Analysis the Tonight Ensemble from West Side Story

1518 Words Sep 14th, 2006 7 Pages
West Side Story
No 10: Tonight (Ensemble)
Maria, Tony, Anita, Riff, Bernardo, Jets and Sharks

In this number, all the participants talk about the eventful evening they feel is ahead, each with their own thoughts on what will happen.

There are three trains of thought:
1 Riff and Bernardo - thinking (in terms of their own gangs) of the fight arranged for later that evening
2 Anita - thinking about her 'nocturnal activities' with Bernardo after the fight
3 Tony and Maria - more romantic love, idealised, though Tony has to agree with Riff, in exasperation, to be present at the fight

Each group/individual states their case with their own line (Anita's is related to Riff/Bernardo but adapted) and then the different melodic lines are
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The film version plays on this a little just after the Prologue where the Jets laugh as heartily as the Sharks at a joke made by Bernardo at the expense of the common enemy - the police.

Bar 46 - verse 3 continuation
A hemiola effect with orchestral tutti chords every three beats. The characters are getting in their excuses ("well they began it") first with a particularly childish version of the theme heard at 38 - both quickly observe that their gangs will be the ones to stop the opposition (once again in unison and with the same lyrics. Sondheim is careful to have no references to Jets or Sharks when both leaders are singing). At 50 the "Tonight" motif is heard again. At 50 slinky, glissando saxophones announce musically the arrival of the alluring Anita for her verse. This sort of sax writing has been used in innumerable films and television programmes to signify a particularly alluring or sexy (usually female) character

Bar 53 - verse 4
Musically a return to verse one but Anita's snaky, swinging triplets in the vocal part make more of her suggestive nature (rather than the rather direct and unsubtle quavers of Riff and Bernardo)

Bar 68 - verse 4
Anita's "Tonight" motif overlaps with Tony's "tonight" on the anacrusis. Again there is a change to A major as Tony sings

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