System hold

Joanna Scott (Composer), Adem Ilhan (Producer), Wesley Chung (Composer), Lucy Cathcart Froden (Composer), Martin Cathcart Froden

    Research output: Non-textual formDigital or Visual Products


    System Hold is a British Academy funded EP of songs developed to accompany the criminological text book ‘Pervasive Punishment’ (McNeill, 2018). It was publicly released on Olive Grove records in 2019, receiving national radio play on the BBC radio network, and included as a download in the published text.

    Pervasive Punishment is the first text of its kind to understand the extent of mass supervision as a global phenomenon and to analyse its effect. I was interested to address how the experience of these forms of punishment remain largely invisible and inaudible to such an extent that public and political debate about these practices is seriously undermined. With this in mind, System Hold engages in crucial debates about ‘imaginary penalities’ and ‘counter-visual criminology’, by acting as an exploration of what popular music can offer both academic and public understandings of criminal justice imposed forms of supervision.

    The attendant research questions included:

    • What is the ‘sound’ of supervision in the cultural imagination (and in future imaginings or re-imaginings)?

    • What is the sensory experience of mass supervision?

    • How do we create musical material that generates ‘affective solidarity’ in audiences with those under supervision?

    The distinctive sound of the EP (produced by Adem Ilhan) draws on ‘glitch’ music as a genre of music that celebrates the sound of failure. This is important in questioning an institutional system (i.e. probation) that imposes harsh sanctions for any form of failure, in contrast to creative industries where exploration and failure are integral processes.

    A video of a live performance of the EP is available, including reflective commentary from a former chief inspector of prisons:

    The research process embodied by the EP and its research underpinnings are documented in a chapter in Pervasive Punishment (Emerald, 2018) and discussed in a forthcoming book chapter in ‘Sensory Penalities’ (Emerald, 2020).
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationGlasgow
    PublisherOlive Grove Records
    Media of outputCD
    Size4 songs
    Publication statusPublished - 9 May 2019


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