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West side story - "Cool" 
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:roll:

My reasons for not liking the lyrics were perfectly justified.

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Fri Nov 14, 2008 7:57 am
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actor wrote:
:roll:

My reasons for not liking the lyrics were perfectly justified.


Because they were not "witty" enough for your liking? Is that all? OK.


Fri Nov 14, 2008 8:22 am
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No, because they are ridiculously simple and annoyingly repetitive.

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Fri Nov 14, 2008 8:23 am
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actor wrote:
No, because they are ridiculously simple and annoyingly repetitive.


What about Bernsteins melodies? What do you think of them?


Fri Nov 14, 2008 8:27 am
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Post Rhyming / Spanish-English
RainbowJude wrote:
If you take the the song as being an expression in English, to what extent is Maria aware of the fact that she is rhyming? And if there is a certain level of fascination with the sounds of language to second-language speakers, what room is there for incorporating that idea into the interpretation of the song so that the rhyming appears to be something that Maria comes up with instead of the lyricist?

Dvarg wrote:
I think that will lead to a too tangled situation. If Maria is aware she's rhyming, then maybe the Jets and Sharks are aware they're dancing, too, etc.

I disagree. I think likening those two elements (lyrics and dance) is incongruent. If we were talking about Maria being aware of herself singing, that would be a different story and I'd be with you. The Jets and Sharks being aware that they're dancing is not the same as Maria possibly being aware that she's rhyming because, at a basic level, Maria would still be uttering words in this situation while the Jets would never be dancing, although they would be moving and aware of the fact that they are moving. So for the actress to play playing with the words in her interpretation might be one way to get around the word play that Sondheim feels is inappropriate, particularly in the specific line that he dislikes: "It's alarming how charming I feel."

Dvarg wrote:
I don't think Sondheim's point is that her rhymes literally are too advanced for her character. If so, nearly all Sondheim's lyrics are too advanced for any character. I think what he's dissatisfied with, is the character's use of rhyme at a more metaphorical level.

I get what you're trying to say, but I think he does mean it literally - at least from a certain point of view. His objection is that the rhymes imply education and Maria is a high school girl from Puerto Rico who wouldn't have yet have developed that degree of idiomatic expression in her second language.

Quique wrote:
I remember arguing that exact point on here years ago. Maria is with her own people during that song, so I've always assumed they'd be conversing in their native language.

Now I've been thinking about this a lot today and it struck me that for them to be singing in Spanish (we hear it as English) in that scene, then the dialogue would also be in Spanish (though we would still hear it as English) if we were to logically follow through with the argument. But what about when there is an actual Spanish interjection into the English? We hear that in Spanish, so what is it in relation to our Spanish that we hear as English?

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Last edited by RainbowJude on Fri Nov 14, 2008 10:02 pm, edited 2 times in total.



Fri Nov 14, 2008 8:33 am
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Dots Parasole wrote:
actor wrote:
No, because they are ridiculously simple and annoyingly repetitive.


What about Bernsteins melodies? What do you think of them?


I've already said that I like the music.

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Fri Nov 14, 2008 8:36 am
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Moved to the West Side Story forum.

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Fri Nov 14, 2008 10:19 am
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actor wrote:
:roll:

My reasons for not liking the lyrics were perfectly justified.

What about what I had to say?
Let's discuss the show in context of the time period. If I remember correctly, when Laurents auditioned Sondheim for it, he quite liked the lyrics. (I believe Sondheim sang from Saturday Night[which the lyrics are somewhat similar, but not really even close to West Side]) Also, from what I remember, this was the first time that Sondheim had been asked to write JUST lyrics for a show. This is quite the undertaking considering it was his first Broadway show and he was working with the, even then, great Leonard Bernstein. As I've emphasized before, from a composer's standpoint, it is difficult to write lyrics to someone else's music, especially when you are trying to define your own personal style such as what Sondheim was trying to do. Working on your personal style while writing lyrics to another with such a distinct personal style and knowledge of music is difficult.
Now, let me give my two cents about the lyrics. It's known that Sondheim is SUPREMELY critical of himself and his work. And it's known that other members will take all of Sondheim's opinions on his work as true fact. But other members will analyze them themselves and not go by what other people tell them.

Let's discuss the first lyrics of the show:
"When you're a Jet,
You're a Jet all the way
From your first cigarette
To your last dyin' day. "
I actually quite like this lyric. The use of exaggeration (hopefully) and the youth perspective on what constitutes a gang and how a gang operates truly sets the tone for the entire show. I adore the rhyme of "you're a Jet" and "cigarette". The imagery of the cigarette really emphasis the lyric as well.

