Music Leonard Bernstein
by
Katherine Baber
  • LAST REVIEWED: 14 August 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 February 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0050

Introduction

Leonard Bernstein (b. 1918–d. 1990) was a Renaissance man of the 20th century: composer, conductor, educator, performer, and public personality in nearly equal parts, none of which he was willing to give up for the others. In 1943 he made his conducting debut with the New York Philharmonic; he was the first American-born conductor to be appointed its musical director (1958–1976). He also served as a frequent guest conductor for several European orchestras and maintained a close relationship with the Vienna Philharmonic and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. As a composer, Bernstein worked in a wide range of genres, including orchestral and vocal works (or, more frequently, combinations of the two), ballet, opera, musical theater, and chamber works. Following his Symphony no. 1: Jeremiah (1942), he turned to collaborative works with the ballet Fancy Free (1944) and the musical comedy On the Town (1944). This unfettered attitude toward genre continued throughout his career, resulting in a number of hybrid works, such as the Symphony no. 2: The Age of Anxiety (both piano concerto and symphony), the Symphony no. 3: Kaddish (a blend of symphony and oratorio), Candide (not fully an opera, operetta, or musical), and the “theater piece” Mass. In addition to blurring boundaries, Bernstein’s compositional style featured an ecumenical approach to classical and vernacular styles, often identified as eclecticism. Not only did he challenge the distinction between “high” and “low” musical styles, but he often did so within the confines of a single composition. As a music educator, Bernstein also reached across the gap between the regular audience at the symphony or opera and the general public, as well as across generations with his televised Young People’s Concerts and Omnibus programs. Bernstein remained a skilled pianist, frequently performing the piano parts for his own works and for George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. He was also an advocate for Israel and its musical culture, maintained an internationalist perspective despite his interest in American musical identity, and was a passionate activist for a variety of progressive causes, including civil rights and funding for the arts and AIDS research. Bernstein could not be confined to any one genre, style, or profession, and the single quality that distinguishes his musical life as a whole is the crossing, blurring, or disintegration of boundaries.

Reference Works

The field of Bernstein studies is rapidly expanding, and the newest articles, dissertations, and monographs are among the most relevant and discerning. Since Bernstein was active throughout the 1980s, relatively few authoritative bibliographies, catalogues, or discographies have yet to be produced. The article by David Schiff (“Bernstein, Leonard [Lewis]”) is an authoritative overview of Bernstein’s life and works. Gottlieb 1988 is similarly thorough; however, the Leonard Bernstein official website (see Archival Resources) provides this information as well. The author’s own essays in Laird and Lin 2015 are perceptive and as useful as the bibliography itself, especially for researchers new to the field.

  • Gottlieb, Jack. Leonard Bernstein: A Complete Catalog of His Works, Celebrating his 70th Birthday, August 25, 1988. New York: Jalni, 1988.

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    Complete except for a handful of pieces from 1989 and 1990, and the posthumous arrangement of his “Suite” from A Quiet Place by Sid Ramin and Michael Tilson Thomas (1991). Includes Rorem 1990 (see Festschriften, Special Issues, and Essays or Interviews), a speech delivered in 1987 as a preface. Useful as an introductory guide to the compositions, as well as for sorting out Bernstein’s recordings of his own works from his extensive discography.

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  • Laird, Paul R., and Hsun Lin. Leonard Bernstein: A Research and Information Guide. 2d ed. Routledge Music Bibliographies. New York: Routledge, 2015.

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    A welcome update to an impeccably organized guide to Bernstein research. Also offers a concise but thorough overview of Bernstein’s musical style and works that remains a touchstone in more recent style studies, informed by an interview of Bernstein by Laird.

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  • Schiff, David. “Bernstein, Leonard [Louis].” Grove Music Online.

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    The logical starting place for any undergraduate, graduate, or professional research on Bernstein. The bibliography is not as useful as Laird’s guide, but the index of Bernstein’s compositions and Schiff’s assessment of Bernstein’s career as conductor and compositional style are authoritative.

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Published Writings

Bernstein’s compositions are undoubtedly among the most influential in the history of American music. In addition to this legacy, his writings about music, society, art, and politics enhance our understanding of his compositional and performance styles as well as the persona he cultivated as a cultural ambassador, advocate, and educator. Bernstein is an engaging writer, fascinated with wordplay and poetry. Many audiences have enjoyed his collected essays and scripts as much as his performances and recordings. These collections are also a rich primary resource for research into any aspect of Bernstein’s career. Bernstein 1992 and Bernstein 1976 present edited scripts, along with musical examples, for the Young People’s Concerts and Bernstein’s Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard in 1973. These scripts are equally enlightening for a general audience and for researchers interested in Bernstein’s musical aesthetics. Bernstein 1959, Bernstein 1966, and Bernstein 1982 are collections of essays, analyses, poetry, dialogues, and television scripts, with the first two being the most coherently organized. See Giger 2009 (cited under Musical Aesthetics and Structure) for a detailed analysis of Bernstein 1959 as an aesthetic “manifesto.” Bernstein 2008 is a posthumously published essay on terrorism (originally a speech at Harvard from 1986). Researchers will find the commentary from Carol Oja and Mark Eden Horowitz as interesting as the essay itself. The publication of letters to and from Bernstein (Simeone 2013) finally brings Bernstein’s more personal writing style to an audience beyond those able to visit the Leonard Bernstein Collection at the Library of Congress.

  • Bernstein, Leonard. The Joy of Music. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1959.

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    The most cohesive of his published collections, providing a snapshot of Bernstein’s musical aesthetics. Among the essays, Omnibus television scripts, and imaginary dialogues, American musical identity and the notion of musical meaning emerge as the dual focus of the collection.

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  • Bernstein, Leonard. The Infinite Variety of Music. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1966.

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    Presents five television scripts and four symphonic analyses, valuable for researching Bernstein’s approach as a conductor and educator. Also included are an imaginary dialogue (one of his favored methods of working out an idea or problem) and an address given at the University of Chicago on the process of musical creation.

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  • Bernstein, Leonard. The Unanswered Question: Six Talks at Harvard. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976.

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    Edited scripts of Bernstein’s six Charles Eliot Norton Lectures, delivered at Harvard in 1973, in which Bernstein refers to Noam Chomsky’s Language and Mind (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1972). Bernstein explores the natural origins and evolution of tonal language and offers his prognosis for modern music, citing Igor Stravinsky’s innovations as proof of the continued viability of the tonal tradition.

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  • Bernstein, Leonard. Findings: Fifty Years of Meditations on Music. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1982.

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    Bernstein’s final collection of published writings offers a survey of musings on various composers and other personalities, as well as poems, dialogues, and essays drawn from his juvenilia through the 1970s. Some are curiosities, and others, such as his 1939 Harvard honor’s thesis, “The Absorption of Race Elements into American Music,” are revealing.

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  • Bernstein, Leonard. Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts. Edited by Jack Gottlieb. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

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    A selection of fifteen scripts, edited for presentation in written format, from among the fifty-three Young People’s Concerts. Foreword by Gottlieb illuminates the process of creating the programs. Previously published in 1962 and 1970 by the Leonard Bernstein Foundation.

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  • Bernstein, Leonard. “Something Called Terrorism.” Introduction by Carol J. Oja and Mark Eden Horowitz. American Scholar 77.4 (2008): 71–74.

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    A timely publication of a speech delivered at Harvard in 1986, with an introduction that frames the geopolitical state (Cold War politics boiling over into terrorism) and Bernstein’s own attempts at Cold War diplomacy while on tour in Europe.

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  • Simeone, Nigel, ed. The Leonard Bernstein Letters. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2013.

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    While not a complete publication of the correspondence contained in the Leonard Bernstein Collection (some of which is available online), this volume also contains correspondence with Bernstein from other collections, including the papers of other musicians at the Library of Congress as well as contributions from private individuals. Notable lacunae include communications within the Bernstein family. Bernstein was a prolific and devoted correspondent, and these letters are both engaging for the general reader and useful to researchers.

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Videography

Bernstein was one of the first to realize the potential of television and film as a method of reaching beyond the concert-going audience and across generations. As a conductor and educator he has left behind an extensive videography that preserves his musical interpretations and his work as an educator, as well as his rehearsal technique and persona. The videos included here are those that offer particularly insightful or comprehensive perspectives on Bernstein’s musical thinking, though there are many more recorded concerts and rehearsals available on DVD and VHS. Bernstein 1990 makes the Omnibus programs featuring Leonard Bernstein available to a new generation of television audiences and will be of interest not only to researchers on Bernstein, but to those studying Cold War culture and the medium of television. Butler 2007 is a retrospective on Bernstein’s engagement with the music of Gustav Mahler. See Page 2000 and Paul 2006 (cited under Conducting and Music Education) for Bernstein’s role in the American Mahler revival. Bernstein 1992 is a filmed version of the 1973 Charles Eliot Norton Lectures. See Bernstein 1976 (cited under Published Writings) for the edited scripts. These three video collections, taken together with the Young People’s Concerts selected in Bernstein and Englander 2004, preserve the energy and techniques of a skilled music educator and conductor and provide a window into Bernstein’s musical philosophy. Rosen 2009 shares a retrospective tone with The Little Drummer Boy, and Burton 2004 is intended for a general audience.

  • Bernstein, Leonard. Leonard Bernstein Omnibus. DVD. Produced by Robert Saudek Associates. Archive of American Television. New York: RSA/Venture, 1990.

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    Includes all seven of Bernstein’s appearances (1954–1958) on the Ford Foundation’s Omnibus television series, plus the live broadcast of Handel’s Messiah on CBS from 1955. Demonstrates Bernstein’s facility as a television personality and as an interpreter of genres and styles from jazz to Beethoven to musical comedy.

