motive

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motive

or

motif

(mōtēf`), in music, a short phrase or passage of two or more notes and repeated or elaborated throughout the composition. The term is usually used synonymously with figurefigure,
in music, short melodic or rhythmic pattern, the smallest grouping of notes that will produce a single distinct impression. In this sense figure is synonymous with motive. In music before the 18th cent.
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. A special kind of motive is the leitmotiv, wherein a character or a dramatic idea is represented throughout an opera by one or more motives. The leitmotiv technique is almost as old as opera itself, but its most extensive application is found in Wagner's works.