Now let's discuss "Something's Coming":
"Come on, something, come on in, don't be shy,
Meet a guy,
Pull up a chair!
The air is humming,
And something great is coming!
Who knows?
It's only just out of reach,
Down the block, on a beach,
Maybe tonight . . . "
Sondheim uses personification in the first half of this lyric which, I take is a foreshadowing that something is a person. Also, note the foreshadow in the fact that the last word is "tonight", in reference to the first love song Tony and Maria sing. The lyric "the air is humming" matches well the legato line of the song and I truly appreciate that.

Let's look at "Maria" now:
"The most beautiful sound I ever heard:
Maria, Maria, Maria, Maria . . .
All the beautiful sounds of the world in a single word . .
Maria, Maria, Maria, Maria . . .
Maria!
I've just met a girl named Maria,
And suddenly that name
Will never be the same
To me. "
Okay, I don't know if you've ever been so head over heels in love with someone at first sight that you can't think straight, but I have (go ahead, call me naïve). You end up babbling like a fool, you "pine, you blush, you squeak, you squawk" (;)) and can't think of anything but them. The lyrics truly reflect that. Also, note that this song is about the name, hence the repetition of the name is appropriate and it shows his infatuation with the name and the girl. It's also difficult to truly rhyme "Maria". What, "idea"? "diarrhea"? "South Korea"? But that's not truly relevant.

Let's look at "Cool"
"Boy, boy, crazy boy!
Stay loose, boy!
Breeze it, buzz it, easy does it.
Turn off the juice, boy!
Go man, go,
But not like a yo-yo schoolboy.
Just play it cool, boy,
Real cool!"
First, for the record, Sondheim never wanted "Cool" to be placed this early in the show, he wanted to switch it with "Krupke". As for the lyrics, I appreciate the rhyme with "buzz it" and "does it". Let's note that he uses "boy" when he's discussing the crazy state of them, and then "man" when he's telling them how to be "not like a yo-yo schoolboy". Many of the images in this song are period, and if there are complaints about them, you'll also have to criticize much of Laurents' book which includes some of the same phrases. I also love the match of "real cool" with the line that Bernstein wrote. It's honestly a fantastic lyric to end the singing section on and transitions perfectly into the most glorious dance in theatrical history.

Let's discuss "Somewhere":
"There's a place for us,
Somewhere a place for us.
Peace and quiet and open air
Wait for us
Somewhere."
Sondheim has admitted his folly on placing the accent on the word "a" and he chastises himself greatly for it. However, I find the rest of the song to be romantically peaceful. THe imagery of "peace", "time to spare", and "hold my hand" set the tone for the song and dance and set up the entire dream sequence, juxtaposing with the dramatics of the Nightmare sequence.

"Krupke":
"My father is a bastard,
My ma's an S.O.B.
My grandpa's always plastered,
My grandma pushes tea.
My sister wears a mustache,
My brother wears a dress.
Goodness gracious, that's why I'm a mess! "
I think "Krupke" has some of the greatest lyrics in the show and I believe this song really shows Sondheim's style coming through. The lyrics, the rhymes, the imagery, the period phrases, and the appropriateness to character truly exemplify what Sondheim's lyrics mean. This song is appropriate and another for the record, the original lyric was not "Gee, Officer Krupke, 'Krup you'". It was something else inappropriate for the stage at that time.

Call me an overanalyst, but this is what I truly feel about West Side Story's lyrics. If you want me to go more in depth on other songs or more in depth about these lyrics, I can do so.
Note: I will admit there are flaws in the lyrics, however I believe they are not big enough flaws to say that they are the worst lyrics or what not.

Thanks for reading all of this if you did? If you didn't, it's understandable.

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Fri Nov 14, 2008 11:38 am
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Quote:
It's honestly a fantastic lyric to end the singing section on and transitions perfectly into the most glorious dance in theatrical history.


{In reference to cool}, But it's so Cheesy/Outdated language that I can't watch it without cringing. I just think this song can never be performed without seeming outdated anymore..(as it has probably been for a few years now).


Fri Nov 14, 2008 1:41 pm
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Post Re: Rhyming / Spanish-English
RainbowJude wrote:
I disagree. I think likening those two elements (lyrics and dance) is incongruent. If we were talking about Maria being aware of herself singing, that would be a different story and I'd be with you. The Jets and Sharks being aware that they're dancing is not the same as Maria possibly being aware that she's rhyming because, at a basic level, Maria would still be uttering words in this situation while the Jets would never be dancing, although they would be moving and aware of the fact that they are moving.


I don't follow you, as I don't understand why you think rhyme+rythm can't be stylised talk the way you seem to accept dancing as stylised movement?

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Fri Nov 14, 2008 1:41 pm
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Post Re: WSS Issues
RainbowJude wrote:
Likening those two elements (lyrics and dance) is incongruent. If we were talking about Maria being aware of herself singing, that would be a different story and I'd be with you. The Jets and Sharks being aware that they're dancing is not the same as Maria possibly being aware that she's rhyming because, at a basic level, Maria would still be uttering words in this situation while the Jets would never be dancing, although they would be moving and aware of the fact that they are moving.

