A leitmotif or leitmotiv // is a "short, constantly recurring musical phrase" associated with a particular person, place, or idea. It is closely related to the musical concepts of idée fixe or motto-theme. The spelling leitmotif is an anglicization of the German Leitmotiv (IPA: [ˈlaɪtmoˌtiːf] ), literally meaning "leading motif", or "guiding motif". A musical motif has been defined as a "short musical idea ... melodic, harmonic, or rhythmic, or all three", a salient recurring figure, musical fragment or succession of notes that has some special importance in or is characteristic of a composition: "the smallest structural unit possessing thematic identity."
In music theory, a phrase is a unit of musical meter that has a complete musical sense of its own, built from figures, motifs, and cells, and combining to form melodies, periods and larger sections.
A phrase is a substantial musical thought, which ends with a musical punctuation called a cadence. Phrases are created in music through an interaction of melody, harmony, and rhythm.
German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol (Italy), the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.
In music, a motif
In particular, such a motif should be "clearly identified so as to retain its identity if modified on subsequent appearances" whether such modification be in terms of rhythm, harmony, orchestration or accompaniment. It may also be "combined with other leitmotifs to suggest a new dramatic condition" or development.The technique is notably associated with the operas of Richard Wagner, and most especially his Der Ring des Nibelungen , although he was not its originator and did not employ the word in connection with his work.
Rhythm generally means a "movement marked by the regulated succession of strong and weak elements, or of opposite or different conditions". This general meaning of regular recurrence or pattern in time can apply to a wide variety of cyclical natural phenomena having a periodicity or frequency of anything from microseconds to several seconds ; to several minutes or hours, or, at the most extreme, even over many years.
In music, harmony considers the process by which the composition of individual sounds, or superpositions of sounds, is analysed by hearing. Usually, this means simultaneously occurring frequencies, pitches, or chords.
Orchestration is the study or practice of writing music for an orchestra or of adapting music composed for another medium for an orchestra. Also called "instrumentation", orchestration is the selection of different instruments to play the different parts of a musical work. For example, a work for solo piano could be adapted and orchestrated so that an orchestra could perform the piece, or a concert band piece could be orchestrated for a symphony orchestra.
Although usually a short melody, it can also be a chord progression or even a simple rhythm. Leitmotifs can help to bind a work together into a coherent whole, and also enable the composer to relate a story without the use of words, or to add an extra level to an already present story.
A melody, also tune, voice, or line, is a linear succession of musical tones that the listener perceives as a single entity. In its most literal sense, a melody is a combination of pitch and rhythm, while more figuratively, the term can include successions of other musical elements such as tonal color. It may be considered the foreground to the background accompaniment. A line or part need not be a foreground melody.
A chord, in music, is any harmonic set of pitches consisting of multiple notes that are heard as if sounding simultaneously. For many practical and theoretical purposes, arpeggios and broken chords, or sequences of chord tones, may also be considered as chords.
A chord progression or harmonic progression is a succession of musical chords, which are two or more notes, typically sounded simultaneously. Chord progressions are the foundation of harmony in Western musical tradition from the common practice era of Classical music to the 21st century. Chord progressions are the foundation of Western popular music styles and traditional music. In these genres, chord progressions are the defining feature on which melody and rhythm are built.
By association, the word has also been used to mean any sort of recurring theme, (whether or not subject to developmental transformation) in literature, or (metaphorically) the life of a fictional character or a real person. It is sometimes also used in discussion of other musical genres, such as instrumental pieces, cinema, and video game music, sometimes interchangeably with the more general category of theme.
Literature, most generically, is any body of written works. More restrictively, literature refers to writing considered to be an art form or any single writing deemed to have artistic or intellectual value, often due to deploying language in ways that differ from ordinary usage.
Video game music is the soundtrack that accompanies video games. Early video game music was once limited to simple melodies of early sound synthesizer technology. These limitations inspired the style of music known as chiptunes, which combines simple melodic styles with more complex patterns or traditional music styles, and became the most popular sound of the first video games.
The use of characteristic, short, recurring motifs in orchestral music can be traced back to the early seventeenth century, such as L'Orfeo by Monteverdi. In French opera of the late eighteenth century, (such as the works of Gluck, Grétry and Méhul), "reminiscence motif" can be identified, which may recur at a significant juncture in the plot to establish an association with earlier events. Their use, however, is not extensive or systematic. The power of the technique was exploited early in the nineteenth century by composers of Romantic opera, such as Carl Maria von Weber, where recurring themes or ideas were sometimes used in association with specific characters (e.g. Samiel in Der Freischütz is coupled with the chord of a diminished seventh).The first use of the word leitmotif in print was by the critic Friedrich Wilhelm Jähns in describing Weber's work, although this was not until 1871.
