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MARIA W HORN "Panoptikon" LP

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Panoptikon is a suite of vocal & electronic music composed by Maria W Horn for an installation in the disbanded Vita Duvan panopticon prison (The White Dove Prison) in Luleå, Sweden.

From the opening of Vita Duvan in 1856 until its closure in 1979, prisoners were detained for theft, perjury, drunkenness, domestic violence, and vagrancy. More than fifty women were charged with miscarriage & abortion (which was labeled as child murder); however, they did not spend much time at the prison before facing execution by capital punishment.

The circular prison structure of Vita Duvan, which enabled central monitoring, was meant to create a sense of omniscient surveillance. The panopticon made the inmates aware that they could be monitored at any time without having any way of checking if this was actually the case. Through the extensive reform of the Western penal system from the 18th century onwards, the former corporal punishments of torture and public humiliation were replaced by new technologies for social control through spatial isolation and surveillance. The individual prisoner often spent the first three years in complete isolation, during which all contact with other prisoners was strictly forbidden. The prison interior was seen as an efficient and silent machinery whereby an inner psychological change would gradually occur in the prisoner through solitary confinement and isolation.

In the compositional process, Maria W Horn has tried to imagine how consciousness is affected by the sensory deprivation of the isolation cell, where the only indication of the passing of time was found in cycles of daylight amongst the silence, uncertainty, and solitude.

Panopitkon was originally presented as a multichannel sound and light installation where the imagined individual voices of the inmates were represented by loudspeakers placed in the various cells of the prison – each voice striving for community but hindered by the forced isolation of the prison architecture. The composition consists of three vocal parts that relate harmonically to a synthesized chord cycle. Together, these form a sounding body that slowly pulses in synchronization with the illumination of the panopticon system.

Omnia citra mortem (everything until death) is a legal term that means the accused who did not confess their crime could not be sentenced to death, but only to torture until a confession was made. Hæc est regula recti (this is the rule for correctness) derives from Nicolas Andry's book L'orthopedie, the art of correcting and preventing deformities in children. The melody and text used in Vita Duva Lament is a traditional folk song from Närke arranged to fit within the harmonic context of the vocal cycle.


01. Omnia Cittra Mortem
02. Haec Est Regula Recti
03. Panoptikon
04. Vita Duvans Lament (trad. Närke, arr. Maria W Horn)

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