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  • Bernstein, Leonard. The Unanswered Question: Six Talks at Harvard. DVD. West Long Branch, NJ: Kultur Video, 1992.

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    Although lengthy and often abstract, the video recordings of Bernstein’s Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard University are fascinating and more engaging than their written transcriptions. Bernstein demonstrates his skill as an educator in his elucidation of complicated musical and linguistic concepts for a general audience. Originally filmed in 1973.

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  • Bernstein, Leonard, and Roger Englander, dir. Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts with the New York Philharmonic. DVD. West Long Branch, NJ: Kultur Video, 2004.

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    Selection of twenty-five Young People’s Concerts, a model for music education in their use of carefully selected musical examples, balanced with presentations of longer passages or whole works. Bernstein’s attention to national style and jazz, and his affinities with Mahler, Aaron Copland, Igor Stravinsky, and Ludwig van Beethoven are apparent. Originally filmed in 1958.

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  • Burton, Humphrey, dir. Leonard Bernstein: The Concert Collection. DVD. West Long Branch, NJ: Kultur Video, 2004.

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    A nine-disc collection of concerts, primarily from the 1970s, with the New York Philharmonic, the London Symphony Orchestra, the National Orchestra of France, the Vienna Philharmonic, and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

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  • Butler, Peter, dir. The Little Drummer Boy: An Essay on Gustave Mahler. DVD. Hamburg, Germany: Deutsche Gramophon, 2007.

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    A late addition to Bernstein’s legacy of returning the works of Mahler to prominence among American and international audiences. A combination of monologue and musical excerpts that confronts the issues of Jewish identity and eclecticism in Mahler’s compositional style. Also considers Mahler’s fascination with the poems of Des Knaben Wunderhorn. Originally filmed in 1984.

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  • Rosen, Peter, dir. Leonard Bernstein: Reflections. DVD. Berlin: Medici Arts, 2009.

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    In celebration of Bernstein’s sixtieth birthday, director Peter Rosen offers an overview of Bernstein’s career as educator, conductor, and composer, with interviews and excerpts of performances. Includes a full performance of Darius Milhaud’s ballet music Le beouf sur le toit with Bernstein conducting.

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Biographies

The majority of Leonard Bernstein biographies were authored during or shortly after his lifetime, and as such they share a close-range perspective. Seldes 2009 and Shawn 2014 are the furthest removed, both chronologically and in terms of any personal relationship between author and subject. Eichhorn 2017 is likewise a long-range reflection on Bernstein’s career and works, but it does not follow the narrative thread of a traditional biography. Burton 1994 and Secrest 1994 provide the most comprehensive overviews of Bernstein’s life and career, whereas Gottlieb 2010, his longtime assistant’s memoir, offers a unique perspective on Bernstein’s working habits. Bernstein 1982 offers a close personal perspective, and Gradenwitz 1987 is laudatory. Peyser 1998 remains controversial.

  • Bernstein, Burton. Family Matters: Sam, Jennie and the Kids. New York: Summit, 1982.

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    An account of the Bernstein family by his brother, including personal matters such as the family’s reaction to World War II and the Holocaust, about which Bernstein himself and other biographers remain largely silent. Essential for any researcher interested in Bernstein’s identity as a Jewish American.

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  • Burton, Humphrey. Leonard Bernstein. New York: Doubleday, 1994.

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    The most balanced and best-informed account of Bernstein’s life and career, although authored by a close associate. The periodic organization of this biography reflects Bernstein’s tendency to alternate pursuits, particularly conducting and composing, and eschews any emphasis on personal details beyond his roles as father, son, teacher, and public personality.

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  • Eichhorn, Andreas, ed. Leonard Bernstein und seine Zeit. Laaber, Germany: Laaber Verlag, 2017.

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    A different sort of biography, this German-language volume draws together an international group of scholars to consider the various aspects of Bernstein’s career and his relationship to the aesthetic and political trends of the 20th century, both in Europe and in the United States, before finishing with a series of “work portraits” of his Serenade, West Side Story, Chichester Psalms, Songfest, and the Divertimento for Orchestra.

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  • Gottlieb, Jack. Working with Bernstein: A Memoir. New York: Amadeus, 2010.

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    A hybrid between biography and autobiography, this is an account of Bernstein’s daily personal and working life by his longtime assistant and family friend. Interspersed with liner and program notes, as well as interpretive essays on Bernstein’s works and recordings, many of which position Bernstein as a specifically Jewish composer and a musical rabbi.

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  • Gradenwitz, Peter. Leonard Bernstein: The Infinite Variety of a Musician. New York: Berg, 1987.

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    By an Israeli historian, who was also the author of The Music of Israel: Its Rise and Growth through 5,000 Years (1949). This biography verges on hagiography, but is interesting in that it, similar to Gottlieb’s work, implicitly constructs the conductor-composer as a specifically Jewish musician.

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  • Meyers, Paul. Leonard Bernstein. 20th-Century Composers. London: Phaidon, 1998.

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    Part of a series aiming at brevity and accessibility. Useful for general audiences and undergraduates as an overview of Bernstein’s career.

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  • Peyser, Joan. Bernstein: A Biography; Revised & Updated. New York: Billboard, 1998.

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    Originally published in 1987. Peyser’s frank exposition of Bernstein’s personal life, including his homosexual extramarital affairs, dominates this biography and its critical reception.

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  • Secrest, Meryle. Leonard Bernstein: A Life. New York: Knopf, 1994.

    DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520257641.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Readable but authored without access to the Bernstein estate or interaction with the family, in the wake of Peyser 1998.

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  • Seldes, Barry. Leonard Bernstein: The Political Life of an American Musician. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009.

    DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520257641.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A political biography with a clear narrative focusing on Bernstein’s lifelong desire to create a “socially conscious” and distinctly American work, either symphony or opera. The first account of Bernstein’s career to utilize the information about his commitment to political causes and interactions with the US government, as chronicled in his FBI file.

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  • Shawn, Allen. Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician. Jewish Lives. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2014.

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    This very lean biography attempts to cover a multifaceted personality and career, occasionally to the point of overstatement and oversimplification. As part of the Jewish Lives series, one expects a focus on Bernstein’s Jewishness as a factor in his personal and artistic life, but it receives only passing mentions, drawn largely from Bernstein 1982.

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Festschriften, Special Issues, and Essays or Interviews

Bernstein’s high public profile and the affection of many audiences—in New York City, America as a whole, and internationally—for his works led to many tributes at milestone birthdays, following his death, and at significant anniversaries. These citations range from laudatory essays to scholarly evaluations of his compositional influences and political life, but all are meaningful as demonstrations of his significance in American culture. Adams 2009 represents some of the most recent scholarship on Bernstein, interdisciplinary in approach and offering a range of valuable conclusions and avenues for further investigation. Among the glossy productions for a general audience, Bernstein and Haws 2008 provides the most interesting and sophisticated approach, featuring the work of excellent academic and journalistic writers. Wolfe 1970, Botstein 1983, and Rorem 1990 foreground Bernstein’s occasionally controversial political persona and sometimes marginalized status as conductor-composer. Ames 1970 and Burton 1995 offer windows onto Bernstein’s milieu as a conductor and public personality. The quality and length of the essays in Ledbetter 1988 vary greatly, but it is a readable tribute to Bernstein on the occasion of his seventieth birthday. Cott 2013 lets one hear Bernstein’s reflections on nearly the entire length of his career.

  • Adams, Sarah, ed. Special Issue: Leonard Bernstein in Boston. Journal of the Society for American Music 3.1 (2009).

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    The product of an interdisciplinary seminar at Harvard University, led by musicologist Carol J. Oja and ethnomusicologist Kay Kaufmann Shelemay, this collection of articles draws on archival resources and ethnographic methods, including interviews with collaborators and Bernstein family members.

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  • Ames, Evelyn Perkins. A Wind from the West: Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic Abroad. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1970.

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    A firsthand account of the New York Philharmonic’s European tour of 1968. Engaging travel literature for the general reader.

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  • Bernstein, Burton, and Barbara B. Haws, eds. Leonard Bernstein: American Original; How a Modern Renaissance Man Transformed Music and the World during His New York Philharmonic Years; 1943–1976. New York: Collins, 2008.

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    Focusing on Bernstein’s life and works during his time as conductor and music director of the New York Philharmonic (1943–1976), this collection of essays by eminent scholars and critics is interspersed with photographs and personal reminiscences by Bernstein’s brother, Burton. Topics range from Bernstein’s conducting style and directorial ethos, to his national and international political commitments, to the significance of his Broadway musicals.

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  • Botstein, Leon. “The Tragedy of Leonard Bernstein.” Harper’s 266 (May 1983): 38–40, 57–62.

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    A consideration of Bernstein’s work as a composer, conductor, and pianist by a fellow American conductor, and president of Bard College. The “tragedy” explored is the dilettantism sometimes attributed to Bernstein’s career—certainly one of the more open statements of this criticism.

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  • Burton, William Westbrook. Conversations about Bernstein. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

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    A collection of interviews with various musicians and critics remembering Bernstein’s career and their interactions with him. Includes the perspectives of performers, conductors, music critics, and composers. For general readers, but researchers may be interested in Carol Lawrence’s account of West Side Story rehearsals.

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  • Cott, Jonathan. Dinner with Lenny: The Last Long Interview with Leonard Bernstein. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

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    A wide-ranging interview from 1989 that reveals the consistency of his musical thought and, apart from a tendency to idealize, his acute memory. While partially a review of well-known highlights and contretemps of Bernstein’s career, such as his famous (or infamous) 1962 performance with Glenn Gould, there are new insights as well. Bernstein’s late-career turn toward the mystic is on full display. Enjoyable for the general reader and occasionally revealing for a researcher.

