Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Fractals and Plate Tectonics

Can fractal criteria be used in deriving plate reconstructions of asymmetrically spreading ridges? See: link.


Before:
After:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Peer Review

An article in Physics World describes an "experiment" in peer review and its effect on the quality of published scientific research.
Just a small number of bad referees can significantly undermine the ability of the peer-review system to select the best scientific papers. That is according to a pair of complex systems researchers in Austria who have modelled an academic publishing system and showed that human foibles can have a dramatic effect on the quality of published science.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Jane and Will

Fractal calculations of Jane Austen's six novels imply an unsurprisingly common vocabulary pool. But, what about comparisons with other English literature? Hamlet:

And adding to the Jane Austen plot:

(Click to enlarge; click again to zoom; backspace to return to this post.)

Hamlet and company occupied a smaller "area" in their dramatic fractal space, but note that the slope of the main part of the fractal plot is essentially the same as Jane's novels.

What does it all mean?



Jane Austen

Word frequency usage often shows a logarithmic pattern (e.g., Zipf's distribution). What about fractals? (Click to enlarge graphics; backspace to return to this blog post.)














I suppose one might assume that Jane Austen would draw on the same vocabulary in each novel. How similar are these relationships among the six?

 
The similarity in slopes of the six curves suggests that common vocabulary.

Citation Fractals

Following a suggestion by Murray (2002), I've looked at the indexes of a number of recent scientific monographs and popular scientific accounts and calculated their fractal measures.


Murray combined a large number of text references and normalized them. Applying fractal binning to his results produces:

E. T. Jaynes (2002) Probability Theory:




W. Isaacson (2008) Einstein: His Life and Universe:




L. Gilder (2009) The Age of Entanglement:



S. Pinker (2003) The Blank Slate:




W. Grandy (2008) Entropy and the Time Evolution of Macroscopic Systems:

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Looking for fractals in all the wrong or right places - I

Here is the first of several attempts at documenting fractal structures from science to art.


First, however, a little bit about technique: The magnitude of a particular data set, whatever its source, is ranked from greatest to least. Then, fractal binning is applied over a range of dimensions. The maximum dimension is D(max) = 2*n, in which the value of n produces the smallest value larger than the maximum magnitude of the data set. Each dimension is then determined by D(I) = D(maximum)/M, in which M = 2*N/M, M =1, M*. Each bin I for dimension D(I) is occupied if there is one or more values such that bin I = integer (magnitude/D(i)). Then for each dimension, the number of occupied bins is totaled.
First example: Number of performances of Broadway musicals, ranked from most to least, for the top 100 (not counting some which are still running).
The longest running musicals (Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats is the current leader among closed shows; however his Phantom of the Opera is still running).

Note that a true fractal would display a linear trend on a log-log plot. However a simple linear trend is apparent for only the top two bins, not one extended over a longer range of scales.

Entropy

Where were you when you first heard about entropy?


Was it in high school chemistry or physics (the most appropriate venue)? Perhaps, metaphorically, it was in college English or political science, or even an op-ed in last year’s Times (NY, LA, or London). What, you say you never heard of entropy before? It’s time to climb onto the bandwagon – there’s a new paradigm in town, recasting a nearly two-hundred year old idea. Some of the “newer” ideas about entropy are more than half a century old, introduced shortly before “paradigms” became paradigmatic, while some of the newest arrived just before the turn of the millennium.

Tectonic Similarity

Spin a globe, tilt it, and center the South Atlantic Ocean, with the coast of South America to the west (and left), that of Africa on the east (and right): see how the South American coastline to the west seem somehow similar to that of Africa on the east. Tilt north and rotate slightly west, to the center of the North Atlantic Ocean: the North American coastline to the west is, with slight imagination, similarly similar to that of the North African Atlantic coast. One more time: east and south, to the center of the Indian Ocean: The facing coasts of East Africa, India, Antarctica, and Australia; rotated back and forth a bit and imagine the coast lines as edges of spherical puzzle pieces, with Madagascar a gap-filling fragment. Might all of these continents, and Eurasia too, have once formed a collective megacontinent? This question has been around in one form or another for not merely decades but two or even three centuries. But, it wasn’t until the mid-1960s that the solid earth scientific community reached near consensus: The answer: a resounding “Yes”.
However, to reach the point at which geologists (stratigraphers, petrologists, volcanologists…), geophysicists (seismologists, paleomagnetists…), and paleontologists (specializing in fossils of plants and both vertebrate and invertebrate animals) could all agree, multidisciplinary results from each field had to be shown as mutually consistent and integrated. 

Misquotation: How difficult is it?

• “Play it again, Sam.” -- Ingrid Bergman
• “…blood, sweat and tears.” – Winston Churchill
• “History is bunk.” – Henry Ford
• “My name is Ishmael.” – Herman Melville
• “Math is hard.” -- Barbie
These famous quotes have something profoundly in common. What is it?
There could be a footnote, upside down, at the bottom of this page, or an end note, somewhere deeper into the blog, with the answer. But, you, dear reader, know the answer, don’t you? Each quote is similar to each of the others. Isn’t it? Aren’t they all similar?

Woody Allen even made a movie with that title, a classic 70’s rock band had that name, who believes history anyway(?), and Ahab was an Arab, wasn’t he? And, mathematics can be difficult,

Mathematical notation can be obscure, Sam really didn’t want to play it, the Prime Minister was playing with a short deck, Ford manufactured the “T” before the “A”, and Melville’s story is a whale of a tale.

Psst…. Don’t tell anyone; don’t include “warning: spoilers” in your review. But you do know, don’t you, that none of the quotes above are original with their auteur? That’s because none of the authors ever said or wrote any of them.

Here are the “real” quotes:
• “Play it Sam. Play ‘As time goes by’” – (Ilsa) Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca
• “…blood, toil, sweat and tears.” – Winston Churchill (and before him Garibaldi and T. Roosevelt)
• “History as it is taught in the schools is bunk.” – Henry Ford (In fairness, there appears to be some disagreement about what the innovative industrialist really said.)
• “Call me Ishmael.” – Herman Melville
• “Math class is tough.” -- Barbie
It is ironic, is it not, that the most quoted line from the most quotable movie of all time is commonly misquoted (even before Woody Allen’s movie). A search for "Play it again Sam" produces 230,000 hits, while a search for “Play it Sam. Play ‘As time goes by’” produces only 69,000 more. Further, even Churchill’s well-known line may have been appropriated from (or at best independently enunciated after) Theodore Roosevelt. Henry Ford came after Karl Marx, so the familiar assertion by the great capitalist could be viewed as a denunciation of the patron saint of communism and his “theory” of history. There is a slight, even significant discrepancy between “My name is…” and “Call me…” is there not?

In any case, whether for miniature mannequins or fully grown adults, math can be really hard. Even Einstein, physics genius, needed help with his math at times.

Oops, I forgot one:
  • "Judy, Judy, Judy..." Cary Grant
Can anyone find anything close to "Judy..." by C. Grant anywhere in his oeuvre? Not even Tony Curtis in either Some Like It Hot or Operation Petticoat came close to it.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Understanding Entropy

The term, entropy, is a mystery to many, and the concept it encapsulates is a source of confusion for still more, particularly in ways in which it has been more broadly applied. The concept of entropy was introduced into that branch of physics that studies changes in temperature, pressure and volume of physical systems at a macroscopic (as opposed to microscopic) scale: thermodynamics (combining the Greek words for heat, thermos, and power, dynamis).


