Created By: Elle on June 1, 2011 Last Edited By: Elle on February 12, 2013

Dramatis Musica

A distinctive piece of music plays an important, often emotional role in the story.

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Needs a Better Title - the existing one is Dog Latin modeled after "dramatis persone").

A song or piece of music that exists In-Universe and plays just as much a role in the story as the characters or events - the plot doesn't have to be about the music, but the story would be very different without it.

Music used in this fashion tends to have some sort of personal significance to one or more characters. It tends to be introduced as a background element at an earlier point and is brought forward later at a moment of emotional climax. Applications vary widely: from the mundane, such as a link to an important event or memory, or an instance of Music for Courage, to something approaching The Power of Love in musical form, with ability to turn the tide in an "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight or inspire a character to great heights. It is not The Power of Rock, however, in which the music has actual supernatural power.

Compare with Theme Music Power-Up.



  • The eponymous Mr Hollands Opus. Mr. Holland tries to write his Magnum Opus but his "temporary" job as a music teacher gets in the way. But his teaching inspires thirty years worth of students, whom by the end of the film, come together for him to play the finished piece.
  • In Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Greys teach their abductees a five-note song, which becomes the chorus of "the conversation" - and the central Leitmotif of the soundtrack.
    What are we saying to each other?
    It seems they're trying to teach us a basic tonal vocabulary. It's the first day of school, fellas.
  • In Music and Lyrics, there are a number of in-Universe songs that play a role in the plot, most notably:


  • Halley's Fourth and Fifths concerto from Atlas Shrugged fills this role: Dangy, whose favourite piece of music is Halley's Fourth, hears it in her head at pivotal moments of triumph such as the opening of the John Galt rail line. Meahwhile, she overheard a train conductor actually Galt working incognito whistling a song he identified as Halley's Fifth concerto...a piece which the rest of the world knew he had never finished before he disappeared. The search for Halley's Fifth is one of the clues that eventually leads her to Galt himself.

  • Discworld's Night Watch: "All the little angels"", the soldier's song sang by the Watchmen who fought and died in its Glourious Revolution of Treacle Mine Road 30 years prior to the main timeline. Sam Vimes, having been thrown back into an alternate timeline, has already lived through the events: the song first appears in his memories as a portent of doom. But this is an alternate history and it has Sam Vimes in it... it does turn out different, but not exactly better.

Live-Action TV

  • The flute music in "The Inner Light" episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, popularly cited as one of the series best episodes: Picard is mentally transported by an alien probe into the memory-recreation of an extinct race of Human Aliens, and lives out a whole alternate life where he grows old and has children and grandchildren (a path closed to him in his real career). His alternate self learns to play a flute and composes a song for his daughter's naming ceremony which is also the Leftmotif of the episode. When Picard comes back to reality, the probe is opened and the flute is found inside: the episode ends with him alone in his quarters playing the song.

Video Games

  • "Althena's Song" in Lunar: The Silver Star and its remakes. Alex and Luna were originally going to play/sing it together at Burg's festival. It's the key to getting through to Luna in the form of a Brainwashed and Crazy Goddess Althena, so that Alex can get close enough to save her.
    • In the expended story of Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete, after Luna has been kidnapped by the Magic Emperor, Alex and the party arrive at the lake of the Blue Dragon shrine. To reveal it, a couple in love must stand on the pier and sing together. After the other party member's failed attempts, Alex stands on the pier alone and plays the song - even though Luna's imprisoned some hundred miles away, she "hears" the song and starts singing with him....joined slowly by the other young girls imprisoned with her. The result is having the shrine revealed, but also a very moving scene.
Community Feedback Replies: 21
  • June 1, 2011
  • June 4, 2011
    Bump. There's gotta be more examples...
  • June 4, 2011
  • June 4, 2011
    Wander My Friends is Battlestar Galactica's leitmotif for the relationship between Bill Adama and his son. Those unfamiliar with the title probably know it as "those awesome bagpipes."
  • June 4, 2011
    • Edith Piaf's "Non, je ne regrette rien" in Inception
  • June 4, 2011
    The eponymous Mr Hollands Opus. Mr. Holland tries to write his Magnum Opus but his "temporary" job as a music teacher gets in the way.
  • June 4, 2011
    @Octagon8: Need more info. @fulltimeD: I'm not sure that counts. Though I haven't seen BSG, one of the stipulations is that the music has to exist in the fiction, not just the soundtrack. If it fits that then more detail is needed. @ghaweyrio That fits the in-universe requirement but I'm not sure it fits what I have in mind. "Je ne regrette rien" is appropriate to the movie theme, but what is there about the song itself the moves the plot and/or characters?
  • October 2, 2011
    Bump. I would like to launch this, but not with this title.
  • October 2, 2011
    Would these count:

  • October 2, 2011
    Not 100% sure about Close Encounters, but I'll call it "close enough" - I haven't seen the film. Music And Lyrics, definitely yes.
  • October 2, 2011
    In the book and movie Anna To The Infinite Power, a recurring piece of music helps the lead realize that she has the Cloning Blues. In the book, it's Chopin, but original music was composed for the film.
  • October 2, 2011
    Live Action TV

    • In the episode "Father Knows Best" from the first season of Dexter, the song "Have You Ever Seen The Rain?" by Creedence Clearwater Revival is shown to be important to Dexter, as it reminds him of his biological father who he barely knew. The song plays several times throughout the episode, and slips into Soundtrack Dissonance at the end when Rudy is shown entering the house of the elderly and senile neighbor who knows too much.
  • October 3, 2011
    This seems to be the supertrope of Dream Melody.
  • October 24, 2011
  • March 4, 2012
    Bump again.
  • March 4, 2012
    In an episode of Star Trek The Next Generation called The Survivors, the away team encounters an elderly couple who are the only survivors of an alien attack. When Troi opens their music box the music gets stuck in her head and plays over and over and drives her insane. Of course the couple turns out not to be what they seem, and the music was planted in Troi's mind deliberately to keep her from using her telepathic ability to figure out that the old man isn't human and his wife is a solid hologram.
  • March 4, 2012
    In the movie That Thing You Do the band are one-hit-wonders and the eponymous song is the one hit that rockets them to fame. Naturally the song gets a lot of play in the movie.
  • March 4, 2012
    In An American Tail Fievel's father composes a song for him on the violin. Often while Fievel is lost in New York he follows violin music, thinking it might be his father. At the end of the movie, Fievel's dad finds him by riding around the city on the back of a cat, playing Fievel's song on the violin.
  • March 4, 2012
    In an episode of The Danny Thomas Show, Danny sings "You've Gotta Have Heart" (from Damn Yankees )to his son Rusty after a baseball-related setback. Later in the show, the owners of the Little League team fire Danny as coach in favor of Joe Di Maggio. Danny plans retribution until his family sing the song to him as a reminder of good sportsmanship.
  • September 27, 2012
    Tina Majorino's character in Waterworld is frequently heard humming a little tune while she draws. I don't recall whether the other characters remark on it, but in the film's finale, she finds a music box that plays the same melody when she opens it up. Her response: "I'm home."
  • February 12, 2013
    • In Dirk Gentlys Holistic Detective Agency the viewpoint character loves Bach's music. It turns out that due to time travel he helps to create Bach's music in the first place.
    • A Clockwork Orange: Ludwig van Beethoven is Alex's favorite composer and the 9th symphony his favorite of Beethoven's works, but due to it being used as the background music for his "treatment" he gets violently ill whenever he hears it.