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  • Ledbetter, Steven, ed. Sennets and Tuckets: A Bernstein Celebration. Boston: Boston Symphony Orchestra, 1988.

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    A festschrift for Bernstein’s seventieth-birthday celebration at Tanglewood. Essays are brief and intended for a general audience, though researchers may find useful anecdotes in some contributions. Larry Stempel’s essay on Bernstein’s music for theater is perceptive, but researchers at any level should also consult Stempel 1992 (cited under Genre). Includes a list of compositions and discography of Bernstein’s works.

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  • Rorem, Ned. “Leonard Bernstein (an Appreciation).” Tempo 175 (December 1990): 6–9.

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    Originally delivered at the Edward MacDowell medal ceremonies (August 1987). Praises Bernstein as a “general practitioner” of music as well as for his liberal politics. Special attention to eclecticism and melody as parts of Bernstein’s compositional style. May be read in counterpoint with Botstein 1983 and Wolfe 1970.

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  • Wolfe, Tom. “Tom Wolfe on Radical Chic.” In Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers. By Tom Wolfe. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1970.

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    The origin of the ill-defined term “radical chic,” intended here as a criticism of Bernstein’s political rhetoric and attempt at co-opting an African American critical stance. Also a firsthand account of the 1970 benefit for the legal defense of the Black Panthers, hosted by Felicia Bernstein, which generated a backlash in the press.

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Conducting and Music Education

Although he eschewed the term “music appreciation,” Bernstein frequently took up the role of professor to the general audience, in addition to fostering the development of young conductors and composers throughout his career. Bernstein offers compelling models for music education in his Young People’s Concerts with the New York Philharmonic, in the Omnibus television broadcasts, and in his essays on a range of topics, including the nature of musical meaning, the issue of national style, the process of composition, and jazz. He also addresses the basic elements of music: rhythm, melody, form, and development. As a conductor, he also served as an advocate for various American composers, and the works of Igor Stravinsky, Charles Ives, and Gustav Mahler. His recordings with the New York Philharmonic for the Mahler centenary in 1960 are landmarks of the mid-20th-century revival of Mahler. The most complete picture of Bernstein’s effect on Mahler’s reception can be formed by reading Mugmon 2013, Page 2000, and Paul 2006 together. Horowitz 1993 captures the intersection of Bernstein’s motives as conductor, advocate, and composer. The interview in Chesterman 1976 is more tightly focused on his ideas about conducting and music criticism. Several studies analyze Bernstein’s pedagogy for modern application. Based primarily on the Young People’s Concerts, Bartram 2004 offers an accessible digest of Bernstein’s educational techniques and suggestions on incorporating them into music classrooms. Rozen 1998 provides a more thorough content analysis of the Young People’s Concerts, whereas MacInnis 2009 focuses on Bernstein and Roger Englander’s use of the medium of television. Kopfstein-Penk 2015 provides the most thorough contextualization and detailed account of the Young People’s Concerts. Tromble 1968 analyzes Bernstein’s writings on music and education as part of a comparative philosophical study that includes other mid-20th-century commentators (then contemporary) on art and education. Schiff 1993 positions Bernstein’s skill as a master teacher as the defining element of his musical career. Both Page 2000 and Paul 2006 address Bernstein’s role in the revival of Mahler’s works in American concert culture; David Paul considers his influence on Ives reception as well.

  • Bartram, Kevin P. “Lessons from a Master: Using the ‘Bernstein Formula’ in Music Classrooms.” Music Educators Journal 90.4 (2004): 19–24.

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    Translates the techniques used in Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts to suggestions for classroom or individual lesson plans. In particular, note Bernstein’s tendency to begin and end with music, rather than pronouncements, and to work through a question in stages, from simple to complex. For music educators at all levels.

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  • Chesterman, Robert, ed. Conversations with Conductors: Bruno Walter, Sir Adrian Boult, Leonard Bernstein, Ernest Ansermet, Otto Klemperer, Leopold Stokowski. Totowa, NJ: Rowman & Littlefield, 1976.

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    Bernstein interviewed by the editor in 1967. Includes reflections on his tenure with the New York Philharmonic, the status of American conductors, the process of conducting, his relationship with Mahler’s music, and his response to critics.

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  • Horowitz, Joseph. “Professor Lenny—Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts.” New York Review of Books 40 (10 June 1993): 39–44.

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    Situates Bernstein in the wake of late-19th- and early-20th-century trends in American music appreciation, part of a move away from European models and toward accessibility, casting him not just as an educator concerned with American music, but also the apotheosis of its aspirations.

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  • Kopfstein-Penk, Alicia. Leonard Bernstein and His Young People’s Concerts. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015.

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    A revision of Kopfstein-Penk’s 2013 dissertation, of interest both to researchers and the general reader. Although not the first study to consider the Young People’s Concerts, this is the most thorough examination of the various issues (political and musical) to which the programs speak. Contextualizes the concerts within Bernstein’s opinions on atonality and modernism; the division of musical culture into high-, middle-, and lowbrow; civil rights and other liberal issues; the Cold War; and American music.

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  • MacInnis, John Christian. “Leonard Bernstein and Roger Englander’s Educational Mission: Music Appreciation and the 1961–62 Season of Young People’s Concerts.” MA thesis, Florida State University, 2009.

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    An analysis of the Young People’s Concerts within the technological context of 1960s television, as well as earlier radio broadcasts of classical music, the personalities of Walter Damrosch and Arturo Toscanini, and the concept of “middlebrow” culture. Special attention paid to the integral role of Englander and other collaborators.

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  • Mugmon, Matthew. “Beyond the Composer-Conductor Dichotomy: Bernstein’s Copland-Inspired Mahler Advocacy.” Music and Letters 94.4 (November 2013): 606–627.

    DOI: 10.1093/ml/gct131Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Traces Bernstein’s interest in performing and promoting Mahler’s works to Copland’s influence during the late 1930s, and demonstrates that some of Bernstein’s highly publicized ideas about Mahler’s significance were gleaned from Copland’s 1941 book Our New Music. A helpful counterpoint to the focus of Page 2000 on Bernstein within a lineage of conductors who were proponents of Mahler. Read with Page 2000 and Paul 2006 for the fullest picture of Bernstein’s role in Mahler’s reception.

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  • Page, Christopher Jarrett. “Leonard Bernstein and the Resurrection of Gustav Mahler.” PhD diss., University of California, Los Angeles, 2000.

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    Examines Bernstein’s role in bringing Mahler’s works to prominence in American culture and internationally, including his unique understanding of Mahler’s music, the “Decade of Mahler” (1959–1969) with the New York Philharmonic, and the cultural and political significance of his performances of Mahler’s works in Israel.

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  • Paul, David C. “Converging Paths to the Canon: Charles Ives, Gustav Mahler, and American Culture.” PhD diss., University of California, Berkeley, 2006.

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    Tracks changes in the discourse surrounding Ives and Mahler as related to major shifts in American intellectual history, from the Progressive Era through the Cold War. Bernstein’s rhetoric as an advocate of both composers is found to have shaped their reception at key moments.

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  • Rozen, Brian David. “The Contributions of Leonard Bernstein to Music Education: An Analysis of His 53 Young People’s Concerts.” PhD diss., Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester, 1998.

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    A content analysis of Bernstein’s pedagogy across the Young People’s Concerts for the purpose of producing a model that music educators and educational directors of musical organizations might use. Yields categories of Bernstein’s lesson plans that focus on musical concepts and appreciation, individual composers, and particular compositions.

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  • Schiff, David. “Re-hearing Bernstein.” Atlantic Monthly 271.6 (June 1993): 55–76.

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    Reconfigures Bernstein as a master teacher. Schiff notes Bernstein’s use of television as a medium for reaching his students (the public), as well as his unexpected choices of musical examples; his technique of introducing, illustrating, and repeating ideas; and his ability to “disarm” an audience by flattering their knowledge.

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  • Tromble, William Warner. “The American Intellectual and Music: An Analysis of the Writings of Susanne K. Langer, Paul Henry Lang, Jacques Barzun, John Dewey and Leonard Bernstein—with Implications for Music Education at the College Level.” PhD diss., University of Michigan, 1968.

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    Interesting in that it explores the more philosophical aspects of Bernstein’s musical understanding, placing him among philosophers central to education, but incomplete because Bernstein’s final collection of essays, Findings, was not yet published at the time of writing.

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Musical Aesthetics and Structure

Bernstein was active in a wide range of genres, both popular and classical, for stage and concert hall, and he made use of a remarkable variety of styles, often within the confines of a single composition. Throughout this wide range of works, however, there are consistent aesthetic priorities, including an emphasis on the importance of the American vernacular, the innateness of tonal tradition, and an emphasis on cohesion and development in combination with a tendency toward eclecticism. Giger 2009, De Sesa 1995, Gottlieb 1964, Lin 2013, and Smith 2011 all deal with motivic integration and the importance Bernstein placed on development as a compositional principle. Bañagale 2009 also confronts the premium Bernstein placed on development as part of his complex relationship with George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, revealing that despite his criticism of the work as lacking compositional sophistication, it remained a touchstone throughout his career. Block 2008 traces the impact of a single essay, Bernstein’s honors thesis for Harvard, on his thinking about American music throughout his other writings and broadcasts. Helgert 2008, Laird 1999, and Laird 2010 take style as their focus, particularly vernacular styles such as jazz and blues. Pollack 1992 contextualizes Bernstein among others who studied with Walter Piston, aligning him with Elliott Carter as two composers committed to an American modernist tradition, but neither committed to serialism or chance, nor fully rejecting 19th-century music. Keiler 1978 is the most specialized study, critiquing the linguistic theories used in Bernstein’s Unanswered Question lectures (Bernstein 1976, cited in Published Writings) and highlighting the tense relationship between evaluations of musical style and musical value, particularly in Bernstein’s defense of tonality and his antipathy toward serialism.

