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GCSE Music Notes - Leonard Bernstein - Somethings Coming

Updated on December 20, 2015

Context

Somethings Coming was written for West Side Story which is a musical based on Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet', which was first performed in 1957. It is sung by solo tenor voice 'Tony'

Structure

The piece is not a typical verse-chorus structure. It can be divided into A, B, Bridge, A1, B1, Outro. The whole piece is based on three main themes A, B and C. Theme A is heavily influenced by the use of tri-tones.

Melody

The melody contains short riffs that are used in other songs in the musical. Theme A uses syncopation and a tri-tone resolution. This is where Tony creates a tri-tone with the orchestra, but this is resolved by him rising to another note. Tony sings mostly syllabically, and the melody is based on the three main themes.

Texture

The texture is homophonic throughout, consisting of vocal melody and accompaniment, there is no counterpoint to distract from the vocal line. The texture has different layers due to the way the instruments have been arranged.

Dynamics

Tony starts the piece singing pp, breathless and excited. Dynamics help create the impatient feel, for example when Tony sings forte on 'cannonballing'. Many crescendos are used throughout the duration of the piece. There is a fade in the outro for the orchestra to continue playing to allow time for a set change.

Instrumentation

This piece was written for a pit orchestra of about 30 players. Tony, the soloist, is a tenor. The players often double up on their instruments, and pizzicato strings and muted trumpets can be heard, adding to the sense of unpredictability.

Harmony and Tonality

The tri-tone is a prominent feature of this piece. To create tension Bernstein also uses blues notes, such as the final note, being a flattened 7th. This creates a harmony influenced by jazz. The piece is in D major but modulates to C major in the B section. The final note is a C natural, adding to the sense of waiting for something to come.

Rhythm, Metre and Tempo

This piece is in 3/4, however due to the cross rhythms found in the underlying beat the piece sounds as if it is in 6/8. Bernstein uses lots of ostinatos in the orchestra . The lyrics often have accented off beats such as on 'cannonballing'. The metre changes to 2/4 in the B section. There are use of push rhythms, which anticipate the beat, alongside the very fast tempo of 176 bpm.

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