Motif (music)

Last updated
A phrase originally presented as a motif may become a Debussy's String Quartet (1893).
Play  (help*info)
White would classify the accompaniment as motivic material since it was, "derived from an important motive stated earlier". Debussy String Quartet second movement opening.PNG
A phrase originally presented as a motif may become a Debussy's String Quartet (1893). Loudspeaker.svg Play   White would classify the accompaniment as motivic material since it was, "derived from an important motive stated earlier".
In Beethoven's Fifth Symphony a four-note figure becomes the most important motif of the work, extended melodically and harmonically to provide the main theme of the first movement.
Play  (help*info) FuenfteDeckblatt.png
In Beethoven's Fifth Symphony a four-note figure becomes the most important motif of the work, extended melodically and harmonically to provide the main theme of the first movement. Loudspeaker.svg Play  
Two note opening motive from Jean Sibelius's Finlandia .
Play  (help*info) Sibelius - Finlandia, Op. 26 opening motive.png
Two note opening motive from Jean Sibelius's Finlandia . Loudspeaker.svg Play  
Motive from Machaut's Mass, notable for its length of seven notes.
Play  (help*info) Machaut - Mass motive.png
Motive from Machaut's Mass, notable for its length of seven notes. Loudspeaker.svg Play  
Motive from many of Bach's works including the first movements of the third and sixth Brandenburg Concertos and the third viol da gamba sonata.
Play  (help*info) Bach - Brandenburg motive.png
Motive from many of Bach's works including the first movements of the third and sixth Brandenburg Concertos and the third viol da gamba sonata. Loudspeaker.svg Play  
Motive from Ravel's String Quartet, first movement.
Play  (help*info) Ravel - String Quartet, mov. I motive.png
Motive from Ravel's String Quartet, first movement. Loudspeaker.svg Play  
"Curse" motif from film scores, associated with villains and ominous situations.
Play  (help*info) Bad guy riff.png
"Curse" motif from film scores, associated with villains and ominous situations. Loudspeaker.svg Play  

In music, a motif Loudspeaker.svg (pronunciation)   (also motive) is a short musical phrase, [5] a salient recurring figure, musical fragment or succession of notes that has some special importance in or is characteristic of a composition: "The motive is the smallest structural unit possessing thematic identity". [3]

Music form of art using sound

Music is an art form and cultural activity whose medium is sound organized in time. General definitions of music include common elements such as pitch, rhythm, dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture. Different styles or types of music may emphasize, de-emphasize or omit some of these elements. Music is performed with a vast range of instruments and vocal techniques ranging from singing to rapping; there are solely instrumental pieces, solely vocal pieces and pieces that combine singing and instruments. The word derives from Greek μουσική . See glossary of musical terminology.

The salience of an item – be it an object, a person, a pixel, etc. – is the state or quality by which it stands out from its neighbors. Saliency detection is considered to be a key attentional mechanism that facilitates learning and survival by enabling organisms to focus their limited perceptual and cognitive resources on the most pertinent subset of the available sensory data.

Figure (music) shortest idea in music, a short succession of notes

A musical figure or figuration is the shortest phrase in music; a short succession of notes, often recurring. It may have melodic pitch, harmonic progression, and rhythmic meter. The 1964 Grove's Dictionary defines the figure as "the exact counterpart of the German 'motiv' and the French 'motif'": it produces a "single complete and distinct impression". To the self-taught Roger Scruton, however, a figure is distinguished from a motif in that a figure is background while a motif is foreground:

A figure resembles a moulding in architecture: it is 'open at both ends', so as to be endlessly repeatable. In hearing a phrase as a figure, rather than a motif, we are at the same time placing it in the background, even if it is ... strong and melodious

Contents

The Encyclopédie de la Pléiade regards it as a "melodic, rhythmic, or harmonic cell", whereas the 1958 Encyclopédie Fasquelle maintains that it may contain one or more cells, though it remains the smallest analyzable element or phrase within a subject. [6] It is commonly regarded as the shortest subdivision of a theme or phrase that still maintains its identity as a musical idea. "The smallest structural unit possessing thematic identity". [3] Grove and Larousse [7] also agree that the motif may have harmonic, melodic and/or rhythmic aspects, Grove adding that it "is most often thought of in melodic terms, and it is this aspect of the motif that is connoted by the term 'figure'."

