Finding The Motif


Hey, welcome to twelve-tone today. We're gonna talk about motifs are small recognizable chunks of melody that recur and transform throughout a composition. They help to give it a sense of overall identity and are often the most memorable parts of a piece check this out.

Did you notice how this figure seemed to keep cropping up it's a little different every time starting on different pitches and different registers and containing different intervals, but you can still recognize it as the same? Basic shape that's, a motif. There are three main types of motifs. The first is a harmonic motif, which is just a set of chords. These chords can be played with different orchestrations at different tempos and under different melodies with their recurrence, serving as a sort of connection between disparate sections of a composition. But most of the things we generally think of as motifs fall into the latter two categories, melodic and rhythmic. Melodic.

Motifs are a set of notes in a specific order. Without reference to rhythm harmony or diatonic function in practice. These are rarely strictly defined more often their general melodic shapes, which vary based on harmonic considerations and melodic needs. We saw this in our example above sometimes.

We went up a half-step sometimes a whole. It depended on where we were in the scale. Finally, rhythmic motifs are a specific recognizable rhythmic pattern.

These can be played with any set of notes over any set of chords. They can utilize any of the. Rhythmic tricks, we've covered, they just need to stand out. And of course, you can also combine these types of motifs in general.

The most recognizable motifs are both melodic and rhythmic. Using both elements together, really helps the listener identify the thematic content. But in order to sound so distinctive, they must have to be really complicated right? Well, no, for instance, here's, one of the most famous motifs of all time from Beethoven's fifth symphony, yeah, that's.

It pretty basic rhythm. Just two. Different notes. And yet, if you've heard the symphony, you know how much he does with if it's basically all he does for the entire first movement.

And if you haven't heard the symphony, go, listen to it seriously, it's, a classic for a reason motifs are especially useful in operas, musicals and film scoring where they can be associated with specific characters. For instance, if I play this many of you are suddenly thinking about sharks, why there's nothing particularly Shark about minor seconds? And yet. Anyone who's seen jaws or even just heard the music will instantly recognize that as the Sharks theme in our head, the motif is the character this usage is called a light motif, and they're incredibly powerful. They can even be used to evoke a character's presence without actually showing the character in Jaws, many of the shark scenes, don't include any on-screen shark at all just the ominous strings. Another interesting way to use these as lyrical motifs where instead of repeating a piece of melody.

You repeat a set of words, often recontextualizing a previous statement. This is again, especially useful in theatrical settings where this sort of callback can help tie together an entire show for a great example. Look at how many ways. The line look around is used in Hamilton. We haven't talked much about lyrics yet. But maybe we should if that would interest you, let me know in the comments.

Finally, some composers and theorists like to differentiate between motifs and themes in. This sense, the motif is a foreground piece, largely in the melody designed to capture the listeners attention and clearly drive home the repetition. Whereas a theme sits in the background and may not even be consciously noticed by part of your audience, but its existence provides a subtle sense of depth and connection and gives people little Easter eggs to find in subsequent listening and that's motifs try the exercises join our mailing list for skint of all our episodes feel free to suggest. Future topics in the comments and keep on rocking.

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