Simply (!) speaking, entropy, in thermodynamics, is a measure of the amount of heat in a physical system that is unavailable to do work. As a measure of this inaccessible heat, the “absolute” temperature is also relevant. If the system gives up a particular amount of heat, and its entropy decreases by a particular amount, the product of the temperature of the region surrounding the system and the change in entropy must be given up to the system’s surroundings as unusable heat, thereby increasing the entropy of the system and its surroundings..


The description of entropy above seems abstract; to illuminate it, consider the nature of energy and work. In order for a quantity of energy to be available to do work, that energy must be organized or concentrated. Consider a tea kettle on a burner. The heat introduced into the system by burning gas raises the temperature of the water in the kettle until it boils, converting liquid water to gas: steam. The steam increases the air pressure within the kettle and forces it through the whistle in the spout of the kettle (thereby doing two kinds of work); however, part of the heat is lost to the kettle, escaping into the kitchen. Further, when the gas feeding the burner is turned off, boiling stops, and if the kettle is left unattended, the hot water and kettle will gradually cool by giving off heat to the surrounding room. The concentration of heat in the kettle when the heat source is removed, combined with the rest of the system – the kitchen, is a state of lower entropy than later, when the kettle and water have cooled, warming the kitchen, however slightly. Getting the lost heat (and steam) back into the kettle is not possible without expending still more energy. After all, the initial heating of the tea kettle involved introduction of heat into the system.


Recognition that energy must be concentrated or organized in order to do work gives rise to an additional property of entropy: it is a measure of disorganization. But, is entropy a concept produced by reductionism?


More complete analyses of a thermodynamic system have superficial aspects of a reductionist approach. That is, envision a very large number of particles comprising a closed system, and “calculate” the motion of each individual particle as they interact with one another and the boundaries of the system. Very quickly it’s clear that calculating even just a few particles’ motion (speed and direction) as they interact with one another is beyond the capacity of not only a laptop computer, but also the super-most of supercomputers. So much for reductionism? Not so fast. A more complete theoretical analysis indicates that much of the motions in effect cancel each other out. No, the motion of each and every individual particle is beyond computational capability, but the collective properties of the ensemble of particles can be characterized: the thermodynamic properties of the system (if they are in equilibrium) are determinable: temperature, pressure, volume. Is thermodynamics a reductionist success?


Whether entropy is a consequence of reductionist science, it is, nevertheless, a scientific success. And, decades after Boltzmann and Gibbs, entropy emerged in a new guise, with implications beyond that of thermodynamics.


Information Entropy


Software companies with a large, diverse portfolio are challenged to meet customer expectations while efficiently utilizing the talents of designers, developers, and testers. Add in multiple development locations, outsourcing, multilevel integration, and competitors: software producers are faced with simultaneously juggling double-edge swords of complexity and uncertainty.


Complexity and uncertainty conjure two active areas of investigation over the past few decades, especially invoking the mysterious concept of entropy and the fascinating phenomena of fractals. Fractals are recognized as emergent phenomena in the midst of complexity theory – organized chaos. Entropy is primarily identified with increasing disorder in a closed system: the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and is homologously invoked in the context of information theory. Inferences by Edwin Jaynes, beginning in 1957 (in 1983 reference, below), of formal equivalence of Gibbs thermodynamic (statistical mechanical) and Shannon information entropy continue to be debated in diverse scientific and engineering fields.


Can the complexity and uncertainty that are inherent in software development acquire insight through recognition and application of entropy and fractals? More fundamentally, is there a relationship between entropy and fractals?

Sonnet Similarity

Human communication depends upon the comprehension of meaning. And, the ability to understand is a combination of the senses, experience, and memory. So much of reasoning relies on analogy. “What is she like?” Contrast two of Shakespeare’s sonnets:

18

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer's lease hath all too short a date:

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimmed,

And every fair from fair sometime declines,

By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed:

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,

Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,

Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade,

When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st,

So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

130

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;

Coral is far more red, than her lips red:

If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;

If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.

I have seen roses damasked, red and white,

But no such roses see I in her cheeks;

And in some perfumes is there more delight

Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.

I love to hear her speak, yet well I know

That music hath a far more pleasing sound:

I grant I never saw a goddess go,

My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:

And yet by heaven, I think my love as rare,

As any she belied with false compare.

“What is she like?” “She’s a tower of ivory; a day at the beach; warm as a handshake; yet cold as a sunflower.” The answers to the question, “What is she like?” have meaning only to the extent that there are connotations in the analogies that can be applied to the character of a woman. Is there any similarity at all (Sonnet 18), or anti-similarity (Sonnet 130)? To a contemporary westerner, “tower of ivory” has little meaning, unless the Song of Songs is familiar. “A day at the beach” might mean something different to a Southern Californian and an Eskimo. And, how could a sunflower be “cold”.


Successful communication occurs when the sender and receiver speak the same language – in which the message, even if novel, can be understood. There must be a pre-existent capacity for receiver to comprehend what was sent. And, this capacity must also include the ability to learn – to receive progressive more complicated and elaborate messages. In other words, for communication to occur there must be some similarity between the vocabulary and experience of the speaker and those of the hearer.

So, what is the meaning of similarity, when we find it in Nature? We certainly understand that organisms inherit their form from their parents. And, an ecological niche can be occupied by organisms of different lineages, which, nevertheless, develop analogous structures – for example, dorsal fins on sharks (fish) and dolphins (mammals), wings on insects and birds, and “wings” on bats and flying squirrels.


Such similarities can also be found in the inorganic realm. Crystals are a manifestation of the molecular structure of particular solid elements and compounds. Such similarities in crystals of different sizes generally involve distinct symmetries: cubic, orthogonal, tetrahedral, hexagonal… Table salt crystals (sodium chloride; in solid state the mineral halite) manifest cubic symmetry at virtually all scales; break a halite crystal and it fragments into smaller crystals bounded by surfaces which terminate at right angles with adjacent surfaces.


In recent years, another kind of self-similarity has been identified, of which crystals are a subset: fractals. In Mandelbrodt’s formulation, fractal objects appear to have the same structure over a wide range of scales. In addition to a number of mathematical algorithms that can produce fractals, a number of naturally occurring examples can be enumerated: clouds, earthquake occurrences, shorelines, gas-water contacts in natural gas reservoirs. The latter examples differ from crystals in that they do not possess inherent geometric symmetries. Rather, while structures or phenomena at various scales show similar variations in some quantity, they are not necessarily congruent when rescaled.


Certain kinds of fractals have a scaling dimension that quantifies the variation similarity. For example, consider a set of earthquakes that occurs in a particular earthquake-prone region of the earth, such as Southern California, over a prolonged period of time. If the numbers of earthquakes are grouped according to their magnitudes, a simple relationship is observed. Earthquakes of small magnitudes are much more frequent than those of large magnitudes (magnitude is related to the amount of energy released by the earthquake). In fact, a plot of the logarithm of the number of earthquakes of a range of magnitudes versus the magnitude range produces a straight line 9 fig. 1). The similarity comes in with the observation that the relationship is log-linear; that is the change in number of earthquakes magnitude versus magnitude is the same at low magnitudes and at high magnitudes. The slope of the line in the logarithmic plot is a measure of the fractal dimension of the earthquake magnitude distribution.


Plot of magnitude versus logarithm of frequency of earthquakes (binned in intervals of 0.25 magnitude units), southeastern California, 1980-2005 (data courtesy of Southern California Earthquake Center, University of Southern California).


