Pop Music Forms

Music in America:

Musical Theater

Pop Music Forms

Operetta

  • Spoken dialogue
  • Light musical numbers
  • Many dance numbers
  • Amusing, far-fetched plots
  • Popular on Broadway in 1800s, early 1900s

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Popular Operettas

  • Gilbert & Sullivan- The Mikado, HMS Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance
  • Victor Herbert- The Serenade, Babes in Toyland, Sweethearts

Musical Comedies

  • Popular theater picked up jazz accents
  • Demand for up-to-date, American stories and lyrics
  • Closely tied to popular songs of the 1920s and 1930s
  • Those written in Tin Pan Alley: N.Y. based collection of publishing/song writing offices.

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Gershwin’s “Who Cares?” from Of Thee I Sing can be found on the Listen Companion DVD.

George Gershwin (1898 to 1937)

  • Born in New York
  • Quit school at 16 to become a song writer
  • Began writing his own hit songs with brother Ira
  • Wrote concert works fusing jazz and Classical
  • Rhapsody in Blue, An American in Paris, Catfish Row (from Porgy and Bess)
  • Musicals- Strike Up the Band, Girl Crazy, Funny Face, Nice Work If You Can Get It

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The Musical after 1940

  • Plots worked out with more care
  • Musical numbers tied in logically
  • Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein
  • Oklahoma! (1943); The King and I (1951)

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Leonard Bernstein
(1918–1990)

  • One of America’s most brilliant and versatile musicians
  • Wrote classical symphonies, musicals, and film music
  • Acclaimed conductor, pianist, and author
  • Won Grammys, Emmys, and a Tony

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Bernstein, West Side Story

  • Update of Romeo and Juliet
  • The classical reaching out to the popular styles
  • Stephen Sondheim, Jerome Robbins
  • Combines classical forms and techniques with 1950s jazz styles

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Bernstein’s Thematic Transformation

  • Three-note motive first appears as a cha-cha
  • Then as a slow, questioning motive in the Meeting Scene
  • Next as the motive for “Maria”
  • Finally turns into the intro to “Cool”

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Bernstein’s Thematic Transformation

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West Side Story, “Cool”

  • Big production number of Act I
  • Highly charged, syncopated intro
  • Riff sings first two stanzas
  • 1950s street dialect
  • Dance sequence begins with fugue
  • Music gets more angry as Jets lose their cool
  • Stanza 2 of Riff’s song returns

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Later Musicals

  • Influence of rock revolution
  • Hair, Grease, Rent
  • Connection to film
  • Showboat, Rent, West Side Story, Disney’s musicals for film
  • Continual reinvention
  • Influence of hip-hop: Hamilton