Leitmotifs or leitmotiv is a word meaning leading motif in German. A musical theme, which usually recurs, it mostly appears in operas but at times also in symphonic poems. Leitmotif is associated with a particular person, place, or idea. It might be a short tune, but can also be a chord or a rhythm. The musical motif is defined as ‘’a short musical idea, melodic or rhythmic’’. It functions to reinforce an action mostly dramatic to provide an insight that is psychological to the characters, also to suggest or recall additional musical ideas to the listeners that are relevant to exciting events. To a great – scale works, the transformation, or repetition of themes gives the works its cohesion. The writers who were analyzing the dramas and music, a work of Richard Wagner were among the first ones to use the term. They represented different themes which applied to his various works. Leitmotif is sometimes employed in movies or video games. It usually concerned with operas of Richard Wagner because it helps to make the story more dramatic thus binding it together. It makes music to understand too. In operas, leitmotif tends to change with the characters thus creating a dramatic effect.
Leitmotifs have been used in many large works of symphonic for suggesting certain moods or ideas but are mostly associated with operas Richard Wagner’s’. The evolution brings about inspiration that Richard Wagner’s portrays further. It is partly manifested in cyclic development that was first used in the romantic eras by Felix Mendelssohn, but they were later commonly known after that period where the form and other musical techniques have been widely used developed and explored. An example in modern films includes the Star Wars series, John Williams being the composer uses a large number of themes which are specifically associated with concepts and people, for example, one particular motif engages on the idea of forces while the other to the presence of Darth Vader. A modern film uses leitmotifs that create the sense of attachment that mainly sounds to evoke audiences and makes them feel special emotions when certain sounds are repeated through the movie.
The presence of the leitmotifs enables one to indicate someone or something that is present in the scene but not visible in the frame. At sometimes when leitmotif is played one can know that it suggests a character, place, idea, etc., which is, not physically present in the scene but is brought about or somehow has an impact on the contemporary views. In the Godfather, for instance, the famous scene in which the movie producer wakes up to find a served horse’s in his bed, motifs is heard associated with the Godfather, and it clarifies that the deed was conducted on the Godfather’s request.
The presence of the leitmotifs enables one to express an emotional quality of the thing that it refers to. A perfect example is the romantic sound melodies in high strings or some of the heroic sounds in trumpets.
Since leitmotif operates in present tense, be it an onscreen presence, off screen, or even psychological, the leitmotif will carry the same weight as the proper name. It provides clues to the audience and in turn, provides practical help to the composer in his task of composition under no pressure.
The presence of the leitmotifs enables one to identify the two dramatic functions which are distinct; they can operate together or separately. The first one is dramatic events (allusion) while transformation is the second one. A perfect example is in Von Weber’s Carl Maria opera (The Magic Marksman) here Max hesitates to descend into the wolves while the orchestra and Glen echo choruses which are mocking in order to tease him like the first part of the act.