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Leonard Bernstein and the Language of Jazz$
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Katherine Baber

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780252042379

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252042379.001.0001

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West Side Story, Modern Jazz, and Musical Commitment

West Side Story, Modern Jazz, and Musical Commitment

(p.155) Chapter 5 West Side Story, Modern Jazz, and Musical Commitment
Leonard Bernstein and the Language of Jazz

Katherine Baber

University of Illinois Press

Chapter 5 shows that the use of jazz to articulate conflict is crucial to the structure and message(s) of West Side Story. Jazz proves to be a flexible conceptualization as Bernstein incorporates the stylistic vocabulary of modern jazz--particularly bebop and cool--bringing new associative meanings based on the sense of artistic and political opposition associated with those styles. Given jazz’s culture of commitment in the civil rights era, and Bernstein’s own statements on the arts and social or political obligation, West Side Story emerges as not just a statement but also as a form of activism.

Keywords:   civil rights, West Side Story, bebop, cool, modern jazz

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