2- Collaborative Problem-Solving within a Cirque du Soleil Sound Department - Jacob Danson Faraday, Memorial University of Newfoundland
At the intersection of artistry, business, technology, and tradition, lies Cirque du Soleil (CDS), an entertainment company that has enjoyed both commercial success and critical acclaim. While CDS's music is often composed for traditional circus instrumentation, and uses typically dramatic musical tropes, the performance of the music relies heavily on a variety of cutting-edge digital technologies. These digital music performance systems are managed by a close-knit network of sound technicians and musicians in a workplace where divisions of labour are often overlapping and ill-defined. Creative contributions made behind-the-scenes by technicians and musicians tend to be effaced from the public eye, while the work of the composer or sound designer, for example, is emphasized. However, this kind of large-scale performance is dependent on technicians and musicians who have no control over the CDS brand, but are nonetheless responsible for the sonic product during a performance. Drawing on five years of experience as a touring CDS sound technician, as well as on three months of dedicated ethnographic fieldwork on a CDS arena tour, I will examine the hidden creativity, affective labour, and workplace ecology of a CDS sound department. Instead of using specialized knowledge to demarcate work spaces and construct barriers between different groups of people, a practice that has been noted in several sound technician ethnographies, these technicians and musicians combine their training and tacit knowledge to solve complex technical and musical problems in a collaborative practice that tends to blur the boundaries between musical and technical work.