Whitney Slaten is a Ph.D. candidate in the Ethnomusicology Program at Columbia University. His research is at the nexus of music, sound, technology, labor and working class culture among professional sound reinforcement engineers in the New York City metropolitan area. Live sound engineers mediate the musical sounds between musicians and listeners through processes of electronic and acoustic amplification. Many engineers intend to work in ways that are “transparent,” or undetectable, to the audience during live music performances. However, the challenges associated with this profession—constantly changing venues, working for different clients, and occasional equipment malfunctions—greatly problematize engineers’ transparency ideal and force the concept into a dynamic state that laborers regulate through complex social and technological negotiation. These engineers technologically facilitate musical intelligibility and artistically create musical sounds, frustrating static representations of these workers as either subordinate manual laborers or autonomous musical artists. Slaten describes these labor experiences through a phenomenology of “signal flow”: a confluence of technological and social encounters between sounds, architectures, electronics, musicians, stage crews, managers, venues, industries, musical genres, and audiences, to answer the question: how do these signal flows socially construct the dignity of a live sound engineer?
Please select the following links to download and view the publications:
Book Review: Unfree Masters: Recording Artists and the Politics of Work by Matt Stahl
2014. Review of Unfree Masters: Recording Artists and the Politics of Work
Matt Stahl Ethnomusicology Review Volume 18 (2013)
Representing Recording Studios of the Past: A Review Essay
2011. “Representing Recording Studios of the Past: A Review Essay”
Current Musicology 91 (Spring): 167-184.
Book Review: Dub: Soundscapes and Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae by Michael Veal
2008. Review of Dub: Soundscapes and Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae
Michael Veal SOULS Journal 10 (Spring): 187-189.