American Treasures of the Library of Congress: Memory, Exhibit Object Focus

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Something's Coming

Something's Coming
Leonard Bernstein (1918-90)
and Stephen Sondheim (b. 1930)
"Something's Coming" from
West Side Story

Holograph piano-vocal score, 1957
Music Division

My Fair Lady, a big Broadway hit in 1956, turned out to be the culmination of the Rodgers and Hammerstein tradition and the end of an era.

West Side Story, staged in 1957, was the beginning of the next. Never before had dance been such an integral part of the storytelling of a musical; its tritone-laden score included propulsive Latin rhythms, angular, jazzy themes, five-part counterpoint, and a tone row. Based on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, it was the first musical tragedy--what other musical ends each act with a dead body on the stage?

"Something's Coming" was born right out of a big long speech that Arthur wrote for Tony. It said how every morning he would wake up and reach for something, around the corner or down the beach. It was very late and we were in rehearsal when Steve and I realized that we needed a strong song for Tony earlier since he had none until "Maria," which was a love song. We had to have more delineation of him as a character. We were looking through this particular speech, and "Something's Coming" just seemed to leap off the page. In the course of the day we had written that song.

The sketches and piano-vocal scores from West Side Story were among the gifts given to the Library by Bernstein during the 1960s. In 1992 his children generously donated the rest of the materials, including his annotated conducting score from the musical, that form his artistic legacy.

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