  • Baber, Katherine A. “Leonard Bernstein’s Jazz: Musical Topic and Cultural Resonance.” PhD diss., Indiana University, 2011.

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    Takes a topical approach to Bernstein’s references to jazz styles in various works, including Fancy Free and On the Town, the Symphony no. 2, Trouble in Tahiti, Wonderful Town, and West Side Story. Offers interpretations of these works on the basis of the cultural associations of various styles, such as blues, swing, and bebop, as well as Bernstein’s political ideology and views on modernism, musical meaning, and American music.

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  • Bañagale, Ryan Raul. “‘Each Man Kills the Thing He Loves’: Bernstein’s Formative Relationship with Rhapsody in Blue.” In Special Issue: Leonard Bernstein in Boston. Edited by Sarah Adams. Journal of the Society for American Music 3.1 (2009): 47–66.

    DOI: 10.1017/S175219630909004XSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Investigates Bernstein’s “formative relationship” with Rhapsody in Blue through his annotations to the 1927 solo-piano sheet music and arrangement of the work for the Camp Onota Rhythm Band (1937). Establishes correspondences between these early engagements with the work and Bernstein’s later cuts to the score and distinctive recorded performances.

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  • Block, Geoffrey. “Bernstein’s Senior Thesis at Harvard: The Roots of a Lifelong Search to Discover an American Identity.” College Music Symposium 48 (2008): 52–68.

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    Explores the connections between Bernstein’s senior thesis at Harvard, “The Absorption of Race Elements in American Music” (1939), and his later work as an educator and his creative work as a distinctively American composer. Block focuses on the significance he located in jazz as an influence on “serious” American music. Read alongside Giger 2009 for a relatively complete picture of Bernstein’s aesthetic.

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  • De Sesa, Gary. “A Comparison between a Descriptive Analysis of Leonard Bernstein’s Mass and the Musical Implications of the Critical Evaluations Thereof.” PhD diss., New York University, 1995.

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    Presents a movement-by-movement analysis of Mass, demonstrating a high degree of motivic unity based on themes presented at the beginning of the work. Both eclecticism and unity are central characteristics of the work, though the latter is found to have been the source of divisive critical reaction to its premiere.

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  • Giger, Andreas. “Bernstein’s The Joy of Music as Aesthetic Credo.” Journal of the Society for American Music 3.3 (2009): 311–339.

    DOI: 10.1017/S1752196309990447Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Interprets Bernstein’s essay collection as an “aesthetic manifesto” that educates his audience on the aesthetic priorities behind his compositional logic, preparing them to understand his works, including the Symphony no. 3: Kaddish, On the Town, and West Side Story. Priority of sophistication and musical development characterize his desire for an American symphony and an American opera. Read alongside Block 2008 for a relatively complete picture of Bernstein’s aesthetic.

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  • Gottlieb, Jack. “The Music of Leonard Bernstein: A Study of Melodic Manipulations.” DMA diss., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1964.

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    Examines three types of melodic manipulation: segmentation, integration, and concatenation. Gottlieb characterizes concatenation as Bernstein’s original contribution. Categorizes his works into those for the stage and those with a literary basis, the latter separated into four subcategories: urban-influenced, literary classics, psychology, and Jewish influence.

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  • Helgert, Lars. “Jazz Elements in Selected Concert Works of Leonard Bernstein: Sources, Reception, and Analysis.” PhD diss., Catholic University of America, 2008.

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    Examines the diffusion of jazz in Bernstein’s style, according to the elements outlined in his Harvard thesis (1939). Includes detailed analysis of the works and an overview of their reception and Bernstein’s writings on jazz.

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  • Keiler, Allan. “Bernstein’s The Unanswered Question and the Problem of Musical Competence.” Musical Quarterly 64.2 (1978): 195–222.

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    A reevaluation of Bernstein’s use of linguistic theory in the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures. Corrects and extends the issues of competence and performance (what is known and how it is used) from Bernstein’s own focus on styles to a definition of musical competence that encompasses harmonic function in an approach more in line with Schenkerian analysis. Advanced terminology both from linguistics and music theory.

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  • Laird, Paul R. “Leonard Bernstein: Eclecticism and Vernacular Elements in Chichester Psalms.” Society for American Music Bulletin 25.1 (1999): 1, 5–8.

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    Considers the stylistic aspects of the Chichester Psalms derived from vernacular music, particularly jazz rhythm and the vocabulary of Broadway song. Includes the text of an interview with Bernstein regarding the issue of eclecticism.

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  • Laird, Paul R. The Chichester Psalms of Leonard Bernstein. CMS Sourcebooks in American Music 4. Hillsdale, NY: Pendragon, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1093/ml/gct131Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A thoroughgoing examination of the Chichester Psalms from its genesis through reception. Includes detailed analyses of each movement and sketch studies tracing portions of the work derived from unused material for West Side Story and the abandoned musical The Skin of Our Teeth.

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  • Lin, Hsun. “Convergences between Leonard Bernstein’s On the Town (1944) and Wonderful Town (1953) and His Contemporary Concert Music.” PhD diss., University of Kansas, 2013.

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    A companion to Smith 2011 in its analytical focus, particularly in terms of the development of unifying motives and contrapuntal techniques (both examined by Helen Smith across all the stage works). Lin examines these “academic” techniques in the scores of the two musicals and, conversely, the presence of popular styles in symphonic works from the same period: the first and second symphonies and Serenade.

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  • Mugmon, Matthew. “Beyond the Composer-Conductor Dichotomy: Bernstein’s Copland-Inspired Mahler Advocacy.” Music & Letters 94.4 (2013a): 606–627.

    DOI: 10.1093/ml/gct131Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Traces Bernstein’s interest in performing and promoting Gustav Mahler’s works to Aaron Copland’s influence during the late 1930s and demonstrates that some of Bernstein’s highly publicized ideas about Mahler’s significance were gleaned from Copland’s 1941 book Our New Music. A helpful counterpoint to Christopher Jarrett Page’s focus on Bernstein within a lineage of conductors who were proponents of Mahler (see Page 2000, cited under Conducting and Music Education).

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  • Mugmon, Matthew. “The American Mahler: Musical Modernism and Transatlantic Networks, 1920–1960.” PhD diss., Harvard University, 2013b.

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    Locates the American reception of Mahler’s works within transatlantic dialogues of musical modernism, as influenced by Nadia Boulanger, Copland, and Serge Koussevitzky. Chapter 4 locates Mahler within Bernstein’s defense of tonal modernism. Read with Page 2000 and Paul 2006 (both cited under Conducting and Music Education) for the fullest picture of Bernstein’s role in Mahler’s reception.

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  • Pollack, Howard. Harvard Composers: Walter Piston and His Students from Elliott Carter to Frederic Rzewski. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow, 1992.

    DOI: 10.5406/americanmusic.31.1.0073Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Interesting juxtaposition of Bernstein with Carter, though the two composer’s respective styles seem to have little in common. Valuable in placing Bernstein among other composers of his generation, though he expressed greater affinity during his time at Harvard for English professor David Prall.

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  • Smith, Helen. There’s a Place for Us: The Musical Theatre Works of Leonard Bernstein. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2011.

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    Provides thoroughgoing analyses of all of Bernstein’s theater works, focusing on intervallic motifs, structures and forms, and stylistic pastiche. The lack of attention to the role of arrangers is problematic, particularly in regard to stylistic points of reference in those works featuring pastiche, but this book is still highly valuable as a starting place for further analysis of any of these works.

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Musical Theater

As a composer, Bernstein could never confine himself to one genre, but he did display a preference for collaborative works, particularly opera, musical comedy, and ballet. In terms of critical reception, his musicals On the Town, Wonderful Town, and West Side Story are among the most popular and enduring, as are his other theater works, such as Candide and Mass. Comparatively little critical or scholarly attention has been given to his symphonies and chamber works, and so musical theater has attained particular significance in studies of Bernstein’s music. Mordden 1998 and Mordden 1999 contextualize Bernstein’s works for musical theater in a broad fashion and provide a starting place for researchers wishing to understand the themes and the trends surrounding his Broadway works. Several studies consider Bernstein’s theatrical works in relation to genre and style, particularly jazz and other vernacular music: Helgert 2009, mcclung and Laird 2002, Jaensch 2003, and Jaensch 2006. Garber 2006 focuses on lyrics, with On the Town receiving in-depth study. Laird 2002 focuses on the expanding role of the choreographer and director in the integrated musical, with Bernstein’s longtime collaborator Jerome Robbins as a key example. A new emphasis on collaborative dynamics has emerged in early-21st-century studies (Baber 2013, Oja 2014, Harbert 2013). On the Town now has an in-depth treatment in Oja 2014 to rival that of West Side Story in Wells 2011 (cited under Race, Ethnicity, and Culture). Harbert 2013 presents the first extended study of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Smith 2011 deals with structure and style across all of Bernstein’s theatrical works.

  • Baber, Katherine. “‘Manhattan Women’: Jazz, Blues, and Gender in On the Town and Wonderful Town.” American Music 31.1 (2013): 73–105.

    DOI: 10.5406/americanmusic.31.1.0073Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the use of musical styles, particularly the blues but also other popular music of the swing era, in the construction of female characters in these two musical comedies. Contextualizes the use of women as a critical voice within the collaborative dynamics of Betty Comden, Adolph Green, and Bernstein, and the political shifts between the New Deal era and the early Cold War, particularly with regard to race, gender, and labor.