Dvarg wrote:
I don't follow you, as I don't understand why you think rhyme+rhythm can't be stylised talk the way you seem to accept dancing as stylised movement?

Because you have to take into account what is credible from the perspective of the character. The Jets and Sharks would not find it credible that they are dancing should they be aware of it. Maria could potentially find it credible that she is rhyming if the idea that additional language English speakers are more fascinated with word play and the way English words sound against each other than home language speakers is followed through, also because there are in fact words coming out of her mouth as this song represents conversation rather than thought.

Matthew wrote:
For the record, Sondheim never wanted "Cool" to be placed this early in the show, he wanted to switch it with "Gee, Officer Krupke".

Well, yes, but this is only half the story. Stephen Sondheim originally wanted the switch made because he thought it would be illogical to have a comic song following the killings. Jerome Robbins, Leonard Bernstein and Arthur Laurents agreed, but the staging of the show didn't allow it because "Gee, Officer Krupke" covered a scene change and "Cool" required the whole stage for its choreography. Robbins actually made the switch in the film, where it works well. However, Sondheim has said that while the switch works well on film, it shouldn't be allowed in the stage version - because film and the stage are different media.

There is a great deal of logic in the placement of the numbers in the stage version. Putting "Gee, Officer Krupke" in the first act would destroy the build of tension as the play moves towards the rumble. It works much better in the second act when the Jets are searching for answers after their leader has been killed and it seems they might no longer be 'set with a capital J'. It's important to remember that the song isn't, from the Jets' perspective, a fun song; it's an outburst full of frustration and anger that that seems, perhaps, inappropriately comic - but that's because of their age. Haven't you ever noticed how teenagers use humour to inappropriately deflect serious issues that are actually playing a huge role in their lives? It's spot on in terms of getting to what's going on with those boys at that time, symptomatic of what's going on underneath rather than just showing us what's going on underneath.

A lot of it also has to do with the interval, which disrupts the build of the action. Another huge difference between the film and the stage show is the "Somewhere" ballet, which is a part of the stage show, but excluded from the film. Switching those two numbers on stage places "Cool" into the second act after the ballet and before "A Boy Like That" leaves the audience nowhere to go emotionally because it undermines the build towards the tragedy at the end of the show that really gets into gear, as it stands, in the scene that follows "Gee, Officer Krupke". If the audience were to become desensitised (or oversensised) to the tension, they would withdraw from engaging with the action of the play as it reaches its climax. This makes the whole exercise academic and robs the play of what makes it moving for the audience, an uninhibited emotional engagement.

dolbinau wrote:
("Cool" uses such) cheesy/outdated language that I can't watch it without cringing. I just think this song can never be performed without seeming outdated anymore.

If it's such a terrible experience for you, why don't you stop watching it? Just a suggestion. But - to go through the subject once more, carefully and thoroughly.... History happens in time periods. Time periods have specific things that are unique to them. This includes things like history, social norms, politics, culture (which includes language) and economics. This is how, from the present, we can look back and identify what defined those periods in history.

Now, Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondheim created for their book and lyrics a linguistic world that would suit the stylised nature of the show on which they were collaborating. Although this included some found phrases from, fro example, jazz culture, many of the terms and phrases were created by Laurents and Sondheim. The reason these phrases have become trademarks of that era, is because the film was hugely successful and they were appropriated into the actual (real) American cultural landscape.

The language is not language we use today. When we hear the terms spoken, we think of a bygone era. If we were to have a conversation in these terms, we might sound outdated. However, plays are sometimes set in the past. West Side Story is set in the past. When plays represent the world in which they are set, using the historical, social, political, cultural and economic contexts, purposes and values of that world, then they are not outdated. They are period pieces. Therefore, the use of language in "Cool", originally created for the play and subsequently taken into common usage, is not outdated. It is representative of a particular period in history.

Later days
David

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Fri Nov 14, 2008 10:35 pm
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Post Re: WSS Issues
RainbowJude wrote:
Because you have to take into account what is credible from the perspective of the character. The Jets and Sharks would not find it credible that they are dancing should they be aware of it. Maria could potentially find it credible that she is rhyming if the idea that additional language English speakers are more fascinated with word play and the way English words sound against each other than home language speakers is followed through, also because there are in fact words coming out of her mouth as this song represents conversation rather than thought.


I think I understand what you mean. But speaking as a person to whom English is not the first Language, I think you exaggerate the ability to come up with internal rhyme spontaniously :wink:

Besides, how do you regard the language use of other Sondheim characters that employ heavily rhymed language, like the Admirals of PO, The Shogun's Mother etc?

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Sat Nov 15, 2008 4:18 am
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