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L. Bernstein: ‘Something’s Coming’ from West Side Story (1958)

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Presentation on theme: "L. Bernstein: ‘Something’s Coming’ from West Side Story (1958)"— Presentation transcript:

1 L. Bernstein: ‘Something’s Coming’ from West Side Story (1958)
AIMS - In the study of this set work you will learn about: Different types of musicals in the 20th Century Some background to the life and works of Leonard Bernstein The plot of the musical ‘West Side Story’ Bernstein’s compositional style How the solo song ‘Something’s coming is constructed, through an analysis of the music The key features of the music

2 The origins of the musical
Music theatre has a long and colourful history and can be traced back to ancient Greece. Over the last 300 or so years, the musical has gradually evolved from many styles of entertainment, both musical and non-musical. vaudeville burlesque opera-bouffe operetta

3 The origins of the musical
Vaudeville - popular in 1700’s. Comprised of popular songs from other works but with new, often comical and vulgar words set to the music. The idea was to shock and entertain the audience. E.g. The Beggar’s opera (A tale about thieves and prostitutes) Burlesque - similar to vaudeville but more restrained and classical in style. The subject matter was often a parody of other serious plays.

4 The origins of the musical
Opera-Bouffe – Comic opera – music was specially composed rather than borrowed. The musical style was like light opera and contained some spoken dialougue. E.g. The works of Gilbert and Sullivan. Most popular between Operetta - (Light opera) similar to opera-bouffe but more romantic and nostalgic.

5 Musical theatre in America
Extravaganzas – Mixed variety shows containing singing, dancing, musicians etc. Most popular in the U.S between 1860 – 19oo. Minstrelsy - popular in the late 1800’s. White people were made to ‘black up’ to imitate black people in a parody and exaggeration of any character traits. Also poked fun at the rich and powerful. Melodramas – Essentially stage plays that included some musical cues for different scenes. Dialogue replaced songs but music was used to add dramatic effects to a situation.

6 The rise of the musical in the 20th century
American Broadway musicals – Rise of the 20th century musical was led in America. Famous examples include Show Boat (1927), Oklahoma (1943), The Sound of Music (1959). Many musicals were later turned into highly successful films. British West End musicals – Oliver! (1960) revived the fortunes of the British musical. However, it was the partnership of Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice that changed the face of musical theatre in Britain with musicals such as, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita. Rock Operas - Tommy (1969), The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1973), Grease (1978), Mamma Mia (1999) and We Will rock You (2002)

7 West Side Story West Side Story - composed in It is one of the most famous musicals ever written. There are many diverse styles found in the musical including the popular music of the day, jazz, western classical music and Latin American music. However, the forms used all come directly from the structures and methods employed for three hundred years or so in opera. These include the solo aria (solo song), duets, trios, quintets, choruses and extended dance numbers too.

8 Leonard Bernstein Born in USA in 1918 Died at age 72 in 1990.
Studied composition and conducting at Harvard University Became assistant conductor and then principal of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra ( ) At same time developed a career as a composer. Excelled in writing for the ballet and the musical. He also composed film music and symphonies. Died at age 72 in 1990.

9 Leonard Bernstein Married to Fellicia Monteleagre
Worked closely with Stephen Sondheim (Lyricist) on West Side Story Married to Fellicia Monteleagre Died of lung cancer

10 Background to West Side Story
Bernstein’s music reflects the styles of his age – Bebop Jazz and Blues From Bebop we can see Bernstein’s use of dissonances and fast, driving rhythms From Blues the use of syncopation and ‘blue’ notes West side Story fuses together these elements as well as several Latin American dance rhythms.

11 Background to West Side Story
The idea for West Side Story came from the American choreographer, Jerome Robbins. His idea was to create a musical based on Shakespeare’s tragic drama Romeo and Juliet. The romantic world of Renaissance Italy was to be transformed into the run-down, violent world of the West Side of New York. This appealed to Bernstein who wanted to write hard-hitting, jazz-inspired music about real human conflicts and tensions in a harsh inner-city environment.

12 The Plot of West Side Story
The plot mirrors the Shakespeare play, although the Montagues and the Capulets are transformed to become two opposing street gangs, the ‘Jets’ and the ‘Sharks’. West Side Story - Prologue [].mp4 The basis of the tension is racially motivated. The Jets are white Americans led by Riff The Sharks are Puerto Ricans led by Bernardo, They are both protecting their own ‘territory’. Romeo becomes Tony and Juliet is Maria, who is Bernardo’s sister. West Side Story-Jet Song [].mp4

13 The Plot of West Side Story
The drama hinges around the love affair of Tony and Maria who meet at a dance. The love affair creates tension as Tony and Maria are from opposing street gangs. The set work (Something’s Coming ) appears near the beginning of the story. It is a solo song. Tony is looking forward to a new life away from the gang. He wants to leave the Jets. However, Riff, the leader of the Jets, is determined to challenge Bernardo to a fight that night at the dance. He calls on Tony just before he sings the song ‘Something’s Coming’ to persuade him to help in the planned ‘rumble’ (fight). Tony agrees but insists on no future part with the gang. However the drama is set in motion , and the tragic storyline inevitably unfolds. West Side Story-Something_s Coming [].mp4

14 The music Cutting edge – when compared to other pieces of musical theatre at the time. New elements were : 1. the dark theme – rooted in violence and tragedy 2. the use of long extended dance scenes to convey the drama 3. the sophisticated mixture of jazz and classical music styles 4. the focus on social problems and tensions of contemporary America. 5. The music draws on ideas from opera, music hall, jazz and Latin American dances

15 ) ‘Something’s Coming’ from West Side Story (1958
This is a ‘solo song’. In opera it would be called an ‘aria’ The music is sung by the character Tony. Tony is the co-founder of the Jets gang. However, he has found a job and wants to move on with his life and leave the gang.

