From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
- For other uses, see motive
In music, a motif is a perceivable or salient recurring fragment or succession of notes that may be used to construct the entirety or parts of complete melodies and themes. A motif is distinguished from a figure in that a motif is foreground while a figure is background: "A figure resembles a moulding in architecture: it is 'open at both ends', so as to be endlessly repeatable. In hearing a phrase as a figure, rather than a motif, we are at the same time placing it in the background, even if it is...strong and melodious." (Scruton 1997: 61) A motif may be harmonic, melodic (pitch) and/or rhythmic (duration).