‘Searching For Connection’

Music of Incarceration, Prison Soundscapes, and Sonic Agency


  • Murray Lee


Affective criminology, incarceration, atmospheres, sonic criminology, musicriminology


This article explores carceral soundscapes and uses the creative assemblage of an accompanying musical composition. First, it synthesises two discrete bodies of scholarship. On the one hand that which concerns the acoustic environments of prisons that are generative of their soundscapes‘ or acoustomologies’ (Feld 2021; Russell and Carlton 2020). On the other hand, scholarship that concerns the role of music and its production and use in and beyond carceral environments (Crockett Thomas et al 2021; Lee 2022). Second, sampled sounds generated and recorded in carceral environments are used to construct a piece of ‘music’ that responds to, but also transcends (or escapes) these soundscapes. Deploying a practice led iterative method (Smith and Dean 2009; Sawyer 2021) and borrowing from musical genres such as Musique Concrète, Kosmische Musik and hauntology, “Searching for Connection”, also the title of this paper, constitutes an accompanying four-minute sonic composition responding to acoustemologies of carceral settings. It uses repetition, a metronomic rhythm, and is composed predominately of sound samples recorded in carceral environments reused, refigured, manipulated and morphed to produce a musical form with the aim of provoking reflection on the impact of sound in these carceral settings. The work does not seek to somehow recreate the sonic experience of incarceration, but rather provide a creative response to it, incorporating sounds that, taken out the prison’s materiality, take on new meaning. Collectively, the paper and composition highlight the significance and potential harms of acoustic environments in prisons.

Author Biography

Murray Lee

Murray Lee is professor of criminology at the University of Sydney Law School. His interests include the intersections of crime, justice, sound and music, representations of crime, and fear of crime.