West Side Story: Music Analysis

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From the origin of the American musical, a variety of creative teams have developed many methods to popularize now memorable shows. These methods were considered integral in the formula for developing the musical and were later deemed “conventional”. Composers and lyricists throughout the years eventually adapted these conventions and have created some of the most successful shows that are still relevant to this day, including Sweeney Todd and Les Misérables. Some of those inspirational trend-setters include: George Cohen, Cole Porter, and the creative duos: Alan Jay Learner and Frederick Loewe; Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. Many of their shows became very popular due to the fact that they followed the conventional musical formula. …show more content…
One example includes “America” which not only showcases the dance, but also talks about the hardships and tensions that the Puerto Ricans experience living in the United States. The relationship of the music and the lyrics is incredibly complex. The syncopated rhythm gives the song itself a little vitality, making it catchy while simultaneously nostalgic and exotic. Just like in My Fair Lady and South Pacific, the exotic elements of the song, which includes instrumentation relative to that culture (examples: maracas and castanets), helps with the musical characterization of the characters and sets apart the Jets from the Sharks. Another song that illustrates the greatness of the music is “Tonight” sung by the ensemble and all the main characters. In the beginning of the song, it starts off separately with one gang singing before the other. As the song progresses, the parts slowly come together, resulting in a total of five different parts, a quintet. These elements have been present since the time. Another conventional element present in the music is relating the characters to each other through a musical theme. Originating from the Rodgers and Hammerstein II duo, one character sings a similar line and tune of the song in order to show the relationship. For example, Anita sings the same tune as the gang, yet she sings about her love for Bernardo. In another part of the song, Maria sings …show more content…
This includes the music, scene design, lyrics, costume, dialogue, lights, dance, and staging. If one of these were missing from the musical, it would seem incomplete. The music was one of the main emphases for this show. When filming the movie of this show, Leonard Bernstein had a live orchestra performing the musical numbers. Additionally, he hired opera singers to sing the lyrics to his songs. Even though some of the operatic singers had problems with their accents when singing their part, he chose the best operatic voices in order to receive the full, lush and lyrical sound that he was looking

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