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Understanding the Leitmotif: From Wagner to Hollywood Film Music

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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 bo 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.


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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 bo 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.

43 review for Understanding the Leitmotif: From Wagner to Hollywood Film Music

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ian Schiffman

    A very theoretical look at the history and usage of the Wagnerian leitmotif, Understanding the Leitmotif boils down to one core idea: a leitmotif is more than an associative theme; it is an active participant in the drama, changing and transmogrifying in accordance with the story. Though it is a bit dense at times, it still succeeds in defining Wagnerian leitmotivic practice and its legacy and influence on modern classical music and contemporary film scores.

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