The song America (West Side Story) – Essay The song America (West Side Story) – Essay From dishwasher to millionaire – for this sentence America is famous. But is it true that you have every opportunity in America? The song ? America? from the musical ? West Side Story? written by Leonard Bernstein may have an answer for this question. At the beginning of ? West Side Story? we hear a song, a dialogue between Puerto Rican immigrants. The girls point out the wonderful sides of living in America, but the boys always show the hard reality and that the life for immigrants isn? t easy.
The girls see America as the land of freedom an opportunities, that everything is now possible for them. They can buy everything they want, even on credit. The answer of the boys is t Even if immigrants know that not everything in America is sugar and honey, they try to find a better life in America and hope that they have more luck than their predecessors. Life can be bright in America, life is all right in America, the girls sing. They show that there is no way to belong to the high- or even middle-society, because there is no space for coloured people. If you are a foreigner, you have to work hard to exist in America. hat the prejudice to immigrants is bigger than the trust, one look at us and they charge twice. You have to fight for your rights in the society. And the girls dont really find an argument against the statement of the boys, that America is full of grime and organized crime, all in all a terrible time. The girls dream of their own houses and apartments with more space and terrace ends with the twelve in a room theory, because everything is so expensive and the house owners slam the doors in foreigners faces and even dont give them the chance to show, that they can live and behave like white people too.
The girls speak of pride and honour, but the boys point out, that there is only pride and honour, if you stay on your own side. Immigrants should be happy, if they get a badly paid job for example to wipe tables and shine shoes. The advantage that you are free to be anything you choose is also more or less for white people in America. The boys want to go back to San Juan and sing that everyone there will give them big cheer, but there the girls are right when the simply answer that everyone there will have moved here.
Now, after taking a closer look at America we see, that it is possible to live the life of our dreams, but that for immigrants the possibility, that they become millionaires is not very likely to happen, so is the chance that they live a middleclass-life. http://www. megaessays. com/viewpaper/11446. html As long as love, hatred, and conflict remain in the world West Side Story will remain an important, timeless, and relevant work. One of the largest and most culturally significant themes throughout the play is racism/violence.
This is expressed through the conflict between the sharks and jets which comes to symbolize the conflict between Puerto Ricans and poor whites in New York city during the 1950’s and can be applied on a broader level to symbolize racial tension in general. This theme is explored and explained in act one scenes five and six by the songs America and Cool both exemplify and define the sharks and the jets and speak to the larger theme of racism in America.
To fully understand these central songs it is important to examine the songs role in the play as a whole, the structure and mechanics of the song, and the effect that the song has on the rest of the musical. The first real exposition of the Puerto Ricans and the Sharks is the song America. Sung by Anita and Rosalia and featuring the shark girlfriend chorus, this song explains the benefits and problems associated with America. The song takes the form of a debate between Anita and Rosalia with Anita (and later the chorus) defending America and what it has to offer and Rosalia defending Puerto Rico.
Anita and Rosalia’s respective positions in the choral debate reveal much about their character, and their debate has larger implications, which help explain the sharks as a group. In America Rosalia takes a critical view of America and American culture. The song begins with Rosalia’s nostalgia for Puerto Rico the “lovely island, island of tropical breezes. ” Throughout the entire piece Rosalia romanticizes Puerto Rico, which on an explicit level indicates that she is unhappy with the decision to immigrate to the United States. On a more implicit level it reveals that Rosalia is a romantic who is driven by nostalgia.
When looking at Rosalia’s position in this song through a wider lens she is speaking for the members of the Sharks who are unhappy with their lot in America, such as the poor living conditions and mistreatment they receive, and long to return home. Anita and the other Shark Girlfriends represent the opposition to Rosalia and mount a defense of America. Instead of classifying Puerto Rico as a lovely island of tropical breezes, Anita argues that it is an “ugly island, island of tropic diseases. ” She also counters every point that Rosalia produces as a benefit of Puerto Rico.
For example, when Rosalia sings, “I’ll drive a Buick through San Juan” Anita responds “If there’s a road you can drive on. ” Anita’s quick and witty retorts reveal her intelligence and humor. Additionally, her defense of America exposes her as a realistic optimist. She’s a realistic because of her willingness to debunk the nostalgia that Rosalia feels, but still an optimist because even in the face of extreme racism and poor living conditions she can still see the advantages of America and comes to its defense. On a broader level Anita speaks for the jets who are complacent with life in America.
