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

Pre-Seminar Prep (11/03/2019)

Tom Rice, ‘Sounds inside: prison, prisoners and acoustical agency’

  • ‘The sources indicate that prisoners actively draw on listening and sound-making in a diversity of ways as they negotiate prison life’
  • ‘active role played by prisoners themselves in shaping the sonic space they inhabit’
  • More attention is being paid to the design of prisons due to the noise problem within many.
  • ‘Noise has been identified as a contributor to unhealthy and stressful conditions in prisons and long-term exposure to loud noise has even been linked to deafness among prisoners’ – the brutality of the noises of a prison and how this brutality is shown through the violence of the sound of the prison in Cash’s album
  • ‘sounds carry important information’ for prisoners e.g. activities, events, dangers etc.
  • ‘Rather than simply being passively absorbent of unpleasant noise, then, prisoners are also active and resourceful listeners to and interpreters of sound’
  • ‘Listening to music can enable some prisoners to manage and direct emotion in significant ways. Music can also afford both a way of retreating from others and a means of antagonising them’
  • ‘Sound is an important aspect of the materiality and physicality of prisons’ – how Cash’s album represents both
  • ‘Sounds clearly pay an important role in beginning and establishing the rhythm of the institutional day’
  • Prisoners having acoustical agency (listen to things happening, know when different events happen etc.) due to the visual restrictions of the prison. The fact that this is a recording, not a film, represents that aural rather than visual agency of the prisoners.
  • 8 section – ‘Visually, prisons may be bounded spaces, their limits tightly controlled, clearly demarcated by walls and fences. From an acoustic perspective, however, they are porous. As illustrated above, sounds can move through and around prison buildings. Songs such as Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues and Hank Williams’ I Heard that Lonesome Whistle Blow also suggest that sounds can seep into prisons from beyond their boundaries’
  • Section on prisoners being allowed music personally etc.
  • ‘Listening evidently produces moments of intense pleasure, allowing him every so often to transcend the experiential and emotional plane of mundane prison life’ – is this what is happening for the prisoners? Then the album does the opposite and brings about the prison setting for those listening to the recording?

Gascia Ouzounian, ‘Sound Art and Spatial Practices: Situating Sound Installation Art Since 1958

  • ‘idea of ‘situated listening’ – a mode of listening that is contingent upon the particular, placed situation(s) of hearing’
  • Gascia Ouzounian, ‘Embodied Sound: Aural Architectures and the Body’
  • ‘social constructs that have been shown to be principal determinants of space, place and identity’
  • ‘Voice turns into a spatial sound element, becomes a ‘third space’ when it leaves the body’

 Konca Saher & Murat Cetin, ‘The Sound of Crime and Punishment; a Review of Different Prison Types in Regard to Their Binary Soundscapes’

 – Notion of sound in prisons ‘used as a tool for social segregation’

Rough Plan


  • Johnny Cash
  • Concert/ album
  • Number 1 sold album
  • Live at San Quentin and Live at Folsom Prison – acknowledging that there are multiple moments where these concerts happen
  • Possibly starting out with a song – Folsom Prison – analyse a small section
  • Now that we’ve presented this song to you, is he really an outlaw?

His image – outlaw and artist

  • Introduction of his image
  • How he was viewed
  • Been in jail but never been imprisoned
  • Multiple identities
  • Photo taken by Jim Marshall at the 1969 San Quentin State Prison gig

Idea of the album

  • Deciding to recording an album in Folsom Prison after performing there once before
  • How it came about – lack of sales before, downfall of his career – this was to save it
  • How it caused his second career

The gig – four mini sections

The music / gig itself

  • Pre-talk – trying to relate to the prisoners, empathy Cash is trying to express, political activism through doing the concerts
  • First gig was with The Carter’s. Next time only took June who helped his image – crowd goes wild. What does she do? Opposite. Sexualised bringing into the male prison

The prisoners

  • Performing a song by one of the prisoners – prisoner didn’t know, Johnny Cash then helped him get out of prison, ended up touring with Cash, threatened a member of Cash’s team and left the tour, ended up working on a farm. Saw the good in him
  • By singing his song, gave him a voice but was mediated by Johnny Cash – taking prisoners experience but making it his
  • Glen Sherley’s Greystone Chapel – relation to religion
  • Mentality that has formed within the prisons
  • 00:44 – Tex Perkins Folsom Prison
  • Adorno – Theory of Sound – prisoners expressing themselves
  • Allowing prisoners to act as rowdy as they want to, feeling free, performance (permission to act this way from the guards), illusion of being free
  • Appreciative of the time that is being given

The videos

  • Video footage – filming is subjective. Not necessarily accurate of what is happening
  • Limited amount of videos available

Process of recording

  • Columbia records influence on the album / gig
  • What security and measures had to be taken to allow the recording to take place
  • What the prisoners got told about the gig?
  • Equipment that must have been in the space – artificial environment?

