“Something’s Coming’ from West Side Story

Instruments
‘Something’s Coming’ is a song for the solo tenor accompanied by a band made up
of woodwind, brass, percussion and strings.
 Requires players to ‘double up’ (play more than one instrument, e.g.
clarinet in one song and saxophone in the next, then switch again in
other songs).
 5 woodwind players, 2 horns, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones, 7 violins, 4
cellos, and 2 double basses.
To make sure the band doesn’t overpower the solo singer, the accompaniment
uses:
Quiet dynamics
Soft timbres (muted trumpets and pizzicato [plucked] strings)
Homophonic Texture
“Something’s Coming’ from
West Side Story
Bernstein
Tonality and Harmony
‘Something’s Coming’ is in D Major. There are two contrasting
sections in C Major. In D major – to reflect happy emotions,
because at this point Tony is looking forward to the future.
There is frequent use of the sharpened fourth and flattened
seventh in both keys.
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. This is unusual as the
note is unresolved and the music just fades out beneath 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.
Three musical points about this piece that I like:
Justify your points and use musical vocabulary.
Instrumental Techniques
Two techniques are used in the accompaniment to illustrate the words ‘The air is
humming’
Strings use harmonics (very high notes)
Strings play tremolo (very quick notes)
Texture
The texture of the song is Homophonic. There are three main ideas in the
accompaniment:
The repeated riff that opens the song
The short, mainly syncopated chords heard in bars 21-26
The fast, um-cha accompaniment first heard at bar 32 for the long
note on ‘me’.
Structure & Melody
The melody is almost entirely syllabic. It is based on the alternation of three main
themes:
1.
2.
3.
The quiet, syncopated opening theme.
The loud, strident theme in 2/4, first heard in bar 21.
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 things as the words or metre.
Context and Background of ‘Something’s Coming’
West Side Story was composed in 1957. The musical is based on Shakespeare’s
famous play Romeo and Juliet.
Set in New York, it features two rival teenage gangs, the Jets (American)
and the Sharks (Puerto Rican). Tony, the male lead character (Jet) fails in
love with Maria (Sharks) and as in the Shakespeare play, their love is
doomed.
The song ‘Something’s Coming’ is Tony’s first solo, and establishes his
optimistic character
Three musical points about this piece that I don’t like:
Justify your points and use musical vocabulary.
Tempo & Rhythm
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 off beat chords. At the start of the piece, these two parts
create cross-rhythms
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