This song also speaks to the disagreement and tension between the sharks in general. They are forced to choose between a society that acts discriminatorily against them and Puerto Rico which the play classifies as underdeveloped and providing few opportunities. The song Cool coming in the middle of act one scene 6 right before the rumble is important to the development of the Jets and their character as a group. Riff sings cool, with lines from Action, A-Rab, and Baby John. In the song Riff is trying to maintain control of the jets and is advising them to constrain and direct their anger and tension towards the Sharks.
This reveals Riff’s control of the Jets and their respect for him. This can been seen by the way the characters are instantly responsive to his directions, for example when he tells Action to “get cool”, A-Rab to “bust cool”, and Baby John “go cool”, they listen to him and seem to be attentive. It also shows Riff as a strategist and leader. This song also features a number of the other Jets and reveals through dance and their chants of “go, crazy, go” their energy and pent up anger towards the sharks, or perhaps pent up anger towards a society which has failed them.
In terms of overall structure of the play both America and Cool are strategically placed. Both take place directly before the “war counsel” and are important for defining both gangs and their life experiences. America fits into the overall structure of the play by defining the double bind Puerto Rican’s face between a substandard community where they are valued (Puerto Rico) and a land with hypothetically more opportunity where they are not (America). It comes before the major conflict with the Jets and helps explain where they are coming from.
Cool is significant to the structure of West Side Story. The song and dance number occurs after the dance at the gym and right before the war counsel at Doc’s. At this point tension and anger towards the sharks is at an all time high. The song is in sharp contrast to the energetic and exuberant America, which precedes it, and symbolizes the passion and cool detachment that is felt by the Jets. The song also exhibits the anger being felt by the Jets and adds tension to the play by making it very clear that something is going to go down and that explosive conflict is coming and inevitable.
One cannot understand the meaning or significance of America and Cool without looking to structure and mechanics of both. Instrumentally, America utilizes instruments that produce a traditionally Latin sound. This included the Spanish guitar, claves, bongos, trumpets, and guiro. This facilitated the use of traditional Latin choreography and gives the song a deceptively authentic feel. America’s structure has many components. The song is sung with both solos and ensemble participation. The song begins with Rosalia and Anita singing back and forth alone. Yet, as the song continues the chorus joins Anita in agreement.
This produces an effect where it is as if the women are all ganging up on Rosalia. The song is also structured so that each time after the chorus joins Anita in defending America there is a period of instrumental music when no one is singing and the script instructs the girls to whistle and dance. This allows Jerome Robbin’s brilliant choreography to take center stage and for the women to express themselves through dance that included exaggerated hand movements and traditional Latin dance. On a more technical level America remains structurally brilliant.
Knapp explains that “Bernstein used the repetitive patters of the huapango in which the harmonic basis typically reduces to a simple alternation of tonic and dominant chords, by keeping to this simple structure in the bass but imposing increasingly divergent harmonies against it across the second half of the refrain. ” This results in a “bi-tonal” effect and results in a “harmonic punch to the verbal punch line” where melody and bass become realigned. This can be seen in the line “for a small fee in America. ” Although the huapango is traditionally Mexican, Bernstein was not particularly concerned ith cultural authenticity and rather sought a “Latin” style that American audiences would recognize. This is ultimately successful and feels authentic to the average American audience. Rhythmically America is also fascinating. As previously explained, this song employs the fast and sharply rhythmic “huapango”. This instantly gives the song a quick upbeat and exuberant feel. Also, the rhythmic patterns used are similar to many folk dances in that it uses hemiola (alternations of 6/8 and 3/4 time) to produce a solid dance rhythm which audience would recognize as Latin.
Overall the songs rhythm produces a feeling of excitement and energy. In stark contrast to America cool is much less aggressive and intense. Instead of more bold and loud instruments, the arrangement of cool is centered on jazz percussion, bass, and saxophone. This gives the song a jazzy and smooth feel. Structurally, the song mainly features Riff but there are lines from other jets interspersed throughout the beginning. The song also features long periods of instrumental music leaving room for a frenetic dance “in which the boys and girls release their emotions and get ‘cool’. The musical interlude is interrupted only by the Jet chorus chants of “cool”, “go”, and “crazy” which adds to the frenetic energy, passion, and tension of the scene. To produce a feeling of cool detachment Bernstein uses a cool jazz idiom, a subspecies of bebop from the 1940’s. The song employs a “twelve tone” system, a highly modernist musical technique. The use of “twelve tone” can be seen most clearly in the central fugue, which uses all twelve pitches exactly once. Additionally, Cool uses accidentals.
