prisoners, which is left in for public release, and their rowdy reaction to his rebellion forwards Columbia Records’ ideal for a perceived typified image of the American outlaw – the edit and inclusion was purposeful.

On top of Cash’s acknowledgements of Columbia Records and the restrictions they place on him, and the prison audience – although we do acknowledge that Cash plays with these to side with the prisoners – we can compare specific edited moments to help identify Columbia Record’s bias for their idealised conceived space, which they form into a perceived space for the listener.

  • Editing the cheers to be quieter while Cash is singing and they’re appreciating the music but editing the cheers to be louder when he talks about criminal actions etc. again furthering their conceived ideas into a perceived space for the listeners. (NEED A SPECIFIC EXAMPLE OF THIS)
  • End of Jackson: Cuts to new song clearly interrupted


  • Finish Columbia Records section
  • Redraft
  • Add in more analysis
  • Trim and shape towards conclusion

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