16 ‘Something’s Coming’– KeyPoints
Metre/Time signature - The piece starts in 3/4 time but has sections in 2/4 time Structure – the movement is in ABB1A1 form with a short introduction and outro The key is a bright and happy D major at the start. This later changes to C major. The piece alternates between these two key centres. The tempo is a fast one–in-a-bar feel (176 crotchets per minute)

17 The Orchestra (30 players)
A mixture of classical instruments and those found in jazz. 5 woodwind players (all doubling on a second instrument eg. Clarinet and saxophone) 2 horns 3 trumpets 2 trombones 7 violins 4 ‘cellos 2 double basses drum-kit 2 other percussionists, piano guitar (acoustic and electric)

18 ‘Something’s Coming’– Key Point
Texture - is many layered. There are lots of things going on in the orchestral accompaniment.

19 ‘Something’s Coming’– Key point
Tonality/Key- The first section of the song is in the key of D major (2 sharps). The major key reinforces the happy excited mood. This later changes to C major The music alternates between these two keys and finishes in D major Much use is made of the interval of a tritone both melodically and harmonically The piece uses a wide range of added note chords. The song ends with a fade-out

20 ‘Something’s Coming’– Key Point
Tempo – The song is marked fast (176 crotchets per minute) It is basically fast throughout

21 ‘Something’s Coming’– Key Points
Dynamics – The dynamics often reflect the words. When Tony is asking a question the music is usually quiet. The louder sections are usually preceded by a crescendo. the ending gradually gets quieter and the music fades out

22 Structure of ‘Something’s Coming’
The song does not follow a conventional verse-chorus structure, but has several musical ideas and sections that recur. In broad terms the structure is as below Part of song Length Introduction Bars 1-3 (bar 3 is repeated ad lib.) Section A Bars 4-39 Section B Bars Section B1 Bars (shortened version of B) Section A1 Bars (shortened version of A) Outro Bar 158 is a slow fade-out intro + A B B1 A1 +Outro

23 Introduction (bars 1-3) Intro
Section Details Intro (bars 1-3) Bar 3 is repeated several times. Bernstein sets the breathy and excited mood in the repeated riff in the accompaniment. The riff pervades the song and the melody is used by the singer (Tony) The key is a bright and happy D major. The tempo is a fast one –in-a-bar feel (176 crotchets per minute) Features of the riff The tritone used harmonically in the first chord (G# to D) The syncopated rhythm of the ‘push’ on the third beat of the bar the jazz inspired harmony the three note bass ostinato up to bar 20.

24 A (bars 1-39) Section Details 4-12 13-20 21-39
A quiet section. ‘Could be’ and ‘Who knows?’ are two strong statements of tonic (D) to dominant (A) under which the insistent opening riff is played by the orchestra. These driving rhythms create a sense of urgency and excitement. Notice how Tony comes in with a syncopated ‘push’ on the third beat. Again Bernstein creates an air of expectancy and anticipation. On ‘Who knows’ at bars 8-9, the interval of the tritone is used again, this time melodically. Tony sings a melody based on the opening riff. This is constructed of short, two-bar phrases – one bar answered by the next. ‘Soon as it’ in bar 17 melodically outlines the tritone again on G# and D. This leads to a long crescendo on a ‘blue’ note (flattened 7th in D major) on the word ‘shows’. Fast, loud declamatory phrase. The orchestra chords just punctuate the music. The chords have added notes to spice up the harmony.

25 B (bars 40-105) B1 (bars 106 -144) A1 Outro Section Details
– Like the idea heard at bar 13 BUT phrases are extended It is down a tone (C major instead of D major) 2/4 instead of ¾ On- beat accompaniment 52-72 – Repeated 1 tone higher at Mixture of straight and syncopated rhythms Modulates back to D major at bar 70. This is an expansive, lyrical section marked, ‘warmly, freely ‘etc. This contrasts with the ecitement of the snappy one-bar phrases heard earlier. There is a sense of line and of four bar phrases. B1 (bars ) Similar to section B but shorter. Different lyrics. A1 Similar to section A but shorter. Gradually gets quieter towards the end. Outro (bars 81-89) One bar repeated many times and faded out. Piece gets quieter at the end and fades out.

26 Page 73. Answer questions 1-10 in full sentences
How does Bernstein create a sense of excitement and expectancy in this song? Mention two techniques or devices that the composer uses in this song and throughout the musical itself. Describe the harmony used in this song. What is a ‘push’ rhythm? Give an example. What is a ‘blue note’? Give an example. Describe the orchestration of the piece. 7. How are the words ‘the air is humming’ depicted by the orchestra. How does the piece end? This is a solo song or aria. Name two other types of vocal forms used in a musical. What makes the subject matter of West Side Story different and new from other Broadway musicals of this time?

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