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Leitmotif (from Ger. Leitmotiv: ‘leading motif’)locked

  • Arnold Whittall


In its primary sense, a theme, or other coherent musical idea, clearly defined so as to retain its identity if modified on subsequent appearances, whose purpose is to represent or symbolize a person, object, place, idea, state of mind, supernatural force or any other ingredient in a dramatic work. A leitmotif may be musically unaltered on its return, or altered in rhythm, intervallic structure, harmony, orchestration or accompaniment, and may also be combined with other leitmotifs in order to suggest a new dramatic situation. A leitmotif is to be distinguished from a reminiscence motif (...

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