Prison Songs

Prison ShareableMississippi State Penitentiary is the oldest prison and the only maximum security prison for men in the state of Mississippi, USA and dates back to 1901.

Cities and Memory, the global field recording & sound art project, asked 30 sound artists from as far afield as Brazil, Turkey, Australia and the USA to reimagine work songs recorded there in the 1940s.

I was delighted to be asked to take part and was given the song My Baby Go To Go to work with. I listened to every note. Every word and every breath until I knew the song inside out. The only thing I didn’t know was what I was going to do with it.

I tried various remixes, chopping it around, playing it backwards, upside down – anything to get something.

In my home studio I have a collection of old reel-to-reel tapes that I have built up over the last few years through buying up small libraries and collections on Ebay. One set of reels was marked up as elements for a radio documentary from the 1980s about life in a UK prison.

The tapes have the original unedited interviews with prisoners and staff.

I decided to mix the two things together with quotes from the 1980s recordings mixed with some samples from the original song.

I’m so pleased with the final result.

You can find out more about the Prison Songs project on the Cites and Memory website.

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