AS - MUSIC1 - OCR - Compairing Musicals - Westside Story - America

The following cards hold information about the key features of different songs out of the musical 'Westside Story' in order to be able to compare them for an OCR - Music AS Level - Essay Question that may ask to compare musicals. In this collection consists


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America - Melody/Motifs

  • Vocal solo at the outset is sung freely, use of triplets to help suggest the 'laziness' of living in the tropical heat of Puerto Rico
  • Chromatic notes in the song help to create a 'lazy' feel.
  • Repetitive structured melodies. – In the chorus we hear a melodic development of, “I like to be in America,” repeated 4 times.  Gives the soloists chance to characterize the discussion they are having using the music.
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America - Harmony/tonality

  • G minor key signaturesounds closer to C minor as opening of intro and first solo are in C minor.
  • Use of Eb and E natural in the same bar (false relation) in bar 13 creates uncertainty – are we in C minor or C major?
  • Conversation ends dramatically with a sudden key change to F minor on “I like the island Manhattan”.  This forms a bridge between the intro and the tempo di huapango (Cmajor).
  • Constant riff of C and G going on underneath the music but chords such as Cm7, Eb and Bb are passed through in “For a small fee in America”.  Ends on C major on “rica”.
  • Instrumental in Ab Major, returns to C when voices return
  • Sudden modulations help unpredictability and excitement between sections.  No warning – pivot chord etc..  Sections defined by key changes.
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America - Structure

  • Verse chorus structure with instrumental clearly defined by new key and new material.
  • Repeats mean that the melody is often the same between verses, but the meaning of the words changes and so it is up to the performer to interpret their words through their singing.
  • Due to the nature of the song (intended for dance) some of the choruses are not actually sung, but intended for movement.
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America - Rhythms

  • Metre is duple, but the minim beat is often divided into triplets, so mix felt between simple and compound time.
  • Metre blurred further by the use of triplet minims in the vocal parts and triplet crotchets in the accomp.
  • Clave rhythm can be heard (played by guiro at start) which has a latin Americfan feel to it.
  • Clave rhythm also forms the patern in the accompaniment
  • Temp di Huapango - Mexican classical style and lively Spanish dance. Roots in Spanish Flamenco. Thus refers to the tempo and style of the dance.
  • Chorus - "I like to be in America" is a 6/8 then 3/4 metre.
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America - Instruments/Texture

  • Use of Latin American instrumentsclave, guiro at start.
  • Opening lightly orchestrated, with guitar (Spanish) heard playing a cross rhythm as an accompaniment.
  • Piccolo used to create a raw sound in the instrumental
  • Brass used in strength, and this is contrasted with the performers clapping.
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America - Word Setting

  • Conversation between Anita and Rosalia has the same melody and so the emphasis on the words is important.  E.g. “Let it sink back in the ocean” – downwards movement and jump of fourth on Ocean.
  • Contrast between the triplets and crotchets on “always the population growing” – gives the punchline strength.
  • And the money owing" etc – same rhythm – creates a feeling of boredom with Puerto Rico.
  • The word America emphasized by the rhythmic contrast.
  • Conversations often mimic each other in terms of rhythm.  E.g. “Buying on credit is so nice/one look at us and they charge twice”.  Gives the impression of a conversation going on.
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America - Comparisons with.....

When comparing it's a good idea to gather all the main features into one huge list and then see against other pieces that have the same features or completely different!

  • Instrumentation - Use of instruments from the Spanish-Mexican ethnic giving a sense of community and unison as a group as all from Puerto Rico
    • The same as - Chicago's Cell Block Tango!
  • Laziness and Excitement - The jazzy feel with added notes, and false relations of keys
    • Again Chicago's Cell Block Tango
  • Large ensemble only using a certain collection of characters (The Puerto Ricans)
    • The Six Merry Muderesses - Chicago's Cell Block Tango
    • Navy Men - South Pacific's There's Nothing Dame
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Mercury Sweet


Wish i had these when I did my exam! Well done!

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