The album

  • How was it received?
  • What was this to the public?
  • Who was listening to it?
  • People listening without realising how it was really recorded. Is it more politically motivated now when people have a bit more context?
  • Video vs. album – album diffused? How is this political in itself?
  • Everything is recorded then put into the CD – accompaniment to the soundtrack, giving a new depth and political activist nature.
  • Album cover
  • Keeping in his speeches and rallying cries
  • Lack of editing – doesn’t cut out any of the conversational performance at the beginning/end of each song. E.g. getting water, reception wanting a specific prisoner, conversations with the other musicians
  • Importance of little editing the music and including the whole experience

Break down / analysis of a song

  • Folsom Prison Blues
  • I Walk the Line
  • How this relates to all of the above – the concert, album and prison reform activism
  • Reviews of the album
  • Analyse according to what we’ve said – they are our case study

Prison reform / politics

  • Johnny Cash with Nixon – parallel to the concert and Cash with the prisoners
  • If you pose yourself politically as a musician, you’re going to isolate a market
  • Wasn’t throwing it down people’s throats – did it artistically
  • Wanting to bring people together
  • Political reform video footage: Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison Dumps His Water – drinking a glass of water and how that was a statement
  • Offered to donate $5,000 of his own money to build a prison chapel
  • No change to prisons in Cash’s lifetime – did he have any impact?

What was the purpose etc.? What did the album do?

  • Reception theory
  • Public reception of the gig in film (Walk the Line film) – interpreting the water scene

Was this all just a hoax?

  • Is it really an accurate portrayal of his image?
  • How much as Columbia records had an impact of his image?
  • How much was his image controlled in the relation of ‘Johnny Cash’?
  • Album covers – Johnny Cash backlit etc.
  • Clash of him as an outlaw/ rebel and famous musician?
  • Concert in Sweden – became a consumer product taking away from the heart of it wants to do
  • Other musicians doing prison concerts – became a trend


  • Dedicated something to Johnny Cash in Folsom Prison – gift shop and licence plates with Johnny Cash on / his name on (2017)
  • Consideration that prisons are now privatised and commercial

Pre-seminar prep

Pre-seminar prep

 Other artists who have performed in prisons:

  • Gern Sherley, Live at Vacaville
  • B. King, Live in Cook County Jail
  • Jerry Garcia & John Kahn, Live at the Oregon State Penitentiary
  • The Cramps, Live at the Napa State Mental Institution
  • Black Uhuru, Live at Soledad Prison
  • The Sex Pistols, Live at Chelmsford Top Security Prison
  • Binary Star, Master of the Universe
  • Frank Sinatra & the Count Basie Orchestra, San Quentin & Lorton Correctional (had the idea of recording the album in a prison before Cash but album didn’t happen).
  • Fugazi, Live at Lorton Correctional Insitute

  • ‘Short of illicit substances, music is the most effective anaesthetic to the pain of long or short-term incarceration’
  • Normality of the prison audience – Foy Vance amazed at how ‘erudite and pleasant they all were’
  • Bonnie Tyler going in to film a single – rather than for the benefit of prisoners. Who do these musicians really go and perform for? What is the benefit?
  • ‘I’m not sure that there was anything altruistic about what Cash did. I think he just enjoyed playing in those places and identifying with the underdog’
  • Musicians being appreciative of the time that the inmates are giving them – it’s not a favour to them but rather an enjoyable experience.
  • Encouraging a positive alternative when inmates are released – a reminder of society and possibilities that freedom gives
  • A prisoner, Fetch, explaining how musicians coming and performing in a prison in Brixton provided peace after a prison riot a matter of weeks earlier.
  • Charity Jail Guitar Doors – named after Clash song
  • ‘What does he say to people who might question the morality of giving treats to people who have caused harm to others?’ – difficulties of different approaches to prisons and rehabilitation.


Photo taken by Jim Marshall at the 1969 San Quentin State Prison gig

  • Cash feeling as though he had ‘been endowed with this fame in order to do something with it’ in relation to prison reform
  • ‘As well as singing for the prisoners, Johnny used the platform of the concert, which was being filmed for local TV, to put his money where his mouth was, offering to donate $5,000 of his own money to build a prison chapel’
  • ‘Cash’s conversations with the men he met at Cummins clearly touched him too. At the 1972 US Senate hearing, Cash relayed stories of some of the worst abuses he had heard of on his prison visits, including the harrowing tale of a 15-year-old boy who died of injuries caused by his rape at an Arkansas prison’
  • Full experience of Cash – invested in the prisoners and aimed to provoke change
  • No change during Cash’s lifetime – was there any impact?


Johnny Cash, At Folsom Prison

  • Lack of editing – doesn’t cut out any of the conversational performance at the beginning/end of each song. E.g. getting water, reception wanting a specific prisoner, conversations with the other musicians
  • Realistic recording of his experience at Folsom prison
  • Importance of not editing the music and including the whole experience
  • Difference of Cash’s experience in comparison to other musicians coming in?
  • Cash’s image – dark, outcast, time spent in jail



  • Looked at various different newspaper articles from the last 10 years or so – how might this compare with the opinion from when the album was first recorded? Haven’t easily found many opposing articles.
  • More analysis into the SOUND of prisons in relation to the MUSIC of Cash (from Eloise’s comment about Adorno and Bach and sound and music being complimentary)
  • Limited amount of materials?