L'Orfeo, sometimes called La favola d'Orfeo[la ˈfaːvola dorˈfɛːo], is a late Renaissance/early Baroque favola in musica, or opera, by Claudio Monteverdi, with a libretto by Alessandro Striggio. It is based on the Greek legend of Orpheus, and tells the story of his descent to Hades and his fruitless attempt to bring his dead bride Eurydice back to the living world. It was written in 1607 for a court performance during the annual Carnival at Mantua. While Jacopo Peri's Dafne is generally recognised as the first work in the opera genre, and the earliest surviving opera is Peri's Euridice, L'Orfeo is the earliest that is still regularly performed.
André Ernest Modeste Grétry was a composer from the Prince-Bishopric of Liège, who worked from 1767 onwards in France and took French nationality. He is most famous for his opéras comiques.
Étienne Nicolas Méhul was a French composer, "the most important opera composer in France during the Revolution". He was also the first composer to be called a "Romantic".
Motifs also figured occasionally in purely instrumental music of the Romantic period. The related idea of the musical idée fixe was coined by Hector Berlioz in reference to his Symphonie fantastique (1830). This purely instrumental, programmatic work (subtitled Episode in the Life of an Artist) features a recurring melody representing the object of the artist's obsessive affection and depicting her presence in various real and imagined situations.
Romantic music is a period of Western classical music that began in the late 18th or early 19th century. It is related to Romanticism, the Western artistic and literary movement that arose in the second half of the 18th century, and Romantic music in particular dominated the Romantic movement in Germany.
Louis-Hector Berlioz was a French Romantic composer. His output includes orchestral works such as the Symphonie fantastique and Harold in Italy, choral pieces including the Requiem and L'enfance du Christ, his three operas Benvenuto Cellini, Les Troyens and Béatrice et Bénédict, and works of hybrid genres such as the "dramatic symphony" Roméo et Juliette and the "dramatic legend" La damnation de Faust.
Symphonie fantastique: Épisode de la vie d'un artiste ... en cinq parties Op. 14, is a program symphony written by the French composer Hector Berlioz in 1830. It is an important piece of the early Romantic period. The first performance was at the Paris Conservatoire on 5 December 1830. Franz Liszt made a piano transcription of the symphony in 1833.
Though perhaps not corresponding to the strict definition of leitmotiv, several of Verdi's operas feature similar thematic tunes, often introduced in the overtures or preludes, and recurring to mark the presence of a character or to invoke a particular sentiment. In La forza del destino, the opening theme of the overture recurs whenever Leonora feels guilt or fear. In Il Trovatore, the theme of the first aria by Azucena is repeated whenever she invokes the horror of how her mother was burnt alive and the devastating revenge she attempted then. In Don Carlo, there are at least three leitmotivs that recur regularly across the five acts: the first is associated with the poverty and suffering from war, the second is associated with prayers around the tomb of Carlos V, and the third is introduced as a duet between Don Carlo and the Marquis of Posa, thereafter accentuating sentiments of sincere friendship and loyalty.
Richard Wagner is the earliest composer most specifically associated with the concept of leitmotif. His cycle of four operas, Der Ring des Nibelungen (the music for which was written between 1853 and 1869), uses hundreds of leitmotifs, often related to specific characters, things, or situations. While some of these leitmotifs occur in only one of the operas, many recur throughout the entire cycle.Wagner had raised the issue of how music could best unite disparate elements of the plot of a music drama in his essay "Opera and Drama" (1851); the leitmotif technique corresponds to this ideal.
Some controversy surrounded the use of the word in Wagner's own circle: Wagner never authorised the use of the word leitmotiv, using words such as "Grundthema" (basic idea), or simply "Motiv". His preferred name for the technique was Hauptmotiv (principal motif), which he first used in 1877;the only time he used the word Leitmotiv, he referred to "so-called Leitmotivs".
