As this whole process comes to a close, I have to say in all it was a positive experience. It was nice to see one idea come together, after 10 weeks of working through the challenges and opportunities that are stirred from people of different minds and specialties. Everyone in our group has something to contribute and challenge during the whole process. Ironically, I think the most challenging part of the whole assignment was remembering to add to the blog. Our group faced a few scheduling challenges but regardless, we always managed to make up for the lost time, finding another time to meet and work. It helped that when we were in our meetings we didn’t dilly-dally, but got straight to business. I am very excited to share our presentation after 10 weeks and found we all enjoyed the process and actually had fun doing it.
During the last few weeks of the group work we started to bring our research and ideas into a physical form. Breaking up elements of the script into manageable sections for each individual to tackle. Coming together in the last week to consolidate the whole thing into one clear argument. Below is a working conclusion I wrote based on what the other members of my group put together. Although, in this state, it is unfinished and raw it is intended to help communicate why the our research in the end matters
Our research matters because we are showing that the album listener is provided with an incorrect view of prison reality, never fully recognizing the authenticity of prison life.
The success of Johnny Cash’s Live at Folsom Prison album is not based on its ability to memorialize the actual lived experience of prisoners in Folsom in 1968, but rather the whole production of its memoriam. From what we have shown, by breaking the album into perceived and conceived space, we as listeners are coming away from the album with a more critical gaze. As a listener, even considering the obvious cultural implications of recording an album in a prison: highlighting a space that is normally considered separate, we do not initially leave the album feeling ambivalent or discomforted by what we’ve heard. We instead are actually entertained. A result that is supported by the fact that after its release, the album climbed to the top of the charts, redeemed Cash’s declining image, became memorialized in films, and remembered in a gift shop. Folsom Prison Museum commemorating Cash’s visit on their website, stating: In the museum description it reads ‘you can still discover the reasons for Johnny Cash’s “Blues” at Folsom State Prison. Learn how the prison was fashioned gray granite from the surrounding rock quarries. The museum features a wealth of photographs, old hemp ropes used to hang prisoners, [and] memorabilia from Johnny Cash’s famed concert shows…’ sentence to explain why this matters
The Folsom Prison album offers an inauthentic sonic perception of prison’s reality as Columbia records conceive a homogenized ‘happy go lucky’ group of outlaws. Their claps, woots, and hollers are edited and manipulated to enhance to the music not to present an argument for reform. But from what we’ve determined, to bring the prisoners to the forefront, to recognize the ways their sounds have been manipulated by the space directs a new narrative. The prisoners on the album are not the authentic lived experience.
week 6 proved to be a pivotal week for our group, both in consolidating our idea and working out a plan of attack toward developing the presentation.
Angel sat in with us and posed an important question, that helps anyone developing a case study, ‘why does this matter?’
Ultimately in the moment, I am not sure our group came to a solid answer. Why does it matter that Johnny Cash made this prison album? Why does it matter that he came to represent a voice for the prisoners? What is our goal with working through these questions? I think that of course we all emotionally feel like there is reason for our research. It is why we get excited the deeper into our investigation and seeing what occured over the period, but I don’t believe we have yet nailed down why we are emotionally responding to the subject. At least, not in a clear, concise way.
However, this is right on the cusp. In my opinion.
After, our meeting we stayed beyond our hour and did a heavy brainstorm to create our research question and thesis (which are all in development):
so far coming up with:
Question: How does the preservation of sound in Johnny Cash’s prison albums demonstrate sounds capacity to permeate controlled environments?
