The Broadway musical West Side Story is as timeless in our Age of Covid-19, George Floyd, and social, racial, economic, and political unrest as it was in its 1961 premier. Composer Leonard Bernstein’s sensitivity to the ambiguity and tensions is pertinent to the psychosocial themes of oppression and intolerance. I will explain how the music of West Side Story explores an intersection of music theory and theories of mind as the music itself emphasizes intrapsychic, interpersonal, and social dramas that unfold within and between two gangs, the Puerto Rican Sharks and the Caucasian Jets. Emphasizing the ostensibly comic – but tragic – song “Gee! Officer Krupke”, implications will be suggested for clinical practice, as well as transporting psychoanalytic concepts from the couch, to the Broadway stage, and into the community to address the complexities of love, hate, aggression, prejudice, intolerance, and violence.
Participants will be able to:
1- Describe underlying psychodynamic issues and affects that give rise to oppression, intolerance, and injustice.
2- Explain how social and interpersonal events ignite powerful affects which can turn into violent action.
3- Articulate the relevance of music in mental life and ways to use it to address racism and prejudice.
Julie Jaffee Nagel, Ph.D., holds the BM and MS degrees in piano from Juilliard, the MSW, MA, and PhD. in psychology and social work from the University of Michigan, and is a graduate of the Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute. She presents to psychoanalytic, music, and lay organizations on the topics of Stage Fright, COVID-19 and Trauma, Music and Emotion, #Me Too and Music Education, and is the author of scientific articles in major psychoanalytic journals, blogs on her website www.julienagel.net, as well as her books “Melodies of the Mind” and “Managing Stage Fright.” Her theater piece, “A Conversation Between Freud and Mozart’” recently was performed at Steinway Hall in New York City. Dr. Nagel is in private practice in Ann Arbor, Michigan.