Prison Songs examines the lives of the prisoners of the Mississippi State Penitentiary in the late 1940s, by reimagining the work songs recorded there.
The Mississippi State Penitentiary is the oldest prison in the USA, founded in 1901, and was and is known by its inmates as “Parchman Farm”. As well as its history as a prison, thanks to Alan Lomax’s pioneering work, it is also an important location in the history of field recording as a practice.
From ‘Eighteen Hammers’ to ‘No More My Lawd’, these songs are a moving portrait of prison life, and defiant statements of hope and unity in the face of appalling conditions. Here, 30 sound artists from as far afield as Brazil, Turkey, Australia and the USA bring their own lives and experiences to bear on reimagining these songs.
You can explore the songs on the sound map below, or by clicking on the individual song title below to hear the different versions of that song. In each case, the original recording is first in the playlist, followed by its reimagined counterparts.
Choose a song to listen to:
Prison Songs sound map
Reimagined by Stuart Fowkes (Cities and Memory) and Lianray Pienaar.
Reimagined by Laurence Colbert and Jeff Dungfelder.
Reimagined by Alex Hehir, Walker Wooding and Adam Hulbert.
Reimagined by Karhide and Ian Haygreen.
Reimagined by Fernando Ramalho and Leon von Bokhorst.
Reimagined by Anthony Lyons and Sofia Botero.
Reimagined by Mark Taylor and Christian Hagelskjaer From.
A selection of images from life on Parchman Farm and other state penitentiaries in the 1940s
Reimagined by Nick St. George, Marie Tueje and Richard Fair.
Reimagined by Mehtap Caglar.
Reimagined by Andy Lyon.
Reimagined by Dan Pope.
Reimagined by Barney Spigel and Haris Sahacic.
Reimagined by Manuel Guerrero, Lee Christian and Andy Billington.
Reimagined by Michael McDermott and Camilla Fanning.
Reimagined by Rodrigo Ramos and Paul Collins.