Another natural example of fractality is the dimensionality of measured coastline lengths. If the coastline is measured coarsely, the total length is less than if measured finely. A plot of the logarithm of measured coastline length versus the relative fineness of measurement produces a straight line, whose slope is the fractal dimension.


Recently, there has been shown to be a relationship between fractals and the curious concept of entropy. Fractals can be shown to maximize mathematical entropy across multiple scales, constrained by the information content of the fractal. This correspondence has interesting implications for the interpretation of self-similarity in Nature, human creativity, and Revelation(!).

Next: Understanding Entropy

Analogy in Science

The discovery (in a realistic sense; the subjectivist would say “formulation”) of laws and their manifestation are the essential tasks of the physical sciences: physics, chemistry, astronomy, geology, biology… Those laws which are continuously affirmed and reaffirmed by experiment and/or observation comprise the standard theories of their science. Much of normal science (in Thomas Kuhn’s sense) is the elaboration of theory, especially definition of the domain of its application. Thus, Newton’s law of gravitation finds application within the range of observation capabilities of the late Seventeenth Century; in modern terms this means objects moving at relative velocities significantly less than the speed of light and minimal effects due to other forces (electromagnetic, Strong, and Weak). At high relative velocities, Einstein’s theory of relativity comes into play, while the non-gravitational forces are significant at molecular and smaller scales.


Whether expressed in words (the gravitational force between two objects is proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance separating them) or algebraically (G =  m1 m2 / r2), the words and alphanumerical characters are analogs for the inferred law, and, are literally symbolic. Yet, while symbols in mathematical context, do not have the same symbolic depths or meaning as religious and mythic symbols (such as the Cross or the grail), in non-scientific contexts, “Newtonian gravitation” does evoke symbolic depths, especially in a Calvinistic mechanical worldview. Hierarchies of causation are implied by the equality character (=).


Even before the onset of relativity and quantum mechanics, mathematicians and physicists began to recognize that pure equality is not observed in nature. So, for example, measured gravity is only approximated by Newton’s law:








where +/- e means plus or minus “error”. The so-called error term in any physical equation can incorporate several effects. If a measurement differs significantly from that predicted by theory (e is large), (1) other phenomena might be contributing to the observed effect, (2) the measurement device is poorly designed, or (3) the theory might be wrong or at least inappropriately applied. For example, (1) measured gravity on the surface of the earth is affected by the distribution of mass within the earth, rotation of the earth, lunar and solar effects (“earth tides”, due to the masses of the moon and sun), and planetary gravitational effects (to a much lesser extent than lunar and solar). For (2) early pendulum “gravity meters” were big, awkward, and imprecise; more precise and accurate meters have been developed in more recent years. And for (3), at high velocities, relativity must be taken into account; Newton’s law is inadequate.


Another expression of inexactitude, instead of the error term, could involve the “approximately equal” character (≈). A physicist would be reluctant to interpret the character as meaning “similar”, but it is close. The gravitational constant term, , in Newton’s law, is the proportionality factor that could also be thought of as a similarity coefficient. The reluctance of a scientist to use “similarity” in either case is largely due to the fact that Newton’s law produces a scalar (that is, single-valued). Where similarity more comfortably comes into play is in the comparison of multi-valued objects or data sets. For example, there are measures for comparing two digital electronic signals (ordered sets of numbers) – cross correlation, semblance, and coherency. Sometimes, a signal (or ordered set) possesses some sort of self-similarity, either in a repetitive, constant frequency pattern (for example, a musical note) or a structure that replicates itself at a range of different scales.


Next: Sonnet Similarity

Quixotic

Mitch Leigh’s Man of La Mancha takes the themes of mythical hero and transformation into a kind of pseudo-realism akin to West Side Story. There is an air of danger and risk as the alter ego of Miguel de Cervantes confronts muleteers and Leigh’s Cervantes (not the “real” Cervantes) confronts fellow prisoners and, eventually, an imagined Inquisition. The dark foreboding dungeon, reachable only via a retractable ramp, almost seems to symbolize the prison of the mind, that dark part of the unconscious which lacks joy, hope, or any glimmer of freedom. But, through his half-insane knight-errant, the craziness of reaching for the unseen transforms the other prisoners, at least for the moment, from their previous resignation, cynicism, and despair.


Where Man of La Mancha differs from other major musical plays is the victory achieved by a change which seems to embrace a conscious archetype, rather than transformation from the control of an unconscious archetype. In such plays as Oklahoma, My Fair Lady, and Carousel the key for the leading male is to release his grip on the partially unconscious masculine preconceptions and controls. In West Side Story, the rigidity of the immature and primitive archetypal roles leads to disaster. Of course, the masculine archetype of Man of La Mancha is quite different from the machismo images of the other plays. Curly sacrifices everything, even his saddle and gun (and his swaggering cowman vocation) for Laurey. Higgins acknowledges his need for the companionship of a woman. Billy of Carousel learns selflessness and forgiveness (primarily for himself). And, the changes in these characters are not at the expense of their previous selves. Each is still essentially the same person, with greater depths and more sober perspectives on life.


Don Quixote is insane, totally possessed by the hero archetype. In Carousel Billy flirts with the archetype as he becomes aware of his impending fatherhood, but as an inept Robin Hood, fails, and is unable to withstand the temptation for the shortcut and dies, requiring redemption in another life. When Don Quixote is confronted with his profound illusion, his soul seems to die. Encouraged by Sancho, and especially Al Donza-Dulcinea, his soul comes back to life, transcending even his death, to a resounding reaffirmation of the hero archetype.


The transformation that is Don Quixote has occurred before we first encounter him in Cervantes imagination. We only know of his previous self through the shocked reaction of his niece and housekeeper. By inference, the encounter of Don Quixote with the world occurs between periodic wars, but shortly after the Moors have been driven from Iberia. The world is desolate and corrupt, barely livable. Can we also infer that the man who has become Don Quixote also perceives himself as a failure, desolate, and barely alive? The masculine archetype of the world is unconscious and tyrannical. The feminine is submerged, oppressed, and brutally exploited.


That which Quixote has embraced seeks to rescue both masculine and feminine, to bring the beauty of the latter to consciousness, to re-invent Eden by sacrificing the former. The member of the audience either responds to the explicit call to chivalry or is turned off by its blatant unreality.


The contemporary feminist may look back on the mid-Sixties romance and decry the reshaping of the feminine by Don Quixote’s projections. But, a point may be missed. Whether a man can rescue a woman is one question; whether the same man can rescue the feminine within himself is another. Thus Man of La Mancha symbolizes on an explicitly archetypical level the search for wholeness and completion within the individual Don Quixote and, by extension, the fictional Miguel de la Cervantes. How can the multiple levels and facets of the personality be integrated?


The peculiarities of the cinema version of Man of La Mancha emphasize a kind of stark naturalness of a desert setting including non-musical performers who attempt to sing the intensely familiar melodic pieces associated with the original Broadway cast and numerous popular voices. (At least three other Broadway plays have been filmed in a similar manner, using several non-singing actors: Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, Lerner and Loewe’s Paint Your Wagon, Lesser’s Guys and Dolls.) The resulting dissonance is at first discomfiting, shadowing the archetypes a bit. On the other hand, the tempering of the fairy tale in this way challenges the audience to a resolution of their own inner desires and conflicts.


Because the cinematic desert is “real”, and not a stage (although the prison, out of which the desert is “imagined” seems a little less real; but how in the late Twentieth Century knows the reality of an Inquisition-era dungeon?), the perceived message can be to challenge the masculine search for opening to the feminine reality in life. “To dream the impossible dream” is not necessarily a syrup rendition of fairy tale nostalgia, but instead a fresh challenge to change.