Thesis: Looking at the sounds of the recorded prison albums, it’s film footage as well as reception theory we argue that Cash’s Live at Folsom Prison and Live at San Quinten albums act as a document of the how sounds ability to is permeated controlled environments and particularly the prisoners relationship to the space.
and then coming up with a rough structure for how the presentation with proceed:
Introduction: Start by playing folsom prison blues
legislation /contact (why was he there)
Textual analysis of song: not new
- novelty of the composition
Audience and sounds of prisoners
- Sound of prison
- Sound of prisoners
- Why they react the way they do
Pre-conclusion : prisoners relationship with space ties in analysis
- Gift shop
Needless to say: It was a very productive week
Week 4: suffered from a combination of sickness and absences. However, even though our group was unable to formally meet, we continued to communicate and collect material around our project to keep on track.
Week 5: Being the first time we got to meet since week 3, we decided to dedicate two hours to brainstorming and consolidating our material. In the end, with Rebecca as our scribe, we developed a rough layout for how we see the presentation unfolding. Rebecca has already uploaded our plan into another blog post. In addition, we broke the presentation up into parts that we will tackle individually over reading week. With the basic idea of our project coming together and as we have a better idea about what kind of theories we are going to base our argument around we feel confident that in a matter of weeks we will have a completed script.
So far, I feel our group has really come together and had a positive experience working as a group. No one seems to be doing less work than anyone else, we are all pulling our weight, and maybe most importantly, we are having fun doing it.
- No external media was taken in this meeting.
For this week, we started to narrow done our ideas into what could become a provocative research question: To what extent does Johnny Cash’s live at San Quentin Album reflect his public image both as an outlaw and an artist.
We have then broken down the question into subgroups of ideas that might help to supplement our research:
Research for next week:
- Image; Outlaw/Artist.
- From there how does his image translate into the live concert
- Imagine within the Album
As we each tactical what these categories can mean for answering our question, we are additionally trying to form a theoretical analysis to better support our argument. As of right now, the themes and trends were are finding have been giving our group a lot of information to consider such as:
- Johnny cash
- Found live footage of the San Quentin performance: showed evidence of prison life. Clearly edited, why? Who was the audience the footage was intended for????
- Frank Sinatra came three years before Johnny Cash, intending to record an album in the prison but the album was never made/released.
- Photograph of Johnny Cash, was he an outlaw?
- Going to prison to play was intended to address Prison Reform. Activism, he donated money to build a chapel.
- Other performs who went to Prison: Bonnie Tyler, Sex Pistols
- Johnny Cash’s conventional life of Prison remains, limited new ideas
- Theories: popular opinion, Adeino/Bach
- Johnny cash met with nixon five months after San Quentin.
- Laughter as the only opportunity to free themselves from their situation.
- How does the prison halls accomodate for the sound?
- The album was made after his downfall in his career from his drug addiction and problems. Did he have anywhere else to go? Columbia records was not advocating the performance.
- Limited capacity, some prisoners couldn’t get into the hall and were shut out.
- When Bob Dylan played, prisoners were not allowed in to watch.
But with all that said, we do feel that an analysis based on linguistic or visual response could only support our argument further.
After determining that we are all interested in looking more into the issue of sound and memory, we all came prepared to the group with examples of potential case studies. This work help us not only to support our initial idea but to give us more ground to conceptualize our idea. Being that memory and sound is such a broad idea that can be interpreted in many different ways, depending on the discipline you choose to view it through, it was important to consider that we are all more prepared to look at it through it’s linguistic or cultural value, and not so much on the psychological effect.
After seeing what everyone brought to the table, it appears we’ve agreed to look more into Johnny Cash’s concerts in Prison. There are still quite a number of questions we have to work through before finalizing the thesis/argument of the presentation: such as what effect does the music give, by Cash (a free man) choosing to go into an environment where people are intentionally kept away? How does the ‘natural’ sounds of the prison effect his own music? What does his image mean to the other prisons? Is there vision evidence that we can pull from? What linguistic changes might he had made to his lyrics for the specific audience???
These are only a few questions, but I believe that everyone at this point seems excited by the research and what we might learn. As well as, it seems everyone is willing to put in equal work. We are now looking into what particular theories might fit our presentation: linguistic (for example) as well as what visual evidence we might find.