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  • Garber, Michael. “Reflexive Songs in the American Musical, 1898–1947.” PhD diss., City University of New York, 2006.

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    Focusing on lyric tropes, examines songs that construct music, singing, dance, and performance as parts of a whole experience. Also considers the invitation to response and interaction. Includes On the Town as one of three musicals to receive extended analysis. An interesting corollary to studies on the integrated musical.

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  • Harbert, Elissa Glyn. “Remembering the Revolution: Music in Stage and Screen Representations of Early America during the Bicentennial Years.” PhD diss., Northwestern University, 2013.

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    Examines the role of music in constructions of cultural memory in the context of the US bicentennial. Bernstein and Alan Jay Lerner’s 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue constitutes one of four case studies. Harbert makes sense of the pastiche of styles in Bernstein’s score with respect to other representations of early American life and Bernstein’s own ideas about the nature of American music. Excellent archival work and the only scholarly study of this musical.

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  • Helgert, Lars. “Songs from Leonard Bernstein’s Stage Works as Jazz Repertoire.” American Music 27.3 (2009): 356–368.

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    A catalogue of Bernstein songs adapted and recorded by jazz artists. A starting place for those interested in the relationship between Broadway and Tin Pan Alley standards and jazz. No discussion of Bernstein’s use of jazz elements in the songs, but confirms the dialogue between the composer and jazz musicians.

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  • Jaensch, Andreas. Leonard Bernsteins Musiktheater: Auf dem Weg zu einer amerikanischen Oper. Kassel, Germany, and New York: Bärenreiter, 2003.

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    Traces the development of Bernstein’s theatrical works as part of his search for a distinctly American opera. Valuable for its attention to On the Town and Wonderful Town and their significance in the evolution toward West Side Story, as well as the direct attention to the issue of eclecticism.

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  • Jaensch, Andreas. “On the Town und Wonderful Town: New York in Leonard Bernsteins Musical Comedies.” Paper presented at a symposium held 4–6 March 2005 in Dessau, Germany. In Street Scene: Der urbane Raum im Musiktheater des 20. Jahrhunderts. Edited by Stefan Weiss and Jürgen Schebera, 91–122. Münster, Germany: Waxmann, 2006.

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    A continuation of the analyses of these two musicals in Leonard Bernsteins Musiktheater (Jaensch 2003), focusing on the issue of urbanity and vernacular music. Researchers should note that Jaensch’s approach comes from outside the existing scholarship on musical theatrical genres, forms, and conventions in America.

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  • Laird, Paul R. “Choreographers, Directors and the Fully Integrated Musical.” In The Cambridge Companion to the Musical. Edited by William A. Everett and Paul R. Laird, 197–211. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

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    Examines the progressive integration of dance into the musical-theater genre from the 1930s to 1970s. On the Town and West Side Story are noted for the role of dance in characterization and plot, the casting of dancers in principal roles, and the ongoing collaboration between Bernstein and Robbins.

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  • mcclung, bruce d., and Paul R. Laird. “Musical Sophistication on Broadway: Kurt Weill and Leonard Bernstein.” In The Cambridge Companion to the Musical. Edited by William A. Everett and Paul R. Laird, 167–178. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

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    Comparison of Weill and Bernstein as two composers who brought elements of the “cultivated forms” in which they worked to their Broadway musicals. Considers Bernstein’s careful orchestration of the ballets in On the Town, the operatic hybrid Candide, and the motivic and stylistic integration of West Side Story.

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  • Mordden, Ethan. Coming Up Roses: The Broadway Musical in the 1950s. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199862092.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Candide and West Side Story, critical reaction to the works, and their significance to the musical-theater genre receive considerable attention in this survey. Wonderful Town is noted primarily as a vehicle for screen actress Rosalind Russell.

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  • Mordden, Ethan. Beautiful Mornin’: The Broadway Musical in the 1940s. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

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    Situates On the Town, with reference to Fancy Free, among dance musicals of the period, as well as musicals that featured characters in uniform. An interesting critical perspective and a counterbalance to claiming On the Town as an integrated musical.

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  • Oja, Carol J. Bernstein Meets Broadway: Collaborative Art in a Time of War. Broadway Legacies. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199862092.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A thoroughgoing account of the genesis, musical style, and politics of On the Town. Oja highlights the collaborative dynamic that brought together diverse artistic backgrounds and progressive ideals to create an integrated portrayal of American identity through the fusion of a wide range of musical and dance styles. Extensive archival and ethnographic work reveals how the casting and reception of the work shaped the careers of the Asian American and African American dancers, singers, and conductor.

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  • Smith, Helen. There’s a Place for Us: The Musical Theatre Works of Leonard Bernstein. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2011.

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    Provides thoroughgoing analyses of all of Bernstein’s theater works, focusing on intervallic motifs, structures and forms, and stylistic pastiche. The lack of attention to the role of arrangers is problematic, particularly in regard to stylistic points of reference in those works featuring pastiche, but this book is still highly valuable as a starting place for further analysis of any of these works.

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West Side Story

West Side Story is certainly Bernstein’s best-known work and among the most influential, especially within the genre of musical theater. The tragedy of Romeo and Juliet was a novel choice of subject for a musical comedy, bringing the work into closer alignment with operatic themes and priorities, as well as presenting dramatic and musical problems for the collaborators to negotiate. Bernstein’s tendency toward motivic unity, occasional allusions to classical works, and his brief use of the twelve-tone method in the score all serve to blur the boundaries between musical comedy and “serious” genres such as opera. Furthermore, the themes of racial and ethnic intolerance introduced within the Shakespearean framework brought a degree of social consciousness to the musical that resonated with Bernstein’s own artistic and political goals, as well as with other postwar musicals, such as Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific (1949). For these reasons, West Side Story features prominently in nearly every survey of musical theater in the United States, as well as in numerous more-detailed studies.

Genesis and Adaptation

The collaboration among Bernstein (composer), Stephen Sondheim (lyricist), Arthur Laurents (author of the book), and Jerome Robbins (choreographer/director) was a turning point in all four individuals’ careers. As such, their process has been frequently studied, including the adaptation from Shakespearean play to musical and the changes they wrought on the genre of the Broadway musical (and later the film musical). Studies of West Side Story and genre are grouped in a separate section: Genre. Bernstein, et al. 1985 should be compared with the “West Side Story Log” in Bernstein 1982 (listed under Published Writings) as well as Laurents 2000 and Simeone 2009. Nigel Simeone’s accounting of the genesis and development of the work is the most authoritative possible. Wells 2004 and Wells 2011 (both listed under Race, Ethnicity, and Culture) also address the collaborative nature of the work and its genesis. Garebian 1995 provides more of an overview and also deals with the rehearsal and production process. Laurents 2009 reinscribes West Side Story as a dramatic work from a director’s perspective, and Banas 2011 accounts for the perspective of the cast of the film adaptation. Dash 2010 focuses on the process of adaptation from Romeo and Juliet as part of the author’s survey of the influence of Shakespeare on the integrated musical.

  • Acevedo-Muñoz, Ernesto R. West Side Story as Cinema: The Making and Impact of an American Masterpiece. CultureAmerica. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 2013.

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    A valuable study of the 1961 adaptation of the stage musical as a film. After examining the problems faced by directors Robert Wise and Robbins in moving the musical from one medium to another, Acevedo-Muñoz offers number-by-number readings according to the aural and visual logic of film, also highlighting technological advances. These interpretations offer an alternative to those advanced in studies of the stage musical. The final chapter considers the film as a “revisionist” version of Robert Altman’s “folk musical” in its treatment of Puerto Rican American identity.

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  • Banas, Robert, manager. Our Story—Jets & Sharks—Then and Now: As Told by Cast Members of the Movie West Side Story. Denver, CO: Outskirts, 2011.

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    A series of informal recollections by cast members of the 1961 film adaptation. Interesting for the general reader and perhaps for scholars looking at performance, staging, and direction.

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  • Bernstein, Leonard, Terence McNally, Arthur Laurents, Jerome Robbins, and Stephen Sondheim. “Dramatists Guild Round Table Series, Landmark Symposium: West Side Story.” Dramatists Guild Quarterly 23 (Autumn 1985): 11–25.

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    This roundtable discussion provides an account of the genesis and development of West Side Story from four different perspectives, each offering his own version of the truth. Essential reading for undergraduate or graduate research on West Side Story.

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  • Dash, Irene G. Shakespeare and the American Musical. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010.

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    Argues for the centrality of Shakespeare adaptations in the development of the integrated musical. Chapter 3, “The Challenge of Tragedy: West Side Story and Romeo and Juliet,” is among a handful of sources that consider the genesis of the work in depth, with a focus on Shakespearean correspondences in the book.

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  • Garebian, Keith. The Making of “West Side Story.” Great Broadway Musicals. Toronto: ECW, 1995.

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    Part of a series of brief overviews of the genesis and production of significant Broadway musicals. For general audiences or as a starting place for research on West Side Story.

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  • Laurents, Arthur. Original Story by: A Memoir of Broadway and Hollywood. New York: Knopf, 2000.

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    A highly personalized account of the West Side Story collaboration, with attention to the complications of production and rehearsal and the roles of Stephen Sondheim and producer Hal Prince. Recounts struggles over genre within the work, particularly Bernstein’s operatic tendencies, but also Robbins’s concerns as choreographer.

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  • Laurents, Arthur. Mainly On Directing: Gypsy, West Side Story, and Other Musicals. New York: Knopf, 2009.

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    For general audiences and anyone participating in a production of West Side Story. For researchers interested in Laurents’s account of the West Side Story collaboration, his memoir (Laurents 2000) and the Dramatists Guild round table discussion are more useful. See also Bernstein, et al. 1985.