Jung argued that one cannot rationally and fully characterize an archetype. Rather, the numinous power can only be symbolized or experienced by analogy. And, the presence of an archetype can only be recognized by its effects, rather like the wind. Leigh would claim that the encounter with a charismatic figure such as Don Quixote can potentially transform a person just as the prisoners are transformed in Man of La Mancha. As with other creative theater experience, the individual audience member can leave with no less than a gnawing desire for the kind of transformation and integration which “Cervantes” seems to have wrought.


At the creative leve1, Mitch Leigh and his collaborators have not achieved as great a subsequent commercial success as Man of La Mancha since it was introduced. Their handling of Don Quixote is remarkable insofar as it involves so many levels of characterization. Taking but a small part of Cervantes’ classic novel, including the author as a character, and placing the dominant setting in an underground prison emphasizes the multiple levels of meaning. “Come into my imagination…” The invitation of Cervantes can be seen as the invitation of the entire theater itself. In reality, of course, the individual member of the audience is bringing Cervantes and Don Quixote into his or her own imagination. The drama and the tragicomedy are not merely on the stage; they are on the inside as well.


Next: Analogy in Science

Something’s Coming

In its original conception, the gang drama of West Side Story was to between Jews and Italians, so the story goes; but as the process unfolded, the gangs became quasi-Italian-American and Puerto Rican – both nominally Catholic, but in deep conflict. Of course, in Shakespeare’s original, both families were Italian, from the same stock. The dark theme of ethnic conflict among poor youth contrasts profoundly with the brighter theme of The Music Man and most other successful Broadway musicals, but the underlying current is still the same (yes, really!) What happens when personalities and cultures interact? What occurs if change does not happen? What is the result of change?


The social undercurrent of West Side Story is familiar: youth growing up in a seemingly hopeless situation. In their reaction to their environment they embark upon a course which can only result in disaster. Change is required, but who is going to do the changing?


West Side Story is more like grand opera than musical comedy. The principal characters behave archetypically and consistently, until the fina1 tragic scene. Both Shark and Jets join to carry Tony’s body; temporarily, at least, there is denouement – recognition of the humanity of the other.


Opposites are starkly drawn. We see the Puerto Rican young women and the America young men more than the Puerto Rican youth and the virtually absent American women; male versus female, youth versus cops; Sharks versus Jets. (In the motion picture version, the contrast is drawn even more sharply in the singing of “America”. Unlike the stage version, which involves the women only, the mock debate on the screen is between the women who like the improvement in their lives in New York, while the men would prefer to return to San Juan. In the later audio recording of the score, conducted by the composer, it is apparent that Leonard Bernstein preferred the stage version.)


Absent from the play is the explicit presence of the Church, otherwise represented in Romeo and Juliet by the friar. Instead, a “wedding” occurs in Maria’s bridal shop, with an implicit Catholic sense of sacrament. Adults, except for the cop and the pharmacist, are also missing. The lack of competent, mature presence already is an important undercurrent in Shakespeare’s original. The pharmacist is himself marginally surviving and seems numb and disconnected from the reality outside his store. The cop is impotent and inept. There is no pervasive patriarchal or matriarchal atmosphere – the gangs and the girls are “orphans” living out a sort of blind obedience to their fated doom. The glimmer of hope Maria and Tony’s love signifies hints at what might be possible with change. But even the lovers are a bit archetypal; not so much changing themselves, but fulfilling their own romantic, tragic selves.


The audience views West Side Story in social-cultural context. The tragedies of the inner cities continue decades since the play was first presented. And like real social-cultural problems, the implied solution for the story presented by the play is assumed to be larger than the play, projected outward onto the hidden bars and fences around the economic hell of the West Side. But we must not forget that the archetypal tragedy that is drawn by West Side Story is also portrayed as individual tragedies. Tony dies; Maria loses Tony…and her brother. Tony previously lost his friend, Riff, too. Tony and Maria are drawn as somewhat more than archetypal characters, because of the apparent openness to change. Again, however, even the two lovers did not change enough to save themselves.


So often the plea for mass change ignores the reality that the masses are made up of individuals. And the individual person is multifaceted. The emotionally hurting person wants to stop hurting as painlessly and as quickly as possible. Thus, drugs and alcohol are important as illusory shortcuts to “peace” and “no-pain”. There is no quick and easy solution for the hurting person who, in order to deal with the pain, must undergo the stress and strain of change and conversion, to challenge fate and achieve a kind of salvation.


West Side Story cries out for healing and peace and justice; but for the individual member of the audience, it is a cop-out to imagine that such changes and healing is not for him or for her. It is as much an illusion to imagine that all of the reasons for problems we face are outside of ourselves as it is to assume that chemicals are a means of eliminating the pain. The conflict between Tony and Maria’s brother, between Maria and Anita, between the Jets and the Sharks, between the gangs and Officer Krumpke… all of them exists within each of us.


Next: Quixotic

Musical Man

In 1957, many theater critics were upset that the massive and creative West Side Story of Laurents, Bernstein, Sondheim, and Robbins was overlooked for the Antoinette Perry Awards for best musical play; instead the “Tony” went to Meredith Willson's first musical, The Music Man. Subsequently, the motion picture version of West Side Story was more successful in Academy Award recognition than The Music Man, but the latter film, like the play, was far more economically successful than the Manhattan version of Romeo and Juliet. The principal, superficial difference between the two plays is the tragic ending of West Side Story versus the happy-ever-after of The Music Man. But the former play has its (dark) comedic side, and there is no small amount of darkness in the latter, a significant portion of which symbolically occurs at night.


Willson's play is commonly described as a fond remembrance of his Iowa boyhood combined with a salute to John Philip Sousa, in whose band Willson played flute, early in his career. When viewed through the lens of archetype and individuation, The Music Man is something more, a classic portrayal of the masculine dominated ego (Professor Harold Hill) transformed by a profound encounter with the unconscious feminine, and a complementary change in a passive feminine ego (represented not by Marian the librarian, but rather the town of River City) as a result of the profound masculine touch of truth (masquerading as con man masquerading as savior).


There are still mysteries in this seemingly slight story: Marian and Winthrop’s dead father, the town’s outcast benefactor, and the true extent of alias Professor Harold Hill’s musical talents. Interestingly, as in My Fair Lady, the protagonist is a “professor”, learned and leading. There is also the paradox of music brought to River City, when it already has its piano teacher, Marian, and in the convention of the Broadway musical, the townspeople already know how to sing. Whether it be an ironic (and prophetic) ambivalent welcome to “Iowa” or a panic-stricken echo in “Trouble”, The Music Man isn’t really about Harold Hill bringing music to a small city in Iowa, as it is about change and awakening of a boy, a woman, a man…an entire town. That change brings the sexes together: Marian and Harold, the teenagers, the mayor and his wife.


One of the most profound of masculine abuses is the exploitation of another’s needs. The salesmen on the train decry credit and the failure to “know the territory”. Harold Hill supposedly doesn’t know the Iowa “territory”. The notion and anvil salesmen supposedly do. They “know” the rhythm of the train after all, but who really does know the territory of human relationships?


