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Monitors, Masculinity, and Compromise on a Cirque du Soleil Arena Tour

Danson Faraday, Jacob


Jacob Danson Faraday


When a musician performing with a large-scale production can hear themselves onstage, it is thanks to a dedicated infrastructure and a behind-the-scenes team of specialised workers. In this paper, I examine the hidden labour of the monitor technicians on a Cirque du Soleil arena tour. From their relatively small but crucial workspace backstage—centred around a five-foot-wide digital mixing console—the monitor technicians inhabit a unique professional space of aural and emotional contradictions: they listen to the show, but only through each musician’s personalised blend of instruments and voices that is customised for each piece, which is not how audiences, front-of-house staff, or other performers hear the show. Indeed, it is not even how musicians necessarily hear themselves during performance. Meanwhile, backstage on a large-scale tour—a setting that is renowned for male-dominance and hyper-masculine registers of speech and behaviour—a monitor technician’s role is one of attentive service, compromise, and care. By examining how these tensions intersect with the ostensibly seamless artistic presentation that occurs onstage, I show how monitor technicians help assemble this large-scale production through their hidden labour, while navigating creative hierarchies and shifting valences of masculinity and homosociality. Engaging with communities of live sound technicians provides an opportunity for ethnomusicology as a discipline to broaden understandings of common themes in music production studies, such as gender, capitalism, labour, mediation, and creativity.

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name British Forum for Ethnomusicology Annual Conference 2024
Start Date Apr 4, 2024
End Date Apr 7, 2024
Deposit Date May 14, 2024
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed

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