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  • Simeone, Nigel. Leonard Bernstein: West Side Story. Landmarks in Music since 1950. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2009.

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    A thorough assessment of the archival resources relating to West Side Story. Includes analysis of the genesis of the book and score, as well as the process of orchestration as documented in the Sid Ramin papers. Includes a CD release of the original cast recording (29 September 1957); underscore previously unheard.

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  • Sondheim, Stephen. Finishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics (1954–1981). New York: Knopf, 2010.

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    Sondheim’s impressions of working with Laurents and Bernstein and commentary on the West Side Story lyrics, particularly the tendency toward a romantic tone that differentiates his collaboration with Bernstein as co-lyricist from later works. For general readers but useful to researchers curious about the collaboration or film adaptation.

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Genre

Along with Jerome Kern’s Show Boat and Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!, West Side Story is among the most frequently cited landmarks in American musical theater. Although it did not initiate the concept of an “integrated musical,” in which song, dance, and choreography all serve to advance the drama, nor was it the first musical to have darker themes or an ambivalent ending, West Side Story nonetheless continued to redefine the musical as a genre. Both Block 2009 and Swain 2003 are overviews of musical theater that feature West Side Story, as is Knapp 2005 (listed under Race, Ethnicity, and Culture). Block 1993, Locke 2005, and Stempel 1992 consider the work in relationship to operatic and ballet traditions. The detailed musical analysis of Bushard 2009 highlights similarities to Bernstein’s only other film score, whereas Acevedo-Muñoz 2013 deals with the adaptation of West Side Story to film wholistically. Eichhorn 2006 and Müller 2006 take complementary approaches in examining the use of dream sequences and ballet in the work. Bauch 2003 offers an exclusively textual analysis of themes in the book and lyrics.

  • Acevedo-Muñoz, Ernesto R. West Side Story as Cinema: The Making and Impact of an American Masterpiece. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 2013.

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    A valuable study of the 1961 adaptation of the stage musical as a film. After examining the problems faced by directors Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins in moving the musical from one medium to another, Acevedo-Muñoz offers number-by-number readings according to the aural and visual logic of film, also highlighting technological advances. These interpretations offer an alternative to those advanced in studies of the stage musical. The final chapter considers the film as a “revisionist” version of Robert Altman’s “folk musical” in its treatment of Puerto Rican American identity.

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  • Bauch, Marc. The American Musical: A Literary Study within the Context of American Drama and American Theater with References to Selected American Musicals by Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, and James Lapine. Marburg, Germany: Tectum Verlag, 2003.

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    Literary-minded approach to dramatic themes and topics in West Side Story, with no musical analysis. Accessible to readers from disciplines other than music, but superseded by Block 2009 and Swain 2003.

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  • Block, Geoffrey. “The Broadway Canon from Show Boat to West Side Story and the European Operatic Ideal.” Journal of Musicology 11.4 (1993): 525–544.

    DOI: 10.1525/jm.1993.11.4.03a00060Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Analysis of the canonic ideals of thematic unity and organicism as they are reinterpreted in the integrated musical. West Side Story, as a post-Oklahoma! integrated musical, approaches the European operatic ideals of music as used to define character, generate action, and establish atmosphere. Little overlap with Block 2009.

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  • Block, Geoffrey. Enchanted Evenings: The Broadway Musical from Show Boat to Sondheim. 2d ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

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    See especially chapter 13, “West Side Story: The Very Model of a Major Musical” (pp. 279–308). First edition published 1997. Begins with an overview of the genesis of the work and adaptation from Shakespeare. Includes an analysis of motivic integration, particularly the use of foreshadowing, which Block compares to Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle. Can be used as a classroom text for music undergraduates, or as a starting place of analyses of the score.

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  • Bushard, Anthony. “From On the Waterfront to West Side Story, or, There’s Nowhere Like Somewhere.” Studies in Musical Theatre 3.1 (2009): 61–75.

    DOI: 10.1386/smt.3.1.61_1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Compares Bernstein’s film and Broadway scores for their shared thematic material and similar techniques of motivic integration. Also demonstrates the similar dramatic function of the music in each: ambiguity and denial of traditional dramatic closure.

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  • Eichhorn, Andreas. “Die Konstitution von Räumen durch Bewegung in Leonard Bernsteins West Side Story.” Paper presented at a symposium held 4–6 March 2005 in Dessau, Germany. In Street Scene: Der urbane Raum im Musiktheater des 20. Jahrhunderts. Edited by Stefan Weiss and Jürgen Schebera, 123–131. Münster, Germany: Waxmann, 2006.

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    Analysis of the role of urban space, imagined space, and spatiality in general as it shapes the drama of West Side Story, particularly in dream and extended ballet sequences.

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  • Locke, Ralph P. “The Border Territory between Classical and Broadway: A Voyage around and about Four Saints in Three Acts and West Side Story.” In Liber Amicorum Isabelle Cazeaux: Symbols, Parallels and Discoveries in Her Honor. Edited by Paul-André Bempéchat, 179–226. Hillsdale, NY: Pendragon, 2005.

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    Situates Virgil Thomson’s and Bernstein’s works along a continuum between various dramatic genres. Whereas vernacular styles in Thomson’s opera-oratorio led to incidental success on Broadway, Bernstein’s vernacular blend was the result of an intentional collision of the Broadway musical, opera, and ballet.

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  • Müller, Ulrich. “‘Someday, Somehow, Somewhere’: Träume im US-Musical.” In Traum und Wirklichkeit in Theater und Musiktheater: Vorträge und Gespräche des Salzburger Symposions 2004. Edited by Peter Csobádi, 669–675. Wort und Musik 62. Salzburg, Austria: Mueller-Speiser, 2006.

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    Chapter subtitle translates as “Dreams in US musicals.” Comparative analysis of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! with West Side Story and their use of dream sequences to integrate dance, music, and drama.

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  • Stempel, Larry. “The Musical Play Expands.” American Music 10.2 (1992): 136–169.

    DOI: 10.2307/3051722Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the development of what Rodgers and Hammerstein called the “musical play” after the 1940s. Stempel compares My Fair Lady, which maintained greater fidelity to the spoken text, Most Happy Fella, which turned in an operatic direction, and West Side Story, which emphasized dance, turning the musical play into ballet d’action.

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  • Swain, Joseph Peter. The Broadway Musical: A Critical and Musical Survey. 2d ed. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2003.

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    A history of the American musical, with a focus on music as a dramatic element. Accessible to a general audience but offers enough musical analysis to interest scholars. Swain focuses on the tragic aspect of West Side Story, which assumes pride of place for its musical and dramatic sophistication.

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Race, Ethnicity, and Culture

Not only does West Side Story represent a turning point in the history of American musical theater, but it continues to serve as a cultural touchstone. A growing number of studies, including introductory texts on the American musical, highlight its commentary on race, ethnicity, juvenile delinquency, violence, and other sociopolitical issues. Knapp 2005 draws attention to the issue of identity in the musical, citing West Side Story as a work that openly addresses racial prejudice, not only through lyrics and book, but in Bernstein’s use of musical style as well. Oja 2009 compares the treatment of race in West Side Story with the apparently dissimilar but directly contemporaneous Music Man, addressing their use of existing narratives in American culture to address new fears regarding race, ethnicity, and immigration. Wells 2000, Wells 2004, and Wells 2011 represent a thoroughgoing examination of the cultural significance of West Side Story. Rigney 2003 offers an increasingly relevant perspective that links issues of racial or ethnic prejudice with disability. As a collection of source readings, Williams 2001 addresses a variety of cultural issues, but without much depth of analysis. Likewise, Berson 2011 takes a broad view of the musical and film’s cultural significance.

  • Berson, Misha. Something’s Coming, Something Good: West Side Story and the American Imagination. Milwaukee, WI: Applause Theater & Cinema Books, 2011.

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    Journalistic in tone and intended for a general readership, this book offers a “kaleidoscopic appreciation” of West Side Story. Over fifteen chapters, Berson attempts to cover everything from the genesis and staging of the musical, to the film adaptation, to recordings, reception, and various social and political issues. Those interested in the film adaptation should consult Acevedo-Muñoz 2013 (cited under Genesis and Adaptation). The cultural significance of the work is more thoroughly treated in Wells 2011; the genesis, in Simeone 2009 (cited under Genesis and Adaptation); and the relationship to Shakespeare, in Dash 2010 (cited under Genesis and Adaptation).

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  • Knapp, Raymond. The American Musical and the Formation of National Identity. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005.

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    A topical (rather than chronological) history of the American musical as a genre that negotiates and performs American identity, intended for use as a course text but also valuable to researchers at all levels. West Side Story is considered in chapter 8 (“Race and Ethnicity”), alongside Show Boat, Porgy and Bess, and Fiddler on the Roof. Some advanced musical terminology, but still accessible to researchers from all fields.

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  • Oja, Carol J. “West Side Story and The Music Man: Whiteness, Immigration, and Race in the US during the Late 1950s.” Studies in Musical Theatre 3.1 (2009): 13–30.

    DOI: 10.1386/smt.3.1.13_1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Positions two musicals from the same Broadway season for their shared themes: the rural-urban dichotomy, racism and nostalgia, focus on the perspective of youth, and emphasis on the “common” man or woman. Draws deeply on reviews in the New York Times, which covered both productions thoroughly.

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  • Rigney, Mark. Deaf Side Story: Deaf Sharks, Hearing Jets, and a Classic American Musical. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press, 2003.