What prompts the change in each person? The cynical professor, from his previous experience and success assumes each territory is the same: “green people” means “green money”. Or is it, green as in naïve or green as in envious? Or green as in alive and growing? To the cunning salesman, all three greens are required; to the extent that each is not completely present, it must be cultivated and brought forth. Imagined discontent is quickly created from the installation of a pocket billiards table in the billiards room. “Massteria” grows into a ripe crop for the professor to harvest. But, what of the only conscious musician, indeed the only intellectual in town: the maid, Marian? The way to deal with her lack of naïveté is to cultivate her shy, introverted little brother. Harold Hill plays with very dangerous ingredients; there is a strange kind of power involved in attempting to heal a wounded child (Spielberg explored the theme in ET: The Extraterrestrial). The hurt little boy inside the would-be “healer” is also vulnerable. There is the tradition of some non-western cultures: the rescuer of one from death is responsible for the saved person for life. While such explicit traditions are alien in the West (rather, some form of gratitude by the saved is expected), there is, nevertheless, a dynamic connection that is established between healer and healed. Further, the results of a healing transcend the two persons involved. Marian is affected by the transformation of her brother and, fully realizing the salesman’s deception and dishonesty, becomes Harold Hill’s advocate. The professor encountered a town that really needed what he had to offer, and he discovers that he equally needed that town and its librarian.


Harold Hill’s fraud proved to be somewhat less than fraudulent; the town indeed got what it paid for, a way to keep the young ones (and older ones, too) moral after school. What is more moral than honest and open relationship with another, and of consciousness and the visible with that which is unconscious and hidden? The male can discover that he has the power to affect other people for better or worse, by seeming to be in relationship with them. Salesmanship invests a great deal in establishing relationships, but not necessarily for its own sake. Rather, completing the superficial deal is the focus, the relationship a means to an end. Failure of the salesman to deliver what is promised is more costly than the actual transaction would imply, because an unconscious deal has also been betrayed. The surface transaction symbolizes a subsurface encounter imbued with a power that can give life or take it away. The betrayal of the customer by the salesman is also a betrayal of salesman himself. Harold Hill’s day-dream of himself as another Sousa had been repeatedly denied, town after betrayed town, prior to entering Iowa.


For Harold Hill, the transformation comes when he begins to recognize that human relationships are far more valuable than the proceeds of a sales campaign. His leit motif, the unidirectional march, “Seventy-six trombones”, is also a waltz, in a different rhythm, cyclic and relational. (There is here a hint of a reference to the apocryphal story of Sousa’s Thunderer, which is said to have originated as a ballad, according to the cinema biography of the March King, Stars and Stripes Forever.) The green people in River City are alive, even if somewhat obtuse, and Hill, after so many other towns, finally recognizes their liveliness. As the boys, believing in Harold Hill and his “think system” begin playing the most marginal “Minuet in G”, their parents discover their greenness, their own life, right there in River City.


What saves Harold Hill? There are two episodes of salvation, after all. The first comes from within: “For the first time I let my foot get caught in the door.” This statement, to anyone who has ever read Chick Young’s Blondie comic strip, makes no obvious sense; the salesman purposely catches his foot in the door so as to continue his spiel, despite the resident’s hostility. In context, his being caught has another meaning: the sales pitch he had been offering must be allowed to go to its logical conclusion. Before, he never stayed long enough to really complete the sale.


“O you’ve got trouble…” The traveling con artist must convince his marks of a need they have of which formerly they were unaware. But, is there really trouble in River City?


As he steps off the train, Professor Hill is greeted with a most peculiar welcome to the State of Iowa, River City version. Contrary, stubborn, undemonstrative, and independent: that's Iowa: every man for himself; cold and distant, and uncharitable, “unless your crop should happen to die.”


Beneath the cold, self-sufficient work ethic of the town, there is a sterile division. The slight subplot involving the mayor’s teenage daughter and the town ne’er-do-well typifies the sterile prudery. “Ya wild kid ya” lamely yells the mayor at Tommy.


In his efforts to sell the town on a band, Hill begins the process of healing of a hidden wound. The town council is composed of those Iowans who never see eye to eye. Miraculously, they learn they have the ability to sing together, presumably as a distraction from their desire for Hill’s credentials. The reality is that Hill, by bringing the quartet together demonstrates a different kind of credential. And the ladies, instead of spending their time gossiping about the “scandalous”' Marian become engaged in cultural activities, forming living classical Grecian vessels.


A more fundamental division seem to exist, hinted at by the mayor’s discouragement of his daughter’s juvenile romance, Marian’s spurning of Harold Hill’s advances, the all-male barber shop quartet, and the absurd Grecian urn.


John Keats’ “Ode to a Grecian Urn” describes the image of a young man forever pursuing a young woman in a hopeless race around the circumference of the urn. For eternity they are destined to be separated, the youth never getting closer to the girl, than he is right now, despite deep-seated longing for union.


But the deep-seated division is not merely within the town, or Marian, however, but within Professor Hill himself. It is he who has made the town council into a quartet; it is Harold Hill who has formed the ladies classics society. Only his calculating (but uninformed) encouragement of the relationship between Tommy and the mayor's daughter, and his initial cynical cultivation of relationship with Marian hint at any desire he might really have for healing the division within himself. Hill acknowledges from the beginning that he is a con artist, seeking green people and green money. Green as in naïve, but also green as in alive. His cynical gift is to create a need for his product by preying on the deeper needs of the people (which needs he can really know only from his own, neglected desires. This gift is most explicitly revealed when his tells his old friend of his preference for the “sadder but wiser girl”. He prefers not to deflower the innocent (but calculating) maiden, but to deal with an old established garden plot. Puzzlingly, a young girl is seen to be eavesdropping on Hill's performance and ends up dancing with the two men. While the language is over her head, her presence can only be symbolic of Hill’s self-deception. As the unscrupulous salesman, Hill has been presumably been violating town after town for a long time.


Is it possible that the previous towns have been repeatedly violated before, sadly accepting their fate of being done in by the slick, fast-talking Professor? Is River City somehow different? Yes, there are the dark shadows of jealousy and self-sufficiency, but are these attitudes as such indicative of immaturity and naiveté as they are of cynical experience. For once, Hill may be dealing with the town that will not let his foot be dislodged from the door before they are satisfied with his spiel. River City, more alive than Harold Hill, was still not living a life to the full. Its soul in danger, there was the bitterness towards the miser-benefactor of the town, beneath whose statue Harold Hill first makes River City aware of its “trouble”. Willson gets his digs into Midwestern Puritanism: “Chaucer, Rabelaise, Balzac” and “Sadder by Wiser Girl”, such that there is a hint of liberation implied by the mayor’s eventual acquiescence in his daughter’s romance with the town “wild kid”. The town acknowledges at the beginning that the only factor which would provoke charity is the dying (therefore not green) crop. As Harold Hill doffs his reversed bandsman’s coat to give it to Tommy, he unknowingly has given his shirt and back to save a town.


In return, as Hill stands humbled and shackled, awaiting the judgment of the town, it is he who is dying. No longer the master of his fate, he allows the charlatan to be exposed. As the truth of his sacrifice is made clear, to the sound of the minuet, the town comes to rescue him from themselves.


The long suppressed dreams of a music man now come true as he honestly acknowledges the deception of his past. The boys learn to play, and the music man and town learn to love.


The simplicity of The Music Man resonates in the audience member who seeks the honesty and truth within the self. There’s a charlatan and a maiden librarian in each man and woman, a judgmental but inept mayor, and a musician and a piano teacher, too. A masculine march can be a feminine love song. A musical argument between mother and daughter becomes the song of longing and hope.


