John Kapusta

Assistant Professor of Musicology



John Kapusta received his PhD in music history and literature from the University of California, Berkeley. His research focuses on the history of the body, notions of creativity and selfhood, and US concert music in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

His current book project (supported by an American Musicological Society Ora Frishberg Saloman Endowment Travel Award) examines how US musicians in the long 1970s sought to reform their “modern” musical culture by reimagining music-making as a liberating medium of bodily “self-actualization.” While we often think of the era as one of “postmodern” aesthetic fracture, the book demonstrates how musicians from experimental composers to symphony orchestra principals adopted remarkably similar goals and strategies, adapting psychosomatic disciplines from tai chi to yoga tennis in order to “liberate” themselves and their listeners from an overly “rational,” “mechanized” society. In the process, the book contends, these musicians developed a coherent, if not always harmonious, spiritual-but-not-religious musicality in tune with contemporary injunctions to “let go” and “use the Force.” The book aims to resituate art music within popular culture, to offer a new means of conceptualizing the postmodern in music, and to consider the impact of such thinking on musicology. His article, “The Self-Actualization of John Adams,” is forthcoming in the Journal of the Society for American Music.

John has also pursued secondary research interests in voice and opera studies across two projects: an article, also under review, which argues that Ravel’s 1911 opera L’heure espagnole helped to inaugurate a characteristically modern, abstract conception of voice type, and an essay, currently in progress, which examines how the emergent discourse of the Broadway “belt” shaped composition, performance, and conceptions of race and Americanness on the US midcentury theatrical stage.

John is also an avid performer, and has appeared as a soloist with major opera companies across the United States, including the Houston Grand Opera, Washington National Opera, and the Glimmerglass Festival. He was a 2014 National Semi-Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.