Have you ever wanted your own musical theme which always accompanies you wherever you go? I have. And, at times, I do have one; inside my head. It is not one of those nagging pop tunes that just keeps repeating itself mindlessly once you hear it. It is changeable though, according to my mood and circumstance. Sometimes there are lyrics with it, sometimes not. It is not that profound or mood changing, but it is just a part of me.
Dictionary.com's "Word of the Day" says: 1. In music drama, it is a marked melodic phrase or short passage which always accompanies the reappearance of a certain person, situation, abstract idea or allusion in the course of a play or opera; a sort of musical label. 2. A dominant and recurring theme.
Leitmotif (leitmotiv) is from German Leitmotiv, "leading motif", from leiten, "to lead" (from Old High German leitan) + Motiv, "motif" from the French. It is especially associated with the operas of German composer Richard Wagner.
An up-to-date example of its modern use would be in my wife's favorite "Soap" DOOL* "Days of our Lives". The archetypal villain, Sephano Dimara, has just reappeared, like the "phoenix" of old to complicate and threaten the good lives of the "Bradys" etc. and his leitmotif is his constant playing of "Die Valkyrie" from "Der Ring des Nibelungen" by Richard Wagner. It is classically ominous. Even though he is Italian and he has a vendetta against the Bradys, an Irish family, he just loves this Norse themed opera. It just heightens the suspense and flesh-crawling quality of the soap's summer episodes.
There are those in my family to whom I could easily assign a leitmotif. They would also vary but have an over-riding theme and mood. It is fun to do. Music has that ability to move me and help me understand life's circumstances and those around me. The classic example for my wife and I was my choosing the theme from "Tristan und Isolde" (also Wagnerian) for one of our Wedding songs. Of course we had the traditional ones, sung by our favorite baritone, wedding singer from our church, but I just had to have this leitmotif. I wouldn't use the word "pathos" for our wedding, but it has that quality of yearning. There are certain Italian Opera Arias, especially tenor ones, which also have the same effect on me.
Voltaire is quoted: "Anything too stupid to be said, is sung." I disagreed, sorry, Voltaire. I would say, "Anything too profound to be said, is sung." From the early cavemen, who probably gathered for the first concerts at the mouth of enormous caves with the first percussion insturments and vocal to the latest rock concerts under the stars in gigantic amphitheaters, trivial and profound communication does take place and we are moved. Digital recordings of it now just don't do it justice. Live performances stir the soul for me. I only wish that the best concert venues, i.e. The Disney Concert Hall in downtown L.A., weren't so out of reach for me. Rarely do you get any big concerts, even at the colleges anymore. Everything is eventually recorded and put on the smallest of screens like ipods etc. Big thrill!
Maybe that's what