Next: Something's Coming

Alan Lerner’s Defense

The origin of the idea for Lerner and Loewe to undertake a musical play based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion been retold many times, with some variation. Apparently, promoter Gabriel Pascal, who owned the rights to musical versions of Shaw’s plays, tried to interest a number of composer-lyricists in the task of converting Pygmalion. Rodgers and Hammerstein are said to have turned the opportunity down, feeling that Shaw’s play is not a romance – romance being the essential foundation in their conception of a Broadway musical. According to Lerner, when he and Loewe were first offered the play, they were skeptical of the ability to musicalize Pygmalion because of the lack of a subplot. After further reflection, however, the pair decided to tackle the task because “times had changed”; a subplot was not required because of perceived evolution in the stage musical over the previous few years, or so Lerner says.

‘a winkin’ her eye

Begin with that classic work of art: Oklahoma! As a native Cornhusker, it has always bothered me that the consensus ground-breaking piece of musical theater dances its way across the prairie of the Sooner State, and not the expansive, rolling Sandhills north of the Platte River. Why couldn’t there be a play called “Nebraska”? Part of the answer, of course, is Lynn Riggs: writer of Green Grow the Lilacs, and Oklahoma native. Maybe someday someone will make an extraordinary musical out of O Pioneers!, Old Jules, or My Antonia. Until then, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s first masterpiece will remain the classic “integrated” stage musical play.


Richard Rodger’s and Alan Lerner’s descriptions of the process of bringing a musical play to Broadway makes it very clear that the audience is an essential collaborator. Musical pieces added, scenes dropped, actors changed, even titles modified all happen in Boston, New Haven, Philadelphia, on the way to New York. Even before the first audience sees the first dress rehearsal, an anonymous public is constantly in the minds of those preparing the play: how the audience responds to the big song, laughs at the wrong time, produces no laughs at the right time. Their first-hand description leaves no room for doubt.


But an audience is not a single organism; it consists of several hundred individuals – and over the run of a very successful play, the numbers run to tens or hundreds of thousands. If the play is made into a motion picture, the audience grows into the tens of millions and more. They may well laugh aloud together, cry silently in unison. They are still individuals, with different histories, unique genes, and contrasting life situations. But a hidden commonality comes into view, as the story on stage or screen emerges.


Let’s try a kind of thought experiment, imagining oneself as a member of an audience of a noted musical play. As the characters are initially sketched and then enfleshed, as the plot advances, the drama on stage is taken into the mind, taps the memory and establishes links with the individual’s life. Imagination and myth merge and reality is transformed into fantasy without conscious realization of what has happened.


The stage is certainly there, concrete and distinctly not part of us, but what is happening on stage enters our conscious experience, and a distinct drama/comedy occurs within ourselves. As audience, we are participating in our collective response: laughing, crying, applauding, now restless, then uncomfortable, at times even transfixed. Our inner response is either reinforced or challenged by the outwardly expressed experience of our neighbors. Even their breathing, nearly inaudible sighs, coughs, and body movements have some effect. Nevertheless, the drama is very much interiorized and personalized.


The set that is the stage becomes a little world unto itself, an isolated room in which a little of each character become projections of inner, hidden facets of the individual observer. The man in the audience finds an identity not only with the hero, but the other males: villain, foil, buffoon, and, curiously enough, with the females too: the heroine, vixen, ingénue, klutz, wise old woman... Inanimate objects become symbols of discontent, progress, regression, cleansing, restoration... The pressure of conflict and tension of misunderstanding become symbolic of internal stretching, fragmentation, hurt, and brokenness, while the resolution of plot – hero and heroine joined, villains vanquished, a new day dawning – become symbols of hope, integration, fulfillment.


The overture anticipates the story to come. In retrospect, the degree of integration of plot and music within the play permits the music to convey a sense of the impending drama, comedy, fear, pathos, and joy. The overture ends, the curtain goes up on a surrealistic corn field, lonely homestead (called Laurey’s farmhouse in the script), and a solitary old woman churning butter. The woman continues her task as a tall young cowboy saunters onto the stage, declaring in song (with a near-operatic voice) that what we are seeing is a kind of Eden, with healthy tall cornstalks, quiet contented cattle, and sounds which are all music. The song sets the stage even more than does the set. (In the motion picture version, the artificiality inherent in stage setting is preserved; the film was certainly not made in Oklahoma—small comfort to Cornhuskers.) The pastoral content of “O what a beautiful morning” belies the conflict which is to come. Just as a maturing young man is convinced he is in control of his world, then, too, the world must be in harmony with him. The confidence, even cockiness with which Curly deals with the world will be shaken as he encounters that which he cannot directly control: the contrary, “irrational” feminine and the dark, obsessed and evil shadows. All is not in harmony. But then, even in the words of the first song, there is the subtle hint: A young maverick, an unbranded calf belonging to no one, winks her eye. Like the wink of a strange, attractive woman, the meaning is ambiguous. Is there a shared secret here or the first stirrings of surprise or even conflict? Adventure or crisis? Who is in control of this developing story? That operatic quality voices are typical of the male and female leads cast in the Broadway and cinema productions is probably also significant. Are there more unnatural and artificial performing art forms than opera and ballet? None of the other singing members of the cast are close to operatic in their style. There is also the curious ambiguity of the explicit and implicit role of the sung music. The very first song is to be accepted as a song within the frame of the story. Curly describes himself as singing. Laurey’s description of his song is, of course, purposefully absurd. Only some of the remaining musical pieces are explicitly part of the story, however. It is rare, after all, that we sing to one another in everyday life. The initial artificiality of Laurey and Curly’s relationship is thereby underlined.


Carl Jung suggested that within the normal man whose outward, conscious face is “masculine” (strong, thick-skinned, controlled, rational, assertive…) there is a hidden, largely unconscious “feminine”, the anima (sensitive, emotive, soft, deferential, non-rational). The man encounters the anima most commonly by projections defined in part by the women of his experience (mother, sister, girlfriend, wife, co-worker). For the man in which the feminine has remained unconscious, the anima has been totally experienced by projection onto the women of his life, who, therefore, have never been dealt with as distinct persons. Typically, then, such a man’s female relationships may be superficial, childish, dictatorial, even abusive, or virtually nonexistent. The first female image for the man is his mother, and, conceivably, the anima projected onto her may be transferred unchanged to who should be the ultimately most significant woman in his life: his wife, if he ever has one. Male maturation for Jung involves withdrawing projections of the anima and the shadow (the repressed, undesired masculine attributes; even the most masculine of men still denies certain masculine characteristics), recognizing them for what they are, and then affirming the value of the anima and shadow and, equivalently (and more important) the distinct individuality of the women (and other men) in his life. The maturing man maintains his masculine character, but augments and refines it with the more feminine qualities of sensitivity, sociability, and softness. He also becomes aware of the power he has for evil and for good – to dominate and to defer.


Conversely, for women, the preferred mode of expression of feminine characteristics obscures the inner masculine qualities, which Jung collectively termed the animus. Maturation for women involves withdrawal of projections of their animus from the men in their lives, initially their fathers, eventually their husbands. Similarly, their feminine shadow must also be dealt with. A kind of subtext of much of Oklahoma! and any number of other musical comedies involves this precise maturation or, as Jung termed it, individuation process. It could be asserted that part of Curly’s and Laurey’s “problems” (their immaturity, artificiality, foolish dishonesty, and egocentrism) is manifest in the supporting characters: villain, comic lovers, dream-dancers, wise old woman.


For the individual audience member, the objective view of the play consists of a number of actor-singers and dancers on a decorated stage telling a story. The subjective view takes in each of the characters and their progressive interaction. With one another and connects them with elements of the individual member’s own experience, so as to make sense of the musical play as it evolves on the stage.