Bibliothèque de la Pléiade publisher

The Bibliothèque de la Pléiade is a French editorial collection which was created in 1931 by Jacques Schiffrin, an independent young editor. Schiffrin wanted to provide the public with reference editions of the complete works of classic authors in a pocket format. André Gide took an interest in Schiffrin's project and brought it into Gallimard, under which it is still published.

Melody linear succession of musical tones in the foreground of a work of music

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.

Rhythm aspect of music

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.

A harmonic motif is a series of chords defined in the abstract, that is, without reference to melody or rhythm. A melodic motif is a melodic formula, established without reference to intervals. A rhythmic motif is the term designating a characteristic rhythmic formula, an abstraction drawn from the rhythmic values of a melody.

In music theory, an interval is the difference in pitch between two sounds. An interval may be described as horizontal, linear, or melodic if it refers to successively sounding tones, such as two adjacent pitches in a melody, and vertical or harmonic if it pertains to simultaneously sounding tones, such as in a chord.

A motif thematically associated with a person, place, or idea is called a leitmotif. Occasionally such a motif is a musical cryptogram of the name involved. A head-motif (German: Kopfmotiv) is a musical idea at the opening of a set of movements which serves to unite those movements.

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, 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."

A musical cryptogram is a cryptogrammatic sequence of musical notes, a sequence which can be taken to refer to an extra-musical text by some 'logical' relationship, usually between note names and letters. The most common and best known examples result from composers using ciphered versions of their own or their friends' names as themes or motifs in their compositions. Much rarer is the use of music notation to encode messages for reasons of espionage or personal security called steganography.

Scruton, however, suggests that a motif is distinguished from a figure in that a motif is foreground while a figure is background: "A figure resembles a moulding in architecture: it is 'open at both ends', so as to be endlessly repeatable. In hearing a phrase as a figure, rather than a motif, we are at the same time placing it in the background, even if it is...strong and melodious". [1]

Any motif may be used to construct complete melodies, themes and pieces. Musical development uses a distinct musical figure that is subsequently altered, repeated, or sequenced throughout a piece or section of a piece of music, guaranteeing its unity. Such motivic development has its roots in the keyboard sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti and the sonata form of Haydn and Mozart's age. Arguably Beethoven achieved the highest elaboration of this technique; the famous "fate motif" —the pattern of three short notes followed by one long one—that opens his Fifth Symphony and reappears throughout the work in surprising and refreshing permutations is a classic example.

Musical development process by which a musical idea is communicated in the course of a composition

In classical music, musical development is a process by which a musical idea is communicated in the course of a composition. It refers to the transformation and restatement of initial material. Development is often contrasted with musical variation, which is a slightly different means to the same end. Development is carried out upon portions of material treated in many different presentations and combinations at a time, while variation depends upon one type of presentation at a time.

Domenico Scarlatti Italian composer, son of Alessandro Scarlatti

Giuseppe Domenico Scarlatti was an Italian composer. He is classified primarily as a Baroque composer chronologically, although his music was influential in the development of the Classical style and he was one of the few Baroque composers to transition into the classical period. Like his renowned father Alessandro Scarlatti, he composed in a variety of musical forms, although today he is known mainly for his 555 keyboard sonatas. He spent much of his life in the service of the Portuguese and Spanish royal families.

Sonata form is a musical structure consisting of three main sections: an exposition, a development, and a recapitulation. It has been used widely since the middle of the 18th century.

Motivic saturation is the "immersion of a musical motive in a composition", i.e., keeping motifs and themes below the surface or playing with their identity, and has been used by composers including Miriam Gideon, as in "Night is my Sister" (1952) and "Fantasy on a Javanese Motif" (1958), and Donald Erb. The use of motives is discussed in Adolph Weiss' "The Lyceum of Schönberg". [8]

Hugo Riemann defines a motif as, "the concrete content of a rhythmically basic time-unit." [9]

Anton Webern defines a motif as, "the smallest independent particle in a musical idea", which are recognizable through their repetition. [10]

Arnold Schoenberg defines a motif as, "a unit which contains one or more features of interval and rhythm [whose] presence is maintained in constant use throughout a piece". [11]

Head-motif

Head-motif (German: Kopfmotiv) refers to an opening musical idea of a set of movements which serves to unite those movements. It may also be called a motto, and is a frequent device in cyclic masses. [12]

See also

Related Research Articles

Inuit throat singing form of musical performance uniquely found among the Inuit

Inuit throat singing, or katajjaq, is a form of musical performance uniquely found among the Inuit. The traditional form consists of two women who sing duets in a close face-to-face formation with no instrumental accompaniment, in an entertaining contest to see who can outlast the other; however, one of the genre's most famous practitioners, Tanya Tagaq, performs as a solo artist. Several groups, including Tudjaat, The Jerry Cans, Quantum Tangle and Silla + Rise, also now blend traditional throat singing with mainstream musical genres such as pop, folk, rock and dance music.

