Whitney Slaten Mixing for Frank WessWhitney Slaten is a Ph.D. graduate of 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

ethnomusicology-review2014. Review of Unfree Masters: Recording Artists and the Politics of Work
Matt Stahl Ethnomusicology Review Volume 18 (2013)

Unfree Masters Book Review.pdf

Representing Recording Studios of the Past: A Review Essay

current-musicology2011. “Representing Recording Studios of the Past: A Review Essay”
Current Musicology 91 (Spring): 167-184.

Representing Recording Studios of the Past.pdf

Book Review: Dub: Soundscapes and Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae by Michael Veal

souls-journal2008. Review of Dub: Soundscapes and Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae
Michael Veal SOULS Journal 10 (Spring): 187-189.

Dub Book Review.pdf