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Nov 2 2021

Distinguished Lecture Series : The Afterlives of Truth and Musicals


The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music Department of Musicology presents: The Distinguished Lecture Series - "The Afterlives of Truth and Musicals", a lecture by Jake Johnson.

Lies, to invoke Mary Douglas, are stories out of place. Musicals are also stories out of place. They invest in the not-yet and enable a certain parlaying with reality that has come to be an attractive quality for communities all over America that see truth as a road block to worlds they prefer. Musical theater lies in the middle of America’s sense of what is real and what it prefers to believe is real.

But the age of post-truth is pulling at the seams of what make musicals a powerful dreamcoat in this country. In this talk, Johnson considers how musicals and truth have come, will come, or are already coming to an end. Johnson invokes the concept of an afterlife for all of its meanings. Musicals and belief are central to the idea of America building and rebuilding in the imagination again and again. What happens when musicals and the truth they disguise have fulfilled their purpose? What awaits them? What becomes of us?

Johnson sketches three scenes: the end of lying, the end of human, and the end of truth. These scenes point to America’s evolving relationship with musical theater and its deceptions, and observe how the network of musical theater measures against a future ecology of deception.

Jake Johnson is an associate professor of musicology at Oklahoma City University. A consummate musician, Jake brings his expertise as collaborative pianist, conductor, and musical director to his investigations of the lived experience of music-making in America. Much of this work centers belief and gathering. He is the author of Mormons, Musical Theater, and Belonging in America (2019) and the just released Lying in the Middle: Musical Theater and Belief at the Heart of America. Jake is in the middle of several large projects at the moment, including a digital gallery of Betty Freeman’s Beverly Hills music salons, a book of essays on belief and musicology, and an edited volume on music and myth in Las Vegas, America’s iconic city of second chances.

The Distinguished Lecture Series (DLS) is an intellectual forum led by the Musicology Graduate Department.