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Music Program and Dean of the College Present

Thursday, April 5, 2018
Ethnomusicologist Whitney Slaten
Blum N217
5:00 pm
Hiding for the Show: Transparency and the Representations of Sound and Social Life 
How does a modern industrial ideology of transparency figure in the work of live sound engineers of popular music and effect an ethnographer’s study of live sound engineers? While amplifying music to intelligible sound levels for audiences, live sound engineers both uphold and resist being invisible to audiences during set-up, sound checks and concerts. Transparency is an industrial ideology that outlines methods of faithfully reproducing sounds without coloring or obscuring an original quality. Engineers use the term “transparency” in their discourse to describe this hidden mode of labor and the function of amplification equipment. This talk offers ethnographic material from my study of the engineering practice of a professional live sound engineer in New York City. I compare modes of cultural representation that are similar among live sound engineers and ethnographers. The live sound engineer represents popular music as popular culture through his or her technological mediation of sounds from stages to seats. I, as the ethnographer, similarly engage choices to conduct ethnographic fieldwork through both hidden and noticeable activities in my representation of shop floor culture. Using audio and video examples, this paper explores “hiding” in the representation and meta-representation of culture through the example of a live sound engineer working in New York City at popular music concerts and the data collection practices of the ethnographer.

For more information, call 845-758-7250, or e-mail

Time: 5:00 pm

Location: Blum N217