My current work addresses the role of music and sound in a particularly complex and significant subset of Cirque du Soleil’s output: its permanent Las Vegas shows. My study uses a performance-centered methodology, based on direct observations of Cirque’s Vegas shows as audience member and backstage guest (during performances and rehearsals); personal interviews with the shows’ musicians and directors; and analyses of the shows’ more “fixed” traces (CD recordings, “Making of ” DVDs, souvenir programs, and so on) in relation to their performances. Through this approach, I situate Cirque du Soleil’s resident Las Vegas shows within the culture of the Vegas Strip as well as in circus and theater history more broadly, and demonstrate the ways in which Cirque’s Vegas productions utilize interactive, part live and part technologically mediated musical soundtracks to structure and give meaning to their visual spectacle. By seeing how music is used toward such ends, we are able to reconceptualize music’s role in multimedia genres more generally, and to understand more deeply how music can be used to negotiate the relationship between the physical and the virtual in multimedia theater.
(Lynda Paul, “Sonic Vegas: Live Virtuality and the Cirque du Soleil,” Ph.D. diss., Yale University, 2012)