George Gershwin and His Importance to Theater Research Paper

Pages: 8 (2645 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Junior  ·  Topic: Music

George Gershwin was an American composer, songwriter, pianist and conductor. He was an insightful and adoring musician, who manufactured his musical formations between jazz and classical customs. He is well-known for the classiness and the swing and rhythm in his music (Life and Music of George Gershwin, 2008). George Gershwin was born in Brooklyn in 1898. He was the second of four children from a tight immigrant family. He started his musical vocation as a song-plugger on Tin Pan Alley, but was quickly writing his own pieces. Gershwin's first published song, "When You Want 'Em, You Can't Get 'Em," verified ground-breaking new methods, but only earned him five dollars. Soon after, though, he met a young lyricist named Irving Ceaser. Jointly they composed a number of songs including "Swanee," which sold more than a million copies (George Gershwin, 2006).

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The same year as "Swanee," Gershwin worked with Arthur L. Jackson and Buddy De Sylva on his first complete Broadway musical, "La, La Lucille." Over the next four years, Gershwin wrote forty-five songs; among them were "Somebody Loves Me" and "Stairway to Paradise," as well as a twenty-five-minute opera, "Blue Monday." Composed in five days, the piece included a lot of musical cliches, but it also presented suggestions of things to come. In 1924, George worked with his brother, lyricist Ira Gershwin, on a musical comedy "Lady Be Good." It incorporated such standards as "Fascinating Rhythm" and "The Man I Love." It was the start of a joint venture that would persist for the rest of the composer's life. Together they wrote many more victorious musicals including "Oh Kay!" And "Funny Face," staring Fred Astaire and his sister Adele. While enduring to compose trendy music for the stage, Gershwin began to lead a double life, trying to make his mark as a serious composer (George Gershwin, 2006).

Research Paper on George Gershwin and His Importance to Theater Assignment

When he was just twenty five years old, his jazz influenced "Rhapsody in Blue" which premiered in New York's Aeolian Hall at the concert, "An Experiment in Music." The audience included Jascha Heifitz, Fritz Kreisler, Leopold Stokowski, Serge Rachmaninov, and Igor Stravinsky. Gershwin followed this accomplishment with his orchestral work "Piano Concerto in F, Rhapsody No. 2? And "An American in Paris." Many music critics were frequently at a loss as to where to place Gershwin's classical music in the typical collection. A number cast aside his labor as commonplace and wearisome, but it constantly found support with the common public (George Gershwin, 2006).

In the early thirties, Gershwin tested a number of novel ideas in Broadway musicals. "Strike Up the Band," "Let 'Em Eat Cake," and "Of Thee I Sing," were ground-breaking works dealing with community matters of the time. "Of Thee I Sing" was a key hit and the first comedy ever to win the Pulitzer Prize. In 1935 he offered a folk opera "Porgy and Bess" in Boston with only reasonable accomplishment. Now documented as one of the influential works of American opera, it incorporated such unforgettable songs as "It Ain't Necessarily So," "I Loves You, Porgy," and "Summertime" (George Gershwin, 2006).

In 1937, after a lot of achievements on Broadway, the George and his brother decided to go to Hollywood. Yet again they teamed up with Fred Astaire, who was now paired with Ginger Rogers. They made the musical film, "Shall We Dance," which comprised such hits as "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" and "They Can't Take That Away From Me." Soon after came "A Damsel in Distress," in which Astaire appeared with Joan Fontaine. Subsequent to falling sick while working on a film, he had plans to go back to New York to work on writing serious music. He planned a string quartet, a ballet and another opera, but these pieces were never completed (George Gershwin, 2006).

