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Leitmotif / Music

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"Now, in our story, the characters are represented by instruments in the symphony orchestra. For example, the bird by the high sounds of the flute..."
Narrator, Peter and the Wolf

  • The Alien-like "Weeow Waoow Waooh" sounds in Jeff Wayne's The War of the Worlds musical, That and the martian ULLA.
  • Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf is composed solely of leitmotifs and narration, and is frequently used to introduce the concept to children.
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  • Les Luthiers' Teresa y el Oso, which directly parodies Peter and the Wolf, does this to the extreme. The characters also have silly rhyming names in Spanish: "El Pajarillo Amarillo" (The Yellow Birdie), "La Mariposa Golosa" (The Sweet-toothed Butterfly), "El Molusco Pardusco" (The Brownish Molusk) and, most notably, "El Oso Libidinoso" (The Libidinous Bear).
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic: "And of course, as always, the part of Bob the Janitor is played by the accordion." (He also tried to get Don Ameche to play the grandfather, but was stuck with a bassoon instead.)
  • Richard Wagner may be considered the KING of the Leitmotif; though he was not its inventor, he certainly made the most extensive, elaborate, and probably the most intelligent use of it throughout the canon of his works. His great Ring Cycle, for instance, consists almost entirely of a symphonic/dramatic development and interweaving of motives and themes and had a good 30 or 40 different ones in it!
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  • Jim Steinman, best known as the songwriter for Meat Loaf's "Bat Out Of Hell" albums, interconnected many of his songs with stock phrases, imagery, and leitmotifs. Not surprisingly, he coined the term "Wagnerian rock" to describe his style.
  • Karel Husa's four movement piece "Music for Prague 1968" has a few of these as well. The piccolo at the beginning and end of movt. 1 represents a songbird, the symbol for freedom. The ending sounds like it's dying. One part of the first movt. introduces the brass section, which represents the Soviets marching in and attacking with tanks and guns. A pretty good example of the first movt. is found here, though the best way to listen to this would be to close your eyes and imagine what it would've been like.
  • Death metal band Bolt Thrower have the centrepiece song on most of their albums begin with a fade into the same riff, developing over the years. In its first iteration, World Eater, and in most since, it is also the outro to the song.
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  • Coheed and Cambria have the "Time Skip" leitmotif appearing on several tracks across multiple albums, denoting...well, guess.
  • Richard Strauss's "An Alpine Symphony" has several leitmotifs of descriptive significance. One of the main themes is the "Ascent" motif, an inversion of which is used for the descent.
  • The Beach Boys/ Brian Wilson's S Mi LE features multiple, distinct variations of the Bycicle Rider theme and of the centerpiece Heroes and Villains; so many ,in fact, that most of the songs of the album could be thought as subsections of it. Its actual symbolism is up to discussion, due to the fragmented and unfinished character of the work, but it seems to represent the theme of travel throughout history and America from Plymouth to Hawaii.
  • The I Fight Dragons album The Near Future has the tune of Prelude repeat multiple times throughout.
  • Frank Zappa used them heavily in many works, and some consist entirely of successions of leitmotifs.
  • The Wall: All parts of "Another Brick In the Wall" have a similar arrangement, which reappears in "Hey You", "Waiting for the Worms", and "The Trial". Supposedly this represents vital moments involving Pink's metaphorical wall; in all parts of "Another Brick In the Wall", it represents The Wall's construction. In "Hey You", it represents Pink realizing he made a mistake isolating himself. In "Waiting for the Worms", it represents Pink's descent into fascism. In "The Trial", it reappears near the end when The Judge orders him to tear down the wall for good.
  • The Downward Spiral has a simple melody repeat a few times throughout the album. Starting in "Piggy", and later becoming the main melody of the title track.
  • Neo-Prog band Citizen Cain's 2002 album Playing Dead has a melancholy theme that recurs throughout many of the songs, in keeping with the band's typically dark and gloomy lyrics.


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