Motif (music)

Short recurring musical phrase / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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In music, a motif Loudspeaker.svg(pronunciation)  IPA: (/moʊˈtiːf/) (also motive) is a short musical idea,[5][6] a salient recurring figure, musical fragment or succession of notes that has some special importance in or is characteristic of a composition. The motif is the smallest structural unit possessing thematic identity.[3]

A phrase originally presented as a motif may become a figure which accompanies another melody, as in the second movement of Claude Debussy's String Quartet (1893).[1] Loudspeaker.svgPlay  White would classify the accompaniment as motivic material since it was, "derived from an important motive stated earlier".[2]
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.svgPlay 
Two note opening motif from Jean Sibelius's Finlandia.[3] Loudspeaker.svgPlay 
Motif from Machaut's Mass, notable for its length of seven notes.[3] Loudspeaker.svgPlay 
Motif from Ravel's String Quartet, first movement.[4] Loudspeaker.svgPlay 
"Curse" motif from film scores, associated with villains and ominous situations. Loudspeaker.svgPlay