The word gained currency with the overly literal interpretations of Wagner's music by Hans von Wolzogen, who in 1876 published a Leitfaden (guide or manual) to the Ring. In it he claimed to have isolated and named all of the recurring motifs in the cycle (the motif of "Servitude", the "Spear" or "Treaty" motif, etc.), often leading to absurdities or contradictions with Wagner's actual practice.Some of the motifs he identified began to appear in the published musical scores of the operas, arousing Wagner's annoyance; his wife Cosima Wagner quoted him as saying "People will think all this nonsense is done at my request!". In fact Wagner himself never publicly named any of his leitmotifs, preferring to emphasise their flexibility of association, role in the musical form, and emotional effect. The practice of naming leitmotifs nevertheless continued, featuring in the work of prominent Wagnerian critics Ernest Newman, Deryck Cooke and Robert Donington.
The resulting lists of leitmotifs also attracted the ridicule of anti-Wagnerian critics and composers (such as Eduard Hanslick, Claude Debussy, and Igor Stravinsky). They identified the motif with Wagner's own approach to composing, mocking the impression of a musical "address book" or list of "cloakroom numbers" it created.
Since Wagner, the use of leitmotifs has been taken up by many other composers. Richard Strauss used the device in many of his operas and several of his symphonic poems. Despite his sometimes acerbic comments on Wagner, Claude Debussy utilised leitmotifs in his opera Pelléas et Mélisande (1902). Arnold Schoenberg used a complex set of leitmotifs in his choral work Gurre-Lieder (completed 1911). Alban Berg's opera Wozzeck (1914–1922) also utilises leitmotifs.The leitmotif was also a major feature of the opera The Immortal Hour by the English composer Rutland Boughton. His constantly recurrent, memorably tuneful leitmotifs contributed in no small way to the widespread popularity of the opera.
The critic Theodor W. Adorno, in his book In Search of Wagner (written in the 1930s), expresses the opinion that the entire concept of the leitmotif is flawed. The motif cannot be both the bearer of expression and a musical 'gesture', because that reduces emotional content to a mechanical process. He notes that 'even in Wagner's own day the public made a crude link between the leitmotivs and the persons they characterised' because people's innate mental processes did not necessarily correspond with Wagner's subtle intentions or optimistic expectations. He continues:
The degeneration of the leitmotiv is implicit in this ... it leads directly to cinema music where the sole function of the leitmotiv is to announce heroes or situations so as to allow the audience to orient itself more easily.
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The main ideology behind Leitmotif is to create a sense of attachment to that particular sound that evokes audiences to feel particular emotions when that sound is repeated through the film. Leitmotifs in Adorno's "degenerated" sense frequently occur in film scores, and have since the early decades of sound film. One of the first people to implement Leitmotif in early sound films was Fritz Lang in his revolutionary hit M . Lang set the benchmark for sound film through his use of leitmotif, creating a different type of atmosphere in his films.
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Maximilian Raoul Steiner was an Austrian-born American music composer for theatre and films, as well as a conductor. He was a child prodigy who conducted his first operetta when he was twelve and became a full-time professional, either composing, arranging, or conducting, when he was fifteen.
Wilhelm Richard Wagner was a German composer, theatre director, polemicist, and conductor who is chiefly known for his operas. Unlike most opera composers, Wagner wrote both the libretto and the music for each of his stage works. Initially establishing his reputation as a composer of works in the romantic vein of Carl Maria von Weber and Giacomo Meyerbeer, Wagner revolutionised opera through his concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk, by which he sought to synthesise the poetic, visual, musical and dramatic arts, with music subsidiary to drama. He described this vision in a series of essays published between 1849 and 1852. Wagner realised these ideas most fully in the first half of the four-opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen.
The Flying Dutchman, WWV 63, is a German-language opera, with libretto and music by Richard Wagner. The central theme is redemption through love. Wagner conducted the premiere at the Königliches Hoftheater in Dresden in 1843.
Parsifal is an opera in three acts by German composer Richard Wagner. It is loosely based on Parzival by Wolfram von Eschenbach, a 13th-century epic poem of the Arthurian knight Parzival (Percival) and his quest for the Holy Grail.
Das Rheingold, WWV 86A, is the first of the four music dramas that constitute Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen,. It was performed, as a single opera, at the National Theatre Munich on 22 September 1869, and received its first performance as part of the Ring cycle at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, on 13 August 1876.
Die Walküre, WWV 86B is the second of the four music dramas that constitute Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen,. It was performed, as a single opera, at the National Theatre Munich on 26 June 1870, and received its first performance as part of the Ring cycle at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus on 14 August 1876.