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    A scene-by-scene account of Diane Brewer’s staging of West Side Story for students of MacMurray College and the Illinois School for the Deaf, which integrated American Sign Language into the work alongside music, dialogue, and dance. An intriguing account for researchers on the reception history or cultural interpretations of this musical.

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  • Wells, Elizabeth A. “West Side Story and the Hispanic.” ECHO: A Music-Centered Journal 2.1 (2000).

    DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520241848.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the conflation of new and old Latin and Caribbean styles into “the Hispanic” in West Side Story. Locates Bernstein’s score within the decades-long influence of Latin music on American jazz and popular music, particularly in Latin dance bands and Cubop. A streamlined version of Wells 2004 and chapter 4 of Wells 2011: “‘Mambo!’: West Side Story and the Hispanic” (pp. 99–140).

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  • Wells, Elizabeth A. “West Side Story(s): Changing Perspectives on an American Musical.” PhD diss., Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester, 2004.

    DOI: 10.1353/wam.0.0028Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Employs West Side Story as a lens through which to view a range of cultural and identity issues. Also considers the importance of Bernstein’s score in unifying diverse vernacular elements. Includes two oral histories: a 1958 interview with “juvenile delinquents” and Wells’s interview with David Diamond.

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  • Wells, Elizabeth A. West Side Story: Cultural Perspectives on an American Musical. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2011.

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    A broadly conceived study of the musical from its genesis through reception. Addresses issues of collaboration, diversity and integration in the score, race and ethnicity (particularly musical portrayals of the Hispanic), gender roles, and the cultural transformations of the musical since its premiere. Based on Wells’s dissertation, but the oral histories are not included.

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  • Williams, Mary E., ed. Readings on “West Side Story.” Greenhaven Literary Companion to American Literature. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven, 2001.

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    A selection of analytical and critical essays on West Side Story, striking in that it places the work in a series on literature. Intended for general audiences and undergraduates but includes some advanced musical terminology. Selections focus on dramatic and narrative elements and related social issues; includes commentary on music and dance as it relates to these features.

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Gender and Sexuality

Although married to Felicia Montealegre for the majority of his career, Bernstein is certainly one of the most influential gay artists of 20th-century America. The implications of his homosexuality for his musical and political identities are only just being explored. Hubbs 2009 makes a forceful case for the impact of silencing this aspect of his identity on the writing of American history. Hubbs 2004 and Sherry 2007 contextualize Bernstein among other gay American artists of his time. Gender is perhaps the more obvious identity at play in many of Bernstein’s works, particularly in On the Town, Trouble in Tahiti, Wonderful Town, and West Side Story. As Keathley 2005 suggests, Bernstein was drawn to the perspectives of marginalized individuals, whether they be women, homosexuals, or racial and ethnic minorities. Baber 2013 looks at the connections between these perspectives and Bernstein’s references to jazz and blues. See Wells 2011 (cited under Race, Ethnicity, and Culture), particularly chapter 5 (“‘I and Velma Ain’t Dumb!’: The Women of West Side Story”), for further evidence of this trend. Mendenhall 1990 looks at the construction of female roles in American musical theater during World War II and after (1943–1964), with On the Town and Wonderful Town as key examples.

  • Baber, Katherine. “‘Manhattan Women’: Jazz, Blues, and Gender in On the Town and Wonderful Town.” American Music 31.1 (Spring 2013): 73–105.

    DOI: 10.5406/americanmusic.31.1.0073Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the use of swing-era musical styles, particularly the blues, in the construction of female characters in these two musical comedies. Contextualizes the use of women as a critical voice within the collaborative dynamics of Comden, Green, and Bernstein and the political shifts between the New Deal era and the early Cold War, particularly with regard to race, gender, and labor.

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  • Hubbs, Nadine. The Queer Composition of America’s Sound: Gay Modernists, American Music, and National Identity. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004.

    DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520241848.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Focuses on a circle of gay composers generally credited with the creation of an “American sound”: Aaron Copland and Virgil Thomson and their younger colleagues, including Leonard Bernstein. Addresses the tension between their status as cultural figures and the homophobia of the mid-20th-century and the post-Stonewall eras.

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  • Hubbs, Nadine. “Bernstein, Homophobia, Historiography.” Women & Music 13 (2009): 24–42.

    DOI: 10.1353/wam.0.0028Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Criticizes historiographic homophobia, the tendency to omit or euphemize gay identity in biographical and historical accounts. Argues for Bernstein’s homosexuality (as opposed to bisexuality) based on his own and mid-20th-century understandings of sexual identity. Highlights the significance of homophobia in Bernstein’s career and personal life.

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  • Keathley, Elizabeth L. “Postwar Modernity and the Wife’s Subjectivity: Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti.” American Music 23.2 (2005): 220–256.

    DOI: 10.2307/4153033Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Interprets Bernstein’s one-act opera as an expression of postwar alienation, different from other popular culture manifestations not in its focus on the psychological dimension, but in its sympathy with the feminine role. Close reading of Dinah’s scene 6 solo, “What a Movie,” and the gendered aspects of the opera as a whole.

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  • Mendenhall, Christian. “American Musical Comedy as a Liminal Ritual of Woman as Homemaker.” Journal of American Culture 13.4 (1990): 57–69.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1542-734X.1990.00057.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Situates Wonderful Town among musical comedies produced during and after World War II that reaffirmed gender roles. Examines the range of female leads who fulfill their romantic and “ritual” function by moving from working woman to homemaker. Focus is on the book and casting (such roles typically performed by “belters”).

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  • Sherry, Michael. Gay Artists in Modern American Culture: An Imagined Conspiracy. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007.

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    Examines the queer presence in American arts, using the “homintern” (a term recorded in Humphrey Burton’s Bernstein biography; see Burton 1994, cited under Biographies) as a conceptualization of mid-20th-century homophobia. Bernstein and his collaborators appear frequently, and tendencies toward genre crossing and the mixing of stylistic registers are attributed to a queer approach. West Side Story considered as a queer work.

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Jewish Identity and Jewish Music

Bernstein’s Jewish identity was an integral part of his personal life and also shaped his approach to musical education, composition, and artistic, social, and political commitment. Though he often struggled with matters of faith, he was a lifelong pacifist and a champion of Israeli musical culture. Bernstein’s affinity for Gustav Mahler’s music was based, in part, on the eclecticism and vernacular elements that Bernstein identified as part of the composer’s latent Jewish identity. He also attributed Aaron Copland’s distinctive style to the “tempering force” of his Jewish ethnic background. Jewish themes appear in many of Bernstein’s own works, either in terms of musical style or programmatic associations. See also Butler 2007 (cited under Videography) for his discussion of Mahler as a Jewish musician. Bernstein 1982 (cited under Published Writings) also includes several speeches and essays that are essentially meditations on Bernstein’s own Jewish identity. The work of Jack Gottlieb, particularly Gottlieb 1964 and Gottlieb 1980, reveals the depth of Bernstein’s Jewish identity. See chapters 4 and 12 of Gottlieb 2010 (cited under Biographies) for further commentary on Bernstein’s Jewish works. Kaskowitz 2009, Oja and Shelemay 2009, and Sarna 2009, as part of the same special issue, all deal with Jewish identity, philanthropy, and music as part of Bernstein’s experience in Boston as a youth, as in Jonathan Sarna’s study of his relationship with the congregation Mishkan Tefila, and throughout his career, as Sheryl Kaskowitz’s examination of his relationship with Brandeis University demonstrates. Niren 2013 explores more deeply the influence of Solomon Braslavsky’s music in particular. Both Scheibler 2001 and Schiller 2003 are extended musical and historical analyses of Bernstein’s Jewish identity as it shaped selected works. David Schiller offers a nuanced comparison of Bernstein’s Kaddish symphony with works by Ernest Bloch and Arnold Schoenberg as part of an investigation of the nature of Jewish music through the cultural concept of assimilation.

  • Bernstein, Leonard. Findings: Fifty Years of Meditations on Music. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1982.

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    Bernstein’s introduction to the collection specifically mentions his reaction (or lack of written reaction) to the Holocaust and “The Absorption of Race Elements into American Music,” and his tributes to Copeland deal with the “Hebraic” influence in his music. Essays on his father deal with Jewish identity as well.

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  • Gottlieb, Jack. “The Music of Leonard Bernstein: A Study of Melodic Manipulations.” DMA diss., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1964.

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    Focus on Bernstein’s melodic innovations, particularly melodic concatenation. Divides Bernstein’s works into two categories: stage and literary-influenced. Of the four subcategories into which Gottlieb classifies Bernstein’s literary-based works, “Jewish works” is one of the most significant.

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  • Gottlieb, Jack. “Symbols of Faith in the Music of Leonard Bernstein.” Musical Quarterly 66.2 (1980): 287–295.

    DOI: 10.1093/mq/LXVI.2.287Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the use of motives derived from Jewish liturgical music in Bernstein’s works, particularly the symphonies, Mass, and Dybbuk.

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  • Kaskowitz, Sheryl. “All in the Family: Brandeis University and Leonard Bernstein’s ‘Jewish Boston.’” In Special Issue: Leonard Bernstein in Boston. Edited by Sarah Adams. Journal of the Society for American Music 3.1 (2009): 85–100.

    DOI: 10.1017/S1752196309090063Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Considers Bernstein’s long-standing relationship with Brandeis University, from faculty member (1951–1956) to trustee emeritus. Kaskowitz finds that Bernstein’s commitment to Brandeis stemmed not only from a general interest in Jewish identity, but from a sense of obligation to Boston’s Jewish community, as well as a personal duty to his father.

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  • Niren, Ann Glazer. “The Relationship between Solomon Braslavsky, Congregation Mishkan Tefila, and Leonard Bernstein.” PhD diss., University of Kentucky, 2013.