There are five principal male and three such female roles in Oklahoma! Curly dominates the play with his strong, charming, staggering baritone. Laurey is the pivotal character. We are allowed to read only her mind in the dream ballet. The surface question of who will be her escort to the social is fraught with greater consequences than the conscious Laurey has guessed.


It is clear from the beginning that Laurey and Curly belong together; and Will and Ado Annie also are “meant for one another”: Farm girl Laurey and cowboy Curly; farm girl Annie and cowboy Will. By quirks of illogic, stubbornness, immaturity, and circumstance, Laurey is almost disastrously linked with Jud, and Annie, most comically with the peddler, Ali Hakim. Come the social, a fight almost inevitably breaks out between farmers and cowmen. Disorder exists at every level of the play. It is not until the evil Jud is dead and the peddler out of the picture, that Curly and Laurey can sing honestly and openly to one another and to the rest of their world.


The drama of human life can be considered in part to represent the struggle of apparent opposites: male/female, honesty/dishonesty, eros/sublimation, charm/crudity. In Oklahoma! it is resolution of the conflicts of opposites that is sought.


The strutting, too clever, independent Curly in confronting his male opposite (the seething, too quiet, slow-witted Jud) absurdly and shockingly tries to persuade Jud to kill himself. But the time is not yet right. Jud has a function to perform. Laurey is still unconscious of the shadows of masculinity; her naïveté must be overcome. Similarly, Curly’s overconfidence in his own male attractiveness must be humbled; he cannot take the feminine for granted. In parallel Will’s ignorance must be dealt with, particularly the double standard he imposes on Annie. There are the male characters: Curly and Jud; Will and Hakim. Then there are Laurey and Ado Annie and Aunt Eller. Curly and Will are the straight and comic heroes; Jud and Hakim the straight and comedy villains. Laurey must choose between Curly and Jud – Annie between Will and Ali Hakim. There is the added background of open range (cowboys Curly and Will) versus farming-domesticity (Laurey; Ado Annie, Aunt Eller, Jud); untamed territory and future State. There is no oil yet and no mention of Indians (the latter omission heightening the artificiality of the story).


The key dramatic question is: how are Curly and Laurey going to be united given their immature “pride” and foolishness and the real danger posed by the mystery man, Jud? The question is complemented by Ado Annie’s quandary: whom shall she choose: Dull, unimaginative Will Parker or “exotic, romantic” Ali Hakim? Jud is the dark, brooding shadow man with the mysterious, even ominous past. Ali Hakim, the unclothed girls on Hakim’s and Jud’s cards, and the Kansas City burlesque stage suggest the power of hidden eros beneath the surface of each triangle.


Despite the dominance of archetypal elements in each character, every one of the major roles has attributes of a real person. Even the evil Jud has some sympathetic qualities, and Curly’s crude attempt to encourage Jud’s suicide adds some tarnish to the hero’s image. Insofar as the interaction of the characters with one another is concerned, however, much of their communication appears to be indirect and artificial. For example, it seems that neither of the two principals really appreciates the full humanity of their opposites. As attractive as Curly appears in the beginning, his unwillingness to directly ask Laurey to the social is particularly frustrating, since Laurey refuses to show any interest in return; she has not been explicitly invited. The facades they each put on (transparent to Aunt Eller and the audience, but not to each other) lay the foundation for the drama to come.


Curly emphasizes the masculine archetype (“the best bronc-buster, best bull-dogger, Curly-headed, and bow-legged”)? What else should Laurey want? And he foolishly assumes that Laurey would want to socialize with him despite (or even because-of) his high self-regard. Curly’s stubborn self-centeredness almost forces Laurey to turn his indirect invitation down, and accept the blandishments of Jud. Despite her profound fears of the hired man, Jud, at least, is never indirect. In his dark morose world, there is some sense of reality: he sees the unique worth and value of Laurey. He believes that he does not “deserve” her, but wants her anyway. In this respect, Jud is the shadow of Curly. Curly refuses to acknowledge his desire for Laurey; Laurey is supposed to desire him. The shock of Laurey’s acceptance of Jud awakens Curly to action and too-long delayed humbling.


The presence of the comic could-be lovers, Will and Ado Annie, highlights another face to the Curly-Laurey problem. The two leads seem to lack a sense of humor; they seem to take themselves all too seriously. Curly’s non-invitation could be seen by Laurey as the teasing irony intended; similarly, her denigration of Curly’s singing (which in fact she has herself echoed) could be interpreted by Curly as ironic and teasing, but neither is willing to recognize that they can be the object of humor without undermining their own value. Curly could have called himself the “best baritone” in all of the territory, along with enumerating his bronc-busting talents; but clearly, the subject is not open for debate. Thus Jud’s hostility to folks who think themselves better than others (especially himself) is not difficult to understand; alas, Jud also lacks any sense of humor, unless we include pathos.


In order to vanquish the external rival for Laurey’s affections, it is necessary for Curly to give up everything he owns (most especially the saddle and gun essential for him to continue as a cowboy); he must so humble himself as to become a farmer. One of the more comic earlier events in the play, the dance of the farmers and the cowmen which degenerates into a brawl, symbolizes how profound the self-humiliation of Curly must be; to give up the status and freedom of the cowboy to become a domesticated farmer is not an easy step to take. In parallel Laurey is impelled to take a most frightening chance as she dumps Jud in the middle of nowhere, guaranteeing his future enmity, but, at the same time, protecting herself from his clear and present dangerous advances. Curly must defer and be humbled; Laurey must risk and assert. Each must exercise opposite gender and unconscious same gender archetypal qualities in order to achieve their unspoken goals. The need for conscious acknowledgment of their mutual love is clearly expressed early on through the song “People will say we’re in love”. The closest either comes to explicit admission of love in the song is Curly’s response that Laurey’s hand is so grand in his. The acknowledgement necessarily mean the loss of conscious capabilities, however, as Curly must still confront the hiding, scheming Jud. In the emergence of honesty and humility in Curly, the same qualities which Jud, in his perversity, already possessed, their very perversion must be dealt with in order for survival of Curly and Laurey to be assured: Jud must die. The best of the shadow is appropriated; the worst is eradicated. There is gain and loss inherent in change.


The parallel uniting of Will and Annie, the comic leads, cements the sense of fulfillment in Laurey and Curly’s marriage. Will, the not-so-smart cowboy must rely on help from the trapped peddler, in order to snare his elusive bride. Ado Annie turns out to be smarter than previously thought. Her closing warning to Will is to never take her for granted. And wasn’t that Curly’s problem from the very beginning? The anima is rarely really hidden. Every man “knows” how to be “feminine”, if only in parody. His first teacher is his mother, after all. The problem with the anima is not so much that it is unconscious, but is ignored.


The unconscious level at which Oklahoma! operates is nevermore clearly emphasized as in the famous ballet. The musical is, again, known for full “integration” of music, dialogue, and dance. If its fame is justly deserved, it must serve a dramatic function. Swain has challenged this assumption, suggesting that the details of the ballet, particularly since they involve apparently indiscriminate reprises of previous songs, make no dramatic sense. He especially objects to the dance-hall women, come to dream life from Jud’s pin-ups, who dance to “I can’t say no”. Since the original context of the song humorously portrays the confusion of late adolescent girl, Ado Annie, one might question the bawdy context of this part of the ballet. The answer is that the dream ballet is not at all concerned with Annie; it is concerned with Laurey: her relationship with Curly and the implications of the ominous presence of Jud with the dancehall women. Her own latent eros is stirred by the raw assertiveness of Jud, who wants the real thing, not picture postcards. The song sung by Annie is certainly humorous, in part because of its double entendre. But, there is a truth in the dual meaning which the dream points out.