John Towner Williams is an American composer, conductor, and pianist. Widely regarded as one of the greatest American composers of all time, he has composed some of the most popular, recognizable, and critically acclaimed film scores in cinematic history in a career spanning over six decades. Williams has won 24 Grammy Awards, seven British Academy Film Awards, five Academy Awards, and four Golden Globe Awards. With 51 Academy Award nominations, he is the second most-nominated individual, after Walt Disney. In 2005, the American Film Institute selected Williams's score to 1977's Star Wars as the greatest American film score of all time. The soundtrack to Star Wars was additionally preserved by the Library of Congress into the National Recording Registry for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
Hans Florian Zimmer is a German film score composer and record producer. Zimmer's works are notable for integrating electronic music sounds with traditional orchestral arrangements. Since the 1980s, he has composed music for over 150 films. His works include The Lion King, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 1995, the Pirates of the Caribbean series, Interstellar, Gladiator, Inception, Dunkirk, and The Dark Knight Trilogy. He has received four Grammy Awards, three Classical BRIT Awards, two Golden Globes, and an Academy Award. He was also named on the list of Top 100 Living Geniuses, published by The Daily Telegraph.
A film score is original music written specifically to accompany a film. The score forms part of the film's soundtrack, which also usually includes pre-existing music, dialogue and sound effects, and comprises a number of orchestral, instrumental, or choral pieces called cues, which are timed to begin and end at specific points during the film in order to enhance the dramatic narrative and the emotional impact of the scene in question. Scores are written by one or more composers, under the guidance of, or in collaboration with, the film's director or producer and are then usually performed by an ensemble of musicians – most often comprising an orchestra or band, instrumental soloists, and choir or vocalists – and recorded by a sound engineer.
Erich Wolfgang Korngold was an Austrian-born composer and conductor. A child prodigy, he became one of the most important and influential composers in the history of Hollywood. He was a noted pianist and composer of classical music, along with music for Hollywood films, and the first composer of international stature to write Hollywood scores.
"The Imperial March " is a musical theme present in the Star Wars franchise. It was composed by John Williams for the film The Empire Strikes Back. Together with "Yoda's Theme", "The Imperial March" was premiered on April 29, 1980, three weeks before the opening of the film, on the occasion of John Williams' first concert as official conductor-in-residence of the Boston Pops Orchestra." One of the best known symphonic movie themes, it is an example of a leitmotif, a recurrent theme associated with characters or events in a drama.
The "Ride of the Valkyries" refers to the beginning of act 3 of Die Walküre, the second of the four operas constituting Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen.
The music of the Star Wars franchise is composed and produced in conjunction with the development of the feature films, television series, and other merchandise within the epic space opera franchise created by George Lucas. The music for the primary feature films was written by John Williams. Williams' scores for the eight saga films count among the most widely known and popular contributions to modern film music, and utilize a symphony orchestra and features an assortment of about fifty recurring musical themes to represent characters and other plot elements: one of the largest caches of themes in the history of film music.
The music of The Lord of the Rings film series was composed, orchestrated, conducted and produced by Howard Shore. The scores are often considered to represent one of the greatest achievements in the history of film music in terms of length of the score, the size of the staged forces, the unusual instrumentation, the featured soloists, the multitude of musical styles and the number of recurring musical themes used.
Batman Begins: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is the soundtrack album to Christopher Nolan's 2005 film Batman Begins. It was released on June 15, 2005. The soundtrack drew from the film score, composed by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard, as well as contributions by Ramin Djawadi, Lorne Balfe and Mel Wesson.
Romantische Oper was a genre of early nineteenth-century German opera, developed not from the German Singspiel of the eighteenth-century but from the opéras comiques of the French Revolution. It offered opportunities for an increasingly important role for the orchestra, and greater dramatic possibilities for reminiscence motifs – phrases that are identified with a place, person or idea and which, when re-used in a work, remind the listener of the place, person or idea in question.
The Dark Knight Rises: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is the soundtrack to the film of the same name, the sequel to Christopher Nolan's 2008 film The Dark Knight. The soundtrack was released on July 17, 2012. The CD edition of the album contains an exclusive code to unlock three bonus tracks, titled "Bombers Over Ibiza ", "No Stone Unturned", and "Risen from Darkness". Two additional bonus tracks, "The Shadows Betray You" and "The End", are digital-download exclusive tracks. The soundtrack was officially released online for streaming purposes on July 10, 2012.
The music of The Hobbit film series is composed and produced by Howard Shore, who scored all three The Lord of the Rings films, to which The Hobbit trilogy is a prequel. The score continues the style of The Lord of the Rings score, and utlizies a vast ensemble, multiple musical forms and styles, a large number of leitmotives and various unusual instruments, adding to Shore's overarching music of the Middle-earth films.