Bernstein: 'Something's Coming' from West Side Story Revision

This is revision for Bernstein: 'Something's Coming' from West Side Story for music gcse for the exam baord edexcel.

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Bernstein: 'Something's Coming' from West Side Story

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Composed in 1957.

Based on Romeo and Juliet.

Set in New York and features two rival gangs: the Jets (American) and the Sharks (Puerto Rican). Tony(Jet) and Maria(Shark) fall in love.

Something's coming is Tony's first solo.

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For a solo tenor and accompanied by a band made up of woodwind, brass, percussion and strings.

To not overpower the singer

  • Quiet dynamics.
  • Soft timbres (muted trumpets etc).
  • A homophone texture.
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Structure and Melody

Melody: Entirely syllabic

Three main themes:

  • Quiet, syncopated opening theme.
  • Loud strident theme in 2/4 beginning at B21.
  • Lyrical, slow-moving theme at B73.

The 3 themes alternate a number of times but they are not exact every time.

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Rhythm, metre and tempo

The metre changes between 3/4 and 2/4.

These changes plus the fast tempo and syncopation maintain the feeling of excitement and anticipation

The on-beat bass part and off-beat chords, at the beginning of the piece create cross rhythms.

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Harmony and Tonality

D major and two contrasting sections in C major.

Tenor's last note is C natural (flattened seventh). It sounds incomplete because the note is unresolved.

Harmony is tonal and jazz-influenced

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The texture of this song is homophonic.

3 main ideas: 

  • Repeated riff that opens the song
  • Short, mainly syncopated chords heard in bars 21-26.
  • Fast, um-cha accompaniment first heard at bar 32 for the long note on 'me'.
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