Understanding the Leitmotif: From Wagner to Hollywood Film Music

Understanding the Leitmotif: From Wagner to Hollywood Film Music

By: Matthew Bribitzer-Stull (author)Paperback

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The musical leitmotif, having reached a point of particular forcefulness in the music of Richard Wagner, has remained a popular compositional device up to the present day. In this book, Matthew Bribitzer-Stull explores the background and development of the leitmotif, from Wagner to the Hollywood adaptations of The Lord of The Rings and the Harry Potter series. Analyzing both concert music and film music, Bribitzer-Stull explains what the leitmotif is and establishes it as the union of two aspects: the thematic and the associative. He goes on to show that Wagner's Ring cycle provides a leitmotivic paradigm, a model from which we can learn to better understand the leitmotif across style periods. Arguing for a renewed interest in the artistic merit of the leitmotif, Bribitzer-Stull reveals how uniting meaning, memory, and emotion in music can lead to a richer listening experience and a better understanding of dramatic music's enduring appeal.

About Author

Matthew Bribitzer-Stull is Associate Professor of Music Theory at the University of Minnesota. He has presented and published widely on Wagner, nineteenth-century chromatic tonality, musical association, and music theory pedagogy. His articles have appeared in Music Theory Spectrum, the Journal of Music Theory, Music Analysis, Integral, the Journal of Schenkerian Studies, the Journal of Musicological Research, the Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy, The Cambridge Wagner Encyclopedia, and The Legacy of Richard Wagner, among others. He is author of the Anthology for Performance and Analysis (2013) and co-editor of Richard Wagner for the New Millennium: Essays on Music and Culture (2007, with Alex Lubet and Gottfried Wagner, great-grandson of the composer). Winner of the Society for Music Theory Emerging Scholar Award, he has also received a number of teaching awards.


1. Introduction: the leitmotif problem; Part I. Musical Themes: 2. Motive, phrase, melody, and theme; 3. Thematic development, thematic identity: musical themes and the prototype model; Part II. Musical Association: 4. The phenomenon of musical association; 5. Piece specifics, cultural generics, and associative layering; 6. From 'Nibelheim' to Hollywood: the associativity of harmonic progression; Part III. Leitmotifs in Context: 7. The paradigm of Wagner's Ring; 8. Leitmotif in Western art music outside the Ring; 9. The modern-day leitmotif: associative themes in contemporary film music.

Product Details

  • ISBN13: 9781107485464
  • Format: Paperback
  • Number Of Pages: 355
  • ID: 9781107485464
  • weight: 640
  • ISBN10: 1107485460

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