The music of George Gershwin is the characteristic of an American composer who united the conventional orchestral surroundings with the truly American medium. Then there are his songs, many of which are written by his brother Ira. Ira's contributions to the world as a lyricist are frequently unnoticed for the reason of the magnitude of his brother's musical styling's (a Complete Guide to George and Ira, n.d.). Because of his love for jazz, his songwriting aptitude, and his familiarity of recognized shapes in concerto and opera, he started to compose songs and produced series of musicals from 1919 to 1933, with his first show La Lucille, the song "Swanee" was made a hit by Al Jolson, on of the top singer throughout that time. His concert works comprise the tone poems Rhapsody in Blue (1924) and an American in Paris (1928). He composed supplementary popular musicals and songs, many with lyrics by his brother Ira Gershwin, comprising "I Got Rhythm," "S Wonderful," and "Embraceable You." The success of Rhapsody in Blue led him to dedicate more to serious composition, resulting with the Piano Concerto in F. And an American in Paris. About this time, Gershwin met Igor Stravinsky, Sergey Prokofiev and Maurice Ravel in Paris (Life and Music of George Gershwin, 2008).

He went on composing for the musical theatre, his music becoming some of the most victorious in Broadway including Strike up the Band, Funny Face, Girl Crazy, and of Thee I Sing with lyrics by Ira, his gifted lyricist brother. Of Thee I Sing became the first stage musical to win a Pulitzer Prize in 1932. Unfortunately, George Gershwin was not included in the citation since his was a musical contribution and was not thought to be qualified for the literary slanting Pulitzer award. His American folk opera Porgy and Bess (1935) integrated jazz rhythms and popular song styles in an operatic arrangement. In 1936, Gershwin went to Hollywood where his gift was much accepted. He wrote a number of songs for films (Life and Music of George Gershwin, 2008).

His story is a variation on the great American success saga. His parents were Jewish immigrants from the Russian Empire. Just before the turn of the century they settled in New York. They were not a musical family, but when a piano arrived, George devoured it. One of his piano teachers declared him to be a genius. Soon he plunged into the professional world, song plugging at the age of fifteen and songwriting at seventeen. These sights and sounds of New York, its blues, jazz, Tin Pan Alley and the Great White Way were his sources and inspiration (Hyland, 2003).

In New York there was more or less every kind of music, from orchestral concerts and piano recitals to raw burlesque, struggling vaudeville, saccharine operettas, and bright and sassy musical comedies. George was drawn into just about all of it, as a journeyman song plugger, playing and selling his publisher's songs, in Tin Pan Alley. He was a promising songwriter, a skilled ragtime pianist and a victorious composer. He worked with Victor Herbert, the father of the American operetta, and with his early idol Jerome Kern, who would transform musical comedy. He even volunteered as a trainee to Irving Berlin, who advised him to follow his own talents. He admired the stylishness of Herbert and Kern on the one hand and popularity of Cohan and Berlin on the other. To some amount he gripped all of their accomplishments, but he also traveled his own road; he sought out serious teachers who established him to the study of Chopin and Liszt, which led him into the concert hall and finally into the opera house (Hyland, 2003).

To this day his music refuses to die. More than seventy years after his death, his music is still heard all over the place, from the White House to Broadway to the Metropolitan Opera. One time when the president of China came to the United States, he was treated to the customary lavish White House dinner in the East Room. Later, the National Symphony Orchestra led by Leonard Slatkin performed a thirty minute program of music by American composers. The focus was George Gershwin's an American in Paris. When the New York Philharmonic, under Kurt Masur, closed its 2001 season, the conductor chose Rhapsody in Blue. When the Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood presented a special film acknowledgment to New York, after the tragedy off September 11, 2011, the background music for the film opened with the sweeping clarinet sounds of Rhapsody in Blue. On Broadway, every few years award winning shows have been built around Gershwin's music like My One and Only and Crazy for You (Hyland, 2003).

It is not surprising that Gershwin's music is still so appealing, but so is the story of his life. Because of his early and tragic death and the greatness of the works composed during his short life, he became an almost legendary figure in the music world. No one doubts that had he lived longer he would have scored new triumphs. To this day the Gershwin story is still fascinating (Hyland, 2003).

Quite a bit has been made of his legacy to African-American music, and… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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