Monday, December 24, 2012

What is a Leitmotiv, and Why Does It Matter?

Welcome to Leitmotif December! This is going to be one of my many attempts to write multiple articles around the same theme in a single month. Given my track record for updates thus far, I figure it's a fairly lofty goal. But I have some pretty fun ideas, and I'd love to share them with you!

This first article deals with exactly what a leitmotif is and how it works within the realm of video games. There have been many arguments within the academic community about what a leitmotif really is; it's a term that is most closely identified with German composer Richard Wagner (although it was used more by his critics than by the man himself), and many definitions of leitmotivs come from the analysis of Wagner's work. Since a strict definition of the term was never pinned down, scholars argue about the use of the term when describing movie soundtracks, game soundtracks, and other media music. This article will aim to provide a working definition of the term, the controversy that the term inspires, and a deeper look into the usage of the term when talking about game music.

A leitmotif, in its simplest form, is defined as a short musical passage that often repeats and is associated with a person, place, thing, or idea. On the surface, it's pretty easy to see how this idea applies to video game music.

One look at this stage should be enough to tell you why.