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"Something's Coming" is a song from the 1957 musical West Side Story. It was composed by Leonard Bernstein with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and is sung solo in a tenor voice by the male lead character 'Tony'. The part of Tony was played by Larry Kert in the original Broadway production and by Richard Beymer (voiced by Jimmy Bryant) in the 1961 film.



In his work Leonard Bernstein, Humphrey Burton explained: "When it was decided to add Tony’s first-act song "Something’s Coming," Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim the scene-setting page in Arthur Laurents’s outline. "something’s coming," Laurents had written: "it may be around the corner, whistling down the river, twitching at the dance – who knows?" The lines were incorporated in the lyrics. "We raped Arthur’s play-writing," Bernstein said. "I’ve never seen anyone so encouraging, let alone generous, urging us, ‘Yes, take it, take it, make it a song.’""[1]

Bernstein reported on the last minute change thus:

. . . I missed you all terribly yesterday. We wrote a new song for Tony ["Something’s Coming"] that’s a killer, and it just wasn’t the same not playing it first for you. It’s really going to save his character – a driving 2/4 in the great tradition – but it gives to Tony – so that he doesn’t emerge as just a euphoric dreamer.[1][2]

SynopsisEdit explains:

'Something’s Coming' is taken from Act I and is Tony’s first solo. At this point he has not met Maria. He has become disillusioned with gang warfare and looks forward to a better future. He wants to leave the Jets but agrees to join them to go to a dance later that evening.[3]

CompositionEdit explains "The song opens and closes in D major. It modulates to C major for two contrasting sections of the song...The song opens with a syncopated accompaniment figure in 3/4 time. A similar repeated pattern is heard throughout. The pitches change to fit the harmony. The accompaniment stays in the background throughout so that the singer can be heard clearly. The opening accompaniment is played by clarinets (including bass), pizzicato (plucked) strings, drum kit (snare drum and hi-hat cymbal, played with wire brushes)". The site also noted "the same bar of accompaniment is repeated several times...[as] this gives time for the actors to move across the stage and is a device often used in musicals. It noted that the song alternates between 2/4 and 3/4 time signatures, the word-setting is mostly syllabic (one word to a syllable), and that the song includes many examples of triplets. It also explains "'Something's Coming' does not follow a standard song structure such as verse and chorus. Instead it is held together by three ideas or themes which are heard throughout the song and presented in different ways." The first theme has a "tritone between the bass note C and the F sharp in the vocal line. The F sharp resolves onto a G.", the second has "declamatory repeated notes and the use of accents", and the third has "long sustained notes, legato phrases and rising intervals".[3][4][5][6][7][8]

Critical receptionEdit noted the song is meant to "capture...a sense of hope".[9] AllMusic wrote of the Oscar Peterson Trio jazz version of the song "Something's Coming seems like a series of vignettes, constantly shifting its mood, as if moving from one scene to the next. "[10]

Use in ExamsEdit

In 2008, the English exam board Edexcel added 'Something's Coming' to their Music GCSE syllabus, and is now used as one of the 12 set works covered in the course, under '20th Century Music'.



  1. ^ a b "West Side Story Official Site - Leonard Bernstein Bio Excerpt". Retrieved 2014-06-04.
  2. ^ West Side Story: Cultural Perspectives on an American Musical by Elizabeth A. Wells cites this quote (without the parenthetical) to: Bernstein Collection, correspondence, Box 5, folder 33, Letter to Felicia Montealegre Bernstein, 8 August 1957 - see also Geoffrey Holden Block (2004). Enchanted Evenings: The Broadway Musical from Show Boat to Sondheim. Oxford University Press. p. 384. ISBN 9780195167306.
  3. ^ a b "GCSE Bitesize: Orchestra". BBC. 1970-01-01. Retrieved 2014-06-04.
  4. ^ "GCSE Bitesize: Musical theatre". BBC. 1970-01-01. Retrieved 2014-06-04.
  5. ^ "GCSE Bitesize: 'Something's Coming' - West Side Story". BBC. 1970-01-01. Retrieved 2014-06-04.
  6. ^ "GCSE Bitesize: Structure". BBC. 1970-01-01. Retrieved 2014-06-04.
  7. ^ "GCSE Bitesize: Accompaniment". BBC. 1970-01-01. Retrieved 2014-06-04.
  8. ^ "GCSE Bitesize: Word-painting". BBC. 1970-01-01. Retrieved 2014-06-04.
  9. ^ "REVIEW: West Side Story, Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, until Saturday, May 3. - Chichester Observer". 2014-04-24. Retrieved 2014-06-04.
  10. ^ Ken Dryden. "West Side Story - Oscar Peterson Trio | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-06-04.
  11. ^ "". Retrieved December 23, 2018.
  12. ^ "". Retrieved December 23, 2018.

External linksEdit