Musical analysis

Musical analysis is the study of musical structure in either compositions or performances. It, "is the means of answering directly the question 'How does it work?'". The method employed to answer this question, and indeed exactly what is meant by the question, differs from analyst to analyst, and according to the purpose of the analysis. According to Ian Bent, "its emergence as an approach and method can be traced back to the 1750s. However it existed as a scholarly tool, albeit an auxiliary one, from the Middle Ages onwards." Adolf Bernhard Marx was influential in formalising concepts about composition and music understanding towards the second half of the 19th century.

Emancipation of the dissonance

The emancipation of the dissonance was a concept or goal put forth by composer Arnold Schoenberg and others, including his pupil Anton Webern. The phrase first appears in Schoenberg's 1926 essay "Opinion or Insight?". It may be described as a metanarrative to justify atonality. Jim Samson describes:

As the ear becomes acclimatized to a sonority within a particular context, the sonority will gradually become 'emancipated' from that context and seek a new one. The emancipation of the dominant-quality dissonances has followed this pattern, with the dominant seventh developing in status from a contrapuntal note in the sixteenth century to a quasi-consonant harmonic note in the early nineteenth. By the later nineteenth century the higher numbered dominant-quality dissonances had also achieved harmonic status, with resolution delayed or omitted completely. The greater autonomy of the dominant-quality dissonance contributed significantly to the weakening of traditional tonal function within a purely diatonic context.

Traditional Inuit music, the music of the Inuit, has been based on drums used in dance music as far back as can be known, and a vocal style called katajjaq has become of interest in Canada and abroad. Yupik music is the music of the Yupik peoples. Eskimo music is Inuit-Yupik music. Iñupiat music is the music of the Iñupiat.

Phrase (music) Musical unit

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.

Subject (music) musical melody on which a composition is based

In music, a subject is the material, usually a recognizable melody, upon which part or all of a composition is based. In forms other than the fugue, this may be known as the theme.

Elements of music characteristic, dimension, or element taken as a part or component of music

Music can be analysed by considering a variety of its elements, or parts, individually or together. A commonly used list of the main elements includes pitch, timbre, texture, volume, duration and form. The elements of music may be compared to the elements of art or design.

Jean-Jacques Nattiez is a musical semiologist or semiotician and professor of musicology at the Université de Montréal. He studied semiology with Georges Mounin and Jean Molino and music semiology (doctoral) with Nicolas Ruwet.

Esthesic and poietic are terms used in semiotics, the study of signs, to describe perceptive and productive levels, processes, and analyses of symbolic forms.

In semiotics the neutral level of a sign is the "trace" left behind; the physical or material creation or remains of esthesic and poietic processes, levels, and analyses of symbolic forms. A part of all signs according to a tri-partitional definition, it corresponds to Saussure's "sound-image".

Period (music) division in music

In music, a period is certain types of recurrence in small-scale formal structure. In twentieth-century music scholarship, the term is usually used as defined by the Oxford Companion to Music: "a period consists of two phrases, antecedent and consequent, each of which begins with the same basic motif." Earlier usage varied somewhat, but usually referred to similar notions of symmetry, recurrence, and closure. The concept of a musical period originates in comparisons between music structure and rhetoric at least as early as the 16th century.

Cell (music) small rhythmic and melodic design

The 1957 Encyclopédie Larousse defines a cell in music as a "small rhythmic and melodic design that can be isolated, or can make up one part of a thematic context." The cell may be distinguished from the figure or motif: the 1958 Encyclopédie Fasquelle defines a cell as "the smallest indivisible unit", unlike the motif, which may be divisible into more than one cell. "A cell can be developed, independent of its context, as a melodic fragment, it can be used as a developmental motif. It can be the source for the whole structure of the work; in that case it is called a generative cell."