The dream ballet occurs in a surrealistic frontier town, somewhat like, yet unlike the Oklahoma frontier. Civilization is impinging on the territory, with horseless carriages and tales of seven-story skyscrapers and telephones in the big city. But the ballet lacks anything up-to-date, and there is little that is familiar. Laurey’s dream is within the non-rational world of the unconscious; powerful archetypal images point to truths which she has consciously avoided. Curly’s encounter with the unconscious is largely symbolized by his call paid to the smokehouse: dust and cobwebs, grimy bed, tobacco ads, the postcards, and covers off the Police Gazette. Curiously, Curly shows only passing interest in the Gazette covers and picture cards; they might give him “idys”. Rather, he begins an incredible game with Jud, indirectly demonstrating his contempt for the man, while trying to determine just what attraction Jud might have for Laurey. Curly’s behavior is almost shocking; it is difficult to rationalize his crude “attempt” to encourage Jud to do himself in, with the Curly who sings of “corn as high as a elephant’s eye”, and of “isinglass curtains ya can pull right down”. It is as if in his encounter with Jud, the “Jud” within Curly starts to come out. Curly’s control on his sexual drive, averting his eyes from Jud’s pornographic cards, is apparently greater than his control on his innate aggressiveness. The encounter of Curly with his shadow is bound to be eventful, but it is not destined to be fulfilled in the dark recesses of the smokehouse, but out in the open air, with Jud’s murder attempt. Ironically, Jud does end up killing himself in the encounter with Curly, but not before Curly has explicitly affirmed his love for Laurey and publicly confronted Jud.


Only the lead players have a distinct identity or color, achieved by their interaction with others, or, largely in Laurey’s case, illuminated by the dream ballet. The ballet additionally implies that the desired masculine must be humbled, in the apparent death of “Curly” in the dream. There is little Laurey can do prevent the “death” of Curly; in fact, she helps bring it about. Thus, there is a kind of inevitability inherent in the plot of Oklahoma!, just as there is a kind of inevitability in the lives individual people lead.


The internal interaction of the individual member of the audience with the play is hierarchical. The two leading characters are initially one-dimensional. Curly and Laurey are almost too sweet, almost like the royalty of many an operetta. In their initial game of pretended insult and offense, a little of the sugar goes sour, and then as they interact with the threatening character of Jud, even some bitterness is tasted. The sympathy or antipathy the audience members feel for the characters depends in part on their own experience, but, quite clearly, few would have any hopes for either Jud or Ali Hakim. There is little to Jud that is sympathetic, other than his reputation for reliable, hard work, and, perhaps, his shunning by the rest of the community. Hakim as alien and seducer is played for its comic value. Like Jud, however, Hakim shouts an appreciation for women (however superficial; they provide his livelihood, after all, and he is not shy about desiring their sexual favors) that Curly and Will seem to lack. (An undercurrent of the play is the apparent undervaluing of sexuality by the dominant men. Curly and Laurey’s wedding night is interrupted by the “traditional” shivaree.)


The tensions of masculine-feminine, farmer-cowman, sexuality-repression, popular-outcast, frontier-modern are gradually worked through in the play and in the mind-experience of the audience, achieving fulfillment in the climax of marriage, celebrated in the singing of the title song, and in the anticlimax of the death of Jud. The closing celebrates the joys of domesticity and removal of facade: “Let people say we’re in love”.


The drama-comedy of Oklahoma! becomes a microcosm of the lives most people live. And the outward lives mirror the inner struggles of growth. The typical man lives out of his masculinity (although without a rich baritone), but at various crisis points, whether due to interior or exterior forces, is confronted with the need to grow: to deal with the undervalued masculine traits submerged in the unconscious and to allow the feminine characteristics to emerge, as well. The facilitation of inner growth often requires humbling of the dominant characteristics and acknowledgement of the shadow tendencies (symbolized by death), and the emergence of the gender-opposite characteristics (symbolized by courtship).


Acknowledgement of balance of transformed masculine and emerging feminine is the goal of fulfillment, in the Jungian scheme (symbolized by marriage and sexual union). The process is not smooth, nor without pain and suffering. The success of a play such as Oklahoma! rests in its ability to capture the process of human growth and maturation in such a way that it corresponds with the inner and outer experience of the audience. The exhilaration of a theater encounter manifests the resonance of the onstage performance with the inner drama of one’s life. So it is in the climax piece: the first verse, sung by Curly, becomes an ensemble effort, with full chorus. Everything is together, in harmony, except the individual voice of Laurey is not obvious (because Jud still has to be deal with?). Then, in the anticlimax, Curly and Laurey sing a duet-reprise of “O, what a beautiful morning!” and “People will say we’re in love”, the latter changed to “Let people say…” The hero and heroine are free of their self-consciousness, willingly and publicly expressing their love for one another, and the villain has been vanquished.


The grand metaphor of integration, fulfillment, and completion is achieved in the typical musical play, with or without some bitterness, pain, suffering, and death. Resolution of the plot gives the audience a temporary vicarious experience of integration and fulfillment. To the extent the individual audience member recognizes himself or herself in several of the characters, the experience of completion is not without its rewards. At least the experience of the individual has been recognized outside of himself or herself. Some degree of commonality of the human journey has been recognized and identified.


Still another kind of commonality present in this play (and in many others) needs to be more concretely emphasized. The two love-triangles complement one another, with the comedy triangle bringing additional meaning to the primary triangle. Similarly, the dream ballet provides added meaning to Laurey’s dilemma. There’s a “wedding” in the ballet that anticipates the wedding that culminates Curly and Laurey’s bumpy courtship. Imagined death in the smokehouse and death in the ballet are prophetic of Curly’s ego-death, and the eventual violent death of Jud. Eros in Will’s account of his Kansas City experience, in the smokehouse, in the dream, and in the lens of the “little wonder”, and the shivaree must be dealt with.


The repeated themes of the play, both musical leit motives, and parallels in plot, imply a kind of self-similarity in word, music, action, and dance. Each element of the play produces coherence with succeeding elements, bringing out hidden meaning. It is rather like applying a decryption code to an encoded message. What is obscure in a single component of the play becomes clearer when illuminated by a succeeding component. All is not perfect in the initial “beautiful morning”. The winking eye of a maverick heifer anticipates what is to come. Quickly Curly learns that all is not as he expects. Laurey’s reluctance is further complicated by the challenge Jud presents. In parallel, Will triumphant arrival to claim Ado Annie is quickly deflated when the $50 prerequisite is revealed as already spent. Add one more complication: the peddler, and Will is not in control, either. A message develops and is progressively reinforced.


Through Laurey’s eyes, things are not the way she wants them, from the very beginning of the play. Curly takes her for granted. Jud appreciates her value, but Jud is dangerous. Like the dream, Laurey has little control over what happens, except to run away and call for help. At first she runs the wrong way and asks for help from the wrong person. Ado Annie is not in control, either, subject to the “charms” of whichever male she is with. Like Laurey, Annie runs for “help”, but from a slick charmer.


A musical play such as Oklahoma! succeeds by an integration of word, music, and dance which reinforces a message whose coherence becomes apparent in retrospect. Consciously or unconsciously, Riggs, Rodgers, Hammerstein, and Agnes deMille forged a classic of internal self-similarity and consistency which continues to delight audiences more than sixty years later.


Next: Alan Lerner's Defense