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.
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.