This produces Knapp classifies as an edgy abstract effect, which is incredibly important at this point in the play where the jets are trying to take control of their current situation. Cool also uses tritons, which have been called the devils interval. This produces an eerie effect that adds to the tension of the situation and perhaps even foreshadows the violence and death that is soon to come. Rhythmically, Cool is jazzy and smooth. Bernstein uses dotted rhythms and off beats throughout the song to produce a swung effect which gives a jazzy and smooth feeling to the song.
The rhythmic and subtle but consistent percussion provides an interesting background to the other instruments and vocal work and keeps the song moving and feel whole although the lyrics and other instruments are varied and inconsistent. A place where West Side Story really shines is in the imagery produced by the song lyrics. Well known for its very short book, the brevity is made up for by the imagery that the songs evoke. In America Anita and Rosalia both paint pictures of Puerto Rico. Rosalia describes Puerto Rico using tropical allusions, such as “tropical breezes”, pineapples, and coffee blossoms to portray it in a positive light.
Conversely Anita’s lyrics portray Puerto Rico as a dirty and overcrowded slum. Instead of evoking the image of an edenic island, Anita explains the Puerto Rico is a place with “money owing”, “babies crying”, and “bullets flying”. This imagery helps each sided strengthen their arguments of Puerto Rico and America’s respective merits. These images of Puerto Rico described by Anita also help explain why the Puerto Ricans would be willing to remain in America even in the face of extreme racism and poor living conditions. Cool also uses imagery to strengthen the song. There are a few interesting characteristics of the imagery in cool.
The lyrics implicitly reference to you and childhood. For example, Riff calls the other characters “boy”, and at one point “school boy”. Also toy imagery is used when Riff mentions rockets and yo-yos. This reminds the audience of the characters youth and relative innocence directly before they are about to enter a war counsel for a rumble, which produces a feeling off compassion for the Jets and disappointment and regret that society has failed these boys. In addition to the childhood imagery, the lyrics mention heat and cool which helps make the picture of what is going on the setting more clear.
The heat and cool imagery also corresponds with the passion and control, respectively, of the Jets. In terms of actual performance America and Cool are relatively demanding. Both songs leave space for the actors to dance and to use dance to express themselves and their passion, and require that there be effective choreography. Also, both songs require that the main actors take aggressive control in the songs: Anita in her defense of America, and Riff in focusing the passion and anger of the jets. In West Side Story, America and Cool are brilliantly written, staged and performed.
In their combined 9 minutes, one gains insight on the characters performing, understanding of the gang’s sentiments and frustration, and is prepared for the conflict between the gangs that will soon occur. By the end of the play the audience learns that while the Sharks agree with Anita and will remain in America, the Jets are going to ignore Riff’s advice and inevitably lose their cool. http://voices. yahoo. com/an-analysis-west-side-storys-songs-cool-america-50871. html West Side Story Dance Analysis The film version of “West Side Story” owes a great deal of its reputation to the innovative dance choreography from Jerome Robbins.
The dances become as much of a narrative tool as the songs and performances. 1. Athleticism * Robbins’ choreography emphasized tough, masculine movements, indicative of the street-gang story which it encompasses. Violence * When “West Side Story” was first released, dance critics commented on its complex dancing, designed to convey violence without explicitly showing it. Gangs * Because the characters in “West Side Story” belong to street gangs, many of the dances feature large numbers of performers moving in unison–emphasizing their common allegiances.
Racial Differences * The dance moves also illustrate some of the racial difference between the two gangs, particularly in the Sharks’ Latin-based number “America. ” Narrative * At points in the story, the dances in “West Side Story” convey the narrative solely without words. The opening sequence, for example, charts the rise and development of the tale’s two street gangs–the Sharks and the Jets–solely through dance. Read more: West Side Story Dance Analysis | eHow. com http://www. ehow. com/facts_5898398_west-side-story-dance-analysis. html#ixzz2Bbl6TFnP
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