Buried in the mix: touring sound technicians, sonic control, and emotional labour on Cirque du Soleil's Corteo

Danson Faraday, Jacob (2021) Buried in the mix: touring sound technicians, sonic control, and emotional labour on Cirque du Soleil's Corteo. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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This dissertation investigates the lives and labour of the sound technicians who work on Cirque du Soleil’s arena show Corteo, a large-scale, highly structured, corporate touring production. On Corteo, the sound technicians are charged with the faithful recreation of Cirque du Soleil’s proprietary sonic product, including the music, sound effects, and character dialogue, as established by the director, composers, sound designer, and other senior members of the creative hierarchy. The sound technicians manage the constant variations in musical performances and venue acoustics, interventions that should be largely invisible and inaudible. They also manage the feelings of the musicians and each other by engaging in diverse modes of emotional labour. Different groups—sound technicians, musicians, acrobats, and audiences—listen to the show in an ever-shifting, holistic way. The people in these groups understand that the sounds they make during a performance—with instruments and speakers or with laughter and applause—are integral to the show. Sound in the arena becomes an affective web of sources to which each group simultaneously listens and contributes. Sound technicians are sensitive to emotion and affect, and this sensitivity is part of the job. I show that the sound technician’s technical work, emotional labour, and affective sensitivity are vital to the sound design, despite being ‘buried in the mix.’ Corteo’s mode of touring evinces the underlying privilege and power of even low-level employees like sound technicians, as well as Cirque du Soleil’s broader capitalistic priorities and labour practices. Through the case study of Corteo, this dissertation contributes to a growing body of literature that demonstrates that workers at any level in a corporate hierarchy make essential contributions to a final product, even if their labour is obscured by neoliberal logics. Grounded in ethnographic methods and informed by the author’s own experience as a Cirque du Soleil sound technician, this research includes participant observation and interviews with sound technicians, musicians, creative production staff, and audiences.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/15118
Item ID: 15118
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 238-254).
Keywords: Sound Technician, Ethnomusicology, Sound Studies, Emotional Labour, Circus, Cirque du Soleil, Music, Audio Engineer, Touring, Entertainment Industry
Department(s): Music, School of
Date: August 2021
Date Type: Submission
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): https://doi.org/10.48336/0dvq-np73
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Cirque du Soleil; Circus music; Circus--Employees; Arena theater; Sound in art.

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