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HOW HAS THE CONTEXT OF FALSETTOLAND INFLUENCED THE CONTENT AND WRITING OF THE PIECE AND HOW DOES THE CONTEXT RELATE TO A MODER

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Introduction

HOW HAS JUDAISM AS A FAITH AND ITS VIEW ON HOMOSEXUALITY AND AIDS IN THE 1980s ALONGSIDE THE REFORM MOVEMENT CONTRIBUTED TO WILLIAM FINN'S FALSETTOLAND? Judaism and Jewish culture have always been central to William Finn, writer of a trilogy of short works following Marvin, a homosexual living within the Jewish faith. Falsettoland itself forms the final part of the trilogy whilst In Trousers and March of the Falsettos are the first two instalments respectively. Christianity condemns homosexuality within its faith, therefore, surely Judaism would take a moral stand and condemn any theatrical portrayal of such events? Did the Reform movement which began to grow in America in the 1830s have any effect upon the time Falsettoland was written, and, if so, how was Falsettoland as a music theatre work subject to such effects? From the outset it is important to define the boundaries within which the term 'Judaism' and 'Reform Judaism' will be used. This paper focuses upon Judaism (be it Orthodox or Reform) within America and does not focus upon the origins of Judaism in Europe. Although perhaps some beliefs and moral standings were reflected across the Atlantic, for the purposes of this argument this will be negligible. When analysing the musical content of Falsettoland it is important that one does not get carried away on the intended meaning, although only suggested as a guide and personal response to the music, the analysis is by no means definite and as the author intended. We're free to borrow from both European operatic tradition and American musical tradition, toss out what we don't need and invent whatever creature we want, whatever we choose. And above all else, entertain.1 Jewish life in America changed dramatically throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The majority of Jews being those with a Reform standing. This meant that, as a faith, they rejected the traditional rules which governed dress code, diet, and purity. ...read more.

Middle

Judaism itself traditionally has strict rules governing the dress of its followers, particularly taking hold over women. Jewish women are primarily expected to cover at least to the elbow and similarly to the knee. Married women are subject to further rules, namely they must cover their hair in the presence of men other than their husbands. Women and their portrayal play a pivotal role in Falsettoland and its relevance is most seen in the musical number 'Holding to the Ground'. It is interesting to note that this is the only number in which only one female character sings and occurs in the centre of the piece. One must also consider the time in which the piece was written; the 1980s saw a huge rise in female figures, particularly in politics through Sandra Day O'Conner and Geraldine Ferraro. Was Finn trying to imitate the events occurring in the 1980s (by giving Trina a solo number thus reflecting the growing stature of the female) or was he trying to remain true to the expectations of women under Jewish faith? Musically the number explains a lot about Finns intentions, particularly when looking at the tessiatura and range of the melodic vocal line. The range itself is very limiting - ranging from a low G to a C (C5), thus reflecting a range of an octave and a half, perhaps suggesting confinement or limited expression on Trina's behalf. This idea is also reflected lyrically in phrases such as: 'I'm trying to keep sane as the rules keep changing' and 'life is never what you planned'. It seems that Finn himself was using lyrical content and musical notation against each other in order to portray the fact that, although America in the 1980s saw women grow in authoritarian positions, Jewish women remained true to the confinements of the Torah and the Jewish faith. Homosexuality is seen as an abomination by traditional Judaism. ...read more.

Conclusion

At this time there was huge segregation of the black race particularly in the south, however, when put on trial, Frank's testimony was disregarded for that of a black man (the man who infact was the true murderer of the girl). Frank was found guilty and sentenced to death but the governor of Georgia disbanded his sentence as he was convinced Frank was innocent. However, the anti-semitic feelings were so strong that Frank was kidnapped and lynched. This seemed to ear-mark the formation of the Ku Klux Klan in the late 1920s which continues to persecute Jews to this very day. The musical number, 'Something Bad Is Happening' could now perhaps have a double entendre: not only is Finn commenting upon the nature of Whizzer and his disease but perhaps Finn is commenting upon the anti-semitic feelings of some American people. Musically Finn achieves a sense of uneasiness by using alternating time signatures, and particularly through the addition of the 2/4 signature at bar 25. The modulation at this point into the sub-dominant (Bb to Eb) giving the illusion again of uneasiness and instability. The rhythmical use of syncopation is again a feature in Finn's writing, used in this instance to punctuate the word 'bad' whilst also exploiting the tri-syllabic 'happening' adding a robotic feel to the melody. Harmonically the grounded bassline is still present (on the tonic of Eb) whilst the accompaniment shifts from Eb to Db/Eb. The effect of this is that the dominant seventh (the note of Db) is added, which, when viewed in respect to a major feature of blues and jazz music seems to make reference to the black/anti-semitic culture of America in the 1920s. In bar 29 the staccato theme of crotchets on the beat is repeated as was seen in 'The Baseball Game' and is used to draw parallels to the reference of treyf food (and its surrounding connotations) and thus expanding on the ideologies behind the presented story of Falsettoland. ...read more.

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