Liminality has often been conceived of as a transitory space—a line of transformation from one state to another. But prisons, for many, create a permanent identification with a state of ‘betweenness’ from which there is no return, and spaces within prisons (visiting rooms, for example) represent a constant liminal transition akin to stasis.
More complex still, is the process of “returning” or “reintegrating” after being held in such a space (when many people who are expected to “re”integrate would never have considered themselves “integrated” in the first place). What is it like to exist in these liminal spaces—within prison or between prison and “home?” What kind of role does music play within these spaces and what can we learn about it from songs that are written there? How can the concept of liminality or the creation of alternative liminal states help facilitate restoration between those returning and those who find it a challenge to welcome them?
“Distant Voices: Coming Home” is a 3-year long research project taking place in the United Kingdom (funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council), that pairs Scottish songwriters and musicians with people with experience of the criminal justice system to write songs in and of those liminal spaces.
This includes those currently within the criminal justice system, those having returned from it, those helping others make that transition, those affected by issues with relation to crime, or those attempting to facilitate dialogue and restoration. This presentation will combine live performance of some of these songs (drawn from a collection of over 200) with discussion of what we learn from them about the experience of liminality in spaces of incarceration, transition, and attempted restoration.
Presented with transmediale.
Jo Mango (or Dr Jo Collinson Scott) is a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who has performed internationally alongside artists such as David Byrne, Devendra Banhart, and as part of the touring band for Vashti Bunyan. She has co-written singles with artists such as Teenage Fanclub, Admiral Fallow, and Siobhan Wilson, as well as having released two full-length albums of solo material and numerous exploratory EPs with her long-time producer collaborator Adem Ilhan (Adem, Fridge).
Dr Jo Collinson Scott is a Reader in music at the University of the West of Scotland where she researches songwriting in popular music. She is currently Co-Investigator on a major UK research council funded project—Distant Voices: Coming Home—which explores songwriting in the criminal justice system in the UK as a means to support change and encourage public dialogue around reintegration.