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  1. Area of Study 2: Bernstein: Something’s Coming Lesson 3

  2. Starter Activity Do this now!

  3. Learning Objectives: Today I will: Identify the musical features of Something’s Coming by exploring the: • Structure • Instrumentation and dynamics • Melody • Harmony and Tonality • Rhythm and Metre • Texture

  4. 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 shown in the table below:

  5. The Music of West Side Story The music of WSS was cutting edge when compared to musical theatre pieces up to this time. The new elements in this work were: • The dark theme rooted in violence and tragedy • The use of long, extended dance scenes to convey the drama. • The sophisticated synthesis of jazz and classical musical idioms. • The focus on social problems and tensions of contemporary America.

  6. Instrumentation and Dynamics • 'Something's Coming' is a song for solo tenor accompanied by a band made up of woodwind, brass, percussion and strings. • To make sure the band doesn't overpower the solo singer, the accompaniment uses: -Quiet dynamics -Soft timbres, such as muted trumpets and pizzicato strings -A homophonic texture. • Listen out for the two techniques used in the accompaniment to illustrate the words 'The air is humming': the strings use harmonics (very high notes) and play tremolo (very quick notes).

  7. Melody • Melody almost entirely syllabic • Based on the alternation of 3 main themes 1. The quiet, syncopated opening theme 2. The loud, strident theme in 2/4, first heard at bar 21 3. The lyrical, slow-moving theme, first heard at bar 73. • These three ideas are alternated a number of times. • The repetitions are not exact, and Bernstein varies the themes by changing such things as the words or metre.

  8. Rhythm and Metre • The metre changes between 3/4 and 2/4. • These changes of metre, the fast tempo and the frequent syncopation help to maintain a feeling of excitement and anticipation. • The accompaniment is largely made up of an on-beat bass part with offbeat chords. • At the start of the piece, these two parts create cross rhythms.

  9. Harmony and Tonality • 'Something's Coming' is in D major. • There are two contrasting sections in C major. • There is frequent use of the sharpened fourth and flattened seventh in both keys (G# and C natural in the D major sections, and F# and Bb in the C major sections). • The sharpened fourth creates the interval of a tritone with the key note, an interval that acts as a unifying feature throughout West Side Story. • The tenor's last note is a flattened seventh (C natural against D major harmonies). • This is unusual as the note is unresolved and the music just fades out beneath it. It creates a feeling of incompletion and fits well with Tony's sense of expectation. • The harmony is tonal and jazz-influenced, with frequent 7th chords and other added note chords.

  10. Texture and Accompaniment • The texture of the song is homophonic. There are three main ideas in the accompaniment: 1. The repeated riff that opens the song 2. The short, mainly syncopated chords heard in bars 21-26 3. A fast, um-cha accompaniment first heard at bar 32 for the long note on 'me'.

  11. Close analysis of ‘Something’s Coming’: Introduction

  12. Close analysis of ‘Something’s Coming’: Section A

  13. Close analysis of ‘Something’s Coming’: Section B

  14. Close analysis of ‘Something’s Coming’: Section B1

  15. Close analysis of ‘Something’s Coming’: Section A1

  16. Close analysis of ‘Something’s Coming’: Outro

  17. Test your knowledge • On which Shakespeare play is West Side Story based? • In which year was West Side Story first performed? a) 1935 (b) 1946 (c) 1957 (d) 1968 3. Name the two different metres used in this song. 4. What unusual interval recurs throughout this song and the rest of West Side Story? 5. Is the melody largely melismatic or syllabic? 6. What musical term best describes the repeated accompaniment pattern that opens the song? 7. What two instrumental techniques does Bernstein use to illustrate the words 'The air is humming'? 8. How is the second theme (first heard at bar 21) different to the opening vocal melody? 9. What musical term is used to describe two conflicting rhythms heard at the same time? 10. West Side Story was originally written to be performed without amplifying the voices. In 'Something's Coming', how does Bernstein ensure the instruments do not drown out the voice? 11. What is the texture of this song? (a) homophonic (b) monophonic (c) polyphonic 12. How does Bernstein create a sense of expectation at the end of the song?

  18. Homework: Listen to Something’s Coming by Bernstein and think about the following aspects: Instrumentation/timbre , harmony, rhythm, texture, structure, melody You will answer a listening question and an essay question on this set work in the next lesson. Be wise, be prepared!!