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    Follows Sarna 2009 on the connections between Bernstein and his hometown synagogue, particularly as expressed through his lifelong admiration of its music director, Solomon Gregory Braslavsky. More material on Braslavsky, some of it from interviews, than appears anywhere else. Analyzes Bernstein’s liturgical pieces (Psalm 148, Hashkiveinu, and Chichester Psalms) and Braslavsky’s Birchat Kohanim and Un’saneh Tokef. Of interest to scholars of Jewish music and those interested in the history of Boston’s Jewish communities.

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  • Oja, Carol, and Kay Kaufman Shelemay. “Leonard Bernstein’s Jewish Boston: Cross Disciplinary Research in the Classroom.” In Special Issue: Leonard Bernstein in Boston. Edited by Sarah Adams. Journal of the Society for American Music 3.1 (2009): 3–34.

    DOI: 10.1017/S1752196309090026Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The introductory article to this special collection, focused on the pedagogical aspects of an interdisciplinary seminar. Explains the ethnographic and archival methodologies, as well as community-based research and the centralization of student participation. Appendixes include a timeline of “Bernstein’s Boston” and an examination of marginalia in Bernstein’s high-school and college notes.

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  • Sarna, Jonathan D. “Leonard Bernstein and the Boston Jewish Community of His Youth: The Influence of Solomon Braslavsky, Herman Rubenovitz, and Congregation Mishkan Tefila.” In Special Issue: Leonard Bernstein in Boston. Edited by Sarah Adams. Journal of the Society for American Music 3.1 (2009): 35–46.

    DOI: 10.1017/S1752196309090038Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reveals the influence of Boston’s Congregation Mishkan Tefila, and the cantor and professor Braslavsky in particular, on Bernstein’s ideas about Jewish music and the relationship of Judaism to America.

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  • Scheibler, Alexandra. “Ich glaube an den Menschen”: Leonard Bernsteins religiöse Haltung im Spiegel seiner Werke. New York: Georg Olms Verlag, 2001.

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    Touches on Bernstein’s “Chassidic” heritage via his Ukrainian immigrant parents and details his relationship with Israel and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Examines a range of works dealing with religious faith, Jewish or otherwise, including The Age of Anxiety and the Concerto for Orchestra, along with more-obvious choices such as the Kaddish Symphony, Halil, and Hashkiveinu.

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  • Schiller, David M. Bloch, Schoenberg, and Bernstein: Assimilating Jewish Music. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

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    A comparative study of different definitions of “Jewish music,” in which Bernstein is defined as a postmodern Jewish composer, as opposed to Bloch’s premodernism and Schoenberg’s modernism. Includes a thoroughgoing analysis of the Symphony no. 3: Kaddish, which according to Schiller blurs the symphonic genre and features a deliberately eclectic style in order to articulate both a postmodern aesthetic and a post-Holocaust sensibility.

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Politics and Music

Bernstein believed that music and other arts were also forms of social consciousness and expression. These studies focus on the political perspectives that shaped his compositions and the contexts of their performance. Seldes 2009 (cited under Biographies) is essentially a political biography, and the first study to make thorough use of Bernstein’s FBI file. Certain works appear as pacifist or critical statements, especially Symphony no. 3: Kaddish and Mass, and, in a more subtle way, Candide. Oja 2014 (cited under Musical Theater) deals with the various political perspectives of the creators and performers of On the Town and the liberal spirit of the musical. Crist 2006 and Crist 2007 highlight the Popular Front ideology and subtle criticism of McCarthyism underpinning Candide. Both Cottle 1978 and Sheppard 1996 deal with Mass, with W. Anthony Sheppard’s comparative study being the more objective. Likewise, Bernard 1990 examines pacifist reactions to two different wars; Bernstein’s affinity for Benjamin Britten, which has received less attention, makes this a particularly interesting study. Gentry 2008 contextualizes Symphony no. 2: The Age of Anxiety amid the cultural, psychological, and political aspects of the McCarthy era and offers an interpretation of the work’s engagement with the American symphonic tradition. Massey 2009, as part of a special issue, focuses on Bernstein’s early political engagement, finding that his involvement with the left-leaning Harvard Student Union had more to do with musical opportunism than a clearly defined political stance. Ansari 2014 considers Bernstein’s role abroad as a musical ambassador in the Cold War.

  • Ansari, Emily Abrams. “‘A Serious and Delicate Mission’: American Orchestras, American Composers, and Cold War Diplomacy in Europe.” In Crosscurrents: American and European Music in Interaction, 1900–2000. Edited by Felix Meyer, Carol J. Oja, Wolfgang Rathert, and Anne C. Shreffler, 287–298. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell, 2014.

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    Examines the work of the composers and music administrators who advised the US State Department during the course of the Cultural Presentations Program, which sent the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) and New York Philharmonic on several international tours in the 1950s and 1960s. The politicization of the BSO’s and the Philharmonic’s activities in the midst of the Cold War is also considered, including Bernstein’s new role as a musical ambassador during the Philharmonic tours to South America (1958) and Europe, the Middle East, and the Soviet Union (1959).

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  • Bernard, Andrew. “Two Musical Perspectives of Twentieth-Century Pacifism: An Analytical and Historical View of Britten’s ‘War Requiem’ and Bernstein’s ‘Kaddish’ Symphony.” DMA diss., University of Washington, 1990.

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    Aligns Britten’s and Bernstein’s works with the growth of the peace movement from World War I through the demonstrations of the 1960s, casting both as explicit social messages. Analyses and historical overviews of each work would stand better on their own than as evidence of a single overarching phenomenon.

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  • Cottle, William Andrew Sr. “Social Commentary in Vocal Music in the 20th Century as Evidenced by Leonard Bernstein’s Mass.” DMA diss., University of Northern Colorado, 1978.

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    Useful more as a primary resource for researchers, in that Cottle recognizes Mass, amid the social and economic upheavals of the 1970s, as a commentary on those issues. Relates the philosophical and aesthetic perspectives of the work to the humanism of Martin Buber and the Vatican II Ecumenical Council.

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  • Crist, Elizabeth Bergman. “Mutual Responses in the Midst of an Era: Aaron Copland’s The Tender Land and Leonard Bernstein’s Candide.” Journal of Musicology 23.4 (2006): 485–527.

    DOI: 10.1525/jm.2006.23.4.485Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Situates both works as commentaries on McCarthyism. In particular, “The Promise of Living” in The Tender Land and “Make Our Garden Grow” from Candide embody the artistic and political sentiments of the Popular Front, a locus of progressive ideologies in the 1930s, and hope for its renewal in the 1960s.

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  • Crist, Elizabeth Bergman. “The Best of All Possible Worlds: The Eldorado Episode in Candide.” Cambridge Opera Journal 19.2 (2007): 223–248.

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    Illuminates, through a thorough study of sketch material and correspondence, the critique of McCarthy-era politics in Bernstein and Lillian Hellman’s treatment of Eldorado, a utopian vision intended to satirize the ideological polarity of Dwight Eisenhower’s America. Bernstein emerges as the motivator behind alterations to the Eldorado episode, shifting from satire to a romantic plot.

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  • Gentry, Philip. “The Age of Anxiety: Music, Politics, and McCarthyism, 1948–1954.” PhD diss., University of California, Los Angeles, 2008.

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    Chapter 1 considers Bernstein’s Symphony no. 2: The Age of Anxiety amid the ambivalence of a postwar mindset, including the psychological aspects of W. H. Auden’s poem and the role of the “piano-protagonist.” Interprets “The Epilogue” as an anti-triumphal inversion of a symphony in “the Koussevitzky manner.”

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  • Massey, Drew. “Leonard Bernstein and the Harvard Student Union: In Search of Political Origins.” In Special Issue: Leonard Bernstein in Boston. Edited by Sarah Adams. Journal of the Society for American Music 3.1 (2009): 67–84.

    DOI: 10.1017/S1752196309090051Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Massey finds that Bernstein’s relationship with the progressive Harvard Student Union stemmed less from political affinity and more from the opportunities it offered to further his musical interests, including productions of Marc Blitzstein’s Cradle Will Rock and Aristophanes’ Peace. Traces portions of the incidental music for these productions to later works.

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  • Sheppard, W. Anthony. “Bitter Rituals for a Lost Nation: Partch’s Revelation in the Courthouse Park and Bernstein’s Mass.” Musical Quarterly 80.3 (1996): 461–499.

    DOI: 10.1093/mq/80.3.461Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Juxtaposes Bernstein’s and Harry Partch’s engagement with the social developments of the 1960s through two dramatic works based on ritual models (ancient Greek theater and the Catholic mass). Both employ popular music for the purpose of parody and revolve around the relationship of the individual with society; however, Mass reaches a more optimistic conclusion.

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Archival Resources

Information on Bernstein’s works and his collaborations with other artists can be found in the contents of various archives and estates. In particular, the New York Public Library’s performing-arts section holds an abundance of material relating to his stage works. The resources in this section are notable for their focus on Bernstein exclusively and the crucial materials they make available online, including correspondence and scripts for television broadcast and pre-concert talks. The Leonard Bernstein official website includes features for fans of the composer-conductor, including a photostream, biography, and links to published scores and recordings. Researchers will find links to television scripts, essays by family members and associates, and letters and telegrams; however, the online portions of the Leonard Bernstein Collection at the Library of Congress provide greater depth. The process of digitizing the Leonard Bernstein Collection is ongoing. Those seeking to verify performance dates and other details of Bernstein’s tenure at the New York Philharmonic can access the organization’s archives online (New York Philharmonic: Leon Levy Digital Archives). The performance history is remarkably thorough, and interesting to the curious general audience as well. A collection of material from Bernstein’s estate is in the process of being catalogued at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.

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