The Possibility Machine

Music and Myth in Las Vegas
Author: Edited by Jake Johnson
Singular and star-studded writings on America’s neon-lit playground
Cloth – $125
Paper – $30
eBook – $19.95
Publication Date
Paperback: 10/10/2023
Cloth: 10/10/2023
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About the Book

At once a Technicolor wonderland and the embodiment of American mythology, Las Vegas exists at the Ground Zero of a reverence for risk-taking and the transformative power of a winning hand. Jake Johnson edits a collection of short essays and flash ideas that probes how music-making and soundscapes shape the City of Second Chances. Treating topics ranging from Cher to Cirque du Soleil, the contributors delve into how music and musicians factored in the early development of Vegas’s image; the role of local communities of musicians and Strip mainstays in sustaining tensions between belief and disbelief; the ways aging showroom stars provide a sense of timelessness that inoculates visitors against the outside world; the link connecting fantasies of sexual prowess and democracy with the musical values of Liberace and others; considerations of how musicians and establishments gambled with identity and opened the door for audience members to explore Sin City–only versions of themselves; and the echoes and energy generated by the idea of Las Vegas as it travels across the country.

Contributors: Celine Ayala, Kirstin Bews, Laura Dallman, Joanna Dee Das, James Deaville, Robert Fink, Pheaross Graham, Jessica A. Holmes, Maddie House-Tuck, Jake Johnson, Kelly Kessler, Michael Kinney, Carlo Lanfossi, Jason Leddington, Janis McKay, Sam Murray, Louis Niebur, Lynda Paul, Arianne Johnson Quinn, Michael M. Reinhard, Laura Risk, Cassaundra Rodriguez, Arreanna Rostosky, and Brian F. Wright

* This book was published with support from the Iberian and Latin American Music Fund and General Fund of the American Musicological Society, supported in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

About the Author

Jake Johnson is an assistant professor of musicology at the University of Oklahoma. He is the author of Mormons, Musical Theater, and Belonging in America and Lying in the Middle: Musical Theater and Belief at the Heart of America.

Also by this author

Mormons, Musical Theater, and Belonging in America coverLying in the Middle cover



“This highly accessible, beautifully edited collection is one of the most readable, well-organized volumes of this type I've ever seen. The Possibility Machine is a valuable contribution that brings a long-overlooked entertainment mecca into conversation with other places and kinds of popular culture.”--Elizabeth Wollman, author of Hard Times: The Adult Musical in 1970s New York City