Satz is any single member of a musical piece, which in and of itself displays a complete sense, such as a sentence, phrase, or movement.

In Western music theory, the term sentence is analogous to the way the term is used in linguistics, in that it usually refers to a complete, somewhat self-contained statement. Usually a sentence refers to musical spans towards the lower end of the durational scale; i.e. melodic or thematic entities well below the level of 'movement' or 'section', but above the level of 'motif' or 'measure'. The term is usually encountered in discussions of thematic construction. In the last fifty years, an increasing number of theorists such as William Caplin have used the term to refer to a specific theme-type involving repetition and development.

Not to be confused with Semiology.

Melodic pattern

In music and jazz improvisation, a melodic pattern is a cell or germ serving as the basis for repetitive pattern. It is a figure that can be used with any scale. It is used primarily for solos because, when practiced enough, it can be extremely useful when improvising. "Sequence" refers to the repetition of a part at a higher or lower pitch, and melodic sequence is differentiated from harmonic sequence. One example of melodic motive and sequence are the pitches of the first line, "Send her victorious," repeated, a step lower, in the second line, "Happy and glorious," from "God Save the Queen".

The term seriation [mise en série] was proposed for use in semiotics by Jean Molino and derived from classical philology. Seriation "invokes the idea that any investigator, in order to assign some plausible meaning to a given phenomenon, must interpret it within a series of comparable phenomena." One cannot interpret what philology calls a hapax; that is, an isolated phenomenon. Art historian Erwin Panofsky has explained the situation in very clear terms:

Carolyn Abbate is an American musicologist, described by the Harvard Gazette as "one of the world’s most accomplished and admired music historians". She is currently Paul and Catherine Buttenwieser University Professor at Harvard University. A practitioner of the field’s traditional methodologies, she challenged their limits, mobilizing literary theory and philosophy to provoke new ways of thinking about music and understanding its experience. From her earliest essays she has questioned familiar approaches to well-known works, reaching beyond their printed scores and composer intentions, to explore the particular, physical impact of the medium upon performer and audience alike. Her research focuses primarily on the operatic repertory of the 19th century, offering creative and innovative approaches to understanding these works critically and historically. Some of her more recent work has addressed topics such as film studies and performance studies more generally.

Rudolph Reti, also Réti, was a musical analyst, composer and pianist..

References

  1. 1 2 Scruton, Roger (1997). The Aesthetics of Music. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN   0-19-816638-9.
  2. White, John D. (1976). The Analysis of Music (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall), pp. 31–34. ISBN   0-13-033233-X.
  3. 1 2 3 4 White (1976), pp. 26–27.
  4. 1 2 White (1976), p. 30.
  5. New Grove (1980). cited in Nattiez, Jean-Jacques (1990). Music and Discourse: Toward a Semiology of Music (Musicologie générale et sémiologue, 1987). Translated by Carolyn Abbate. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN   0691091366/ ISBN   0691027145.
  6. Both cited in Nattiez, Jean-Jacques (1990). Music and Discourse: Toward a Semiology of Music (Musicologie générale et sémiologue, 1987). Translated by Carolyn Abbate. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN   0691091366/ ISBN   0691027145.
  7. 1957 Encyclopédie Larousse cited in Nattiez, Jean-Jacques (1990). Music and Discourse: Toward a Semiology of Music (Musicologie générale et sémiologue, 1987). Translated by Carolyn Abbate. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN   0691091366/ ISBN   0691027145.
  8. Hisama, Ellie M. (2001). Gendering Musical Modernism: The Music of Ruth Crawford, Marion Bauer, and Miriam Gideon, pp. 146 and 152. Cambridge University Press. ISBN   0-521-64030-X.
  9. Jonas, Oswald (1982). Introduction to the Theory of Heinrich Schenker (1934: Das Wesen des musikalischen Kunstwerks: Eine Einführung in Die Lehre Heinrich Schenkers), p. 12. Trans. John Rothgeb. ISBN   0-582-28227-6.
  10. Webern (1963), pp. 25–26. Cited in Campbell, Edward (2010). Boulez, Music and Philosophy, p. 157. ISBN   978-0-521-86242-4.
  11. Neff (1999), p. 59. Cited in Campbell (2010), p. 157.
  12. David Fallows. "Head-motif". In Deane L. Root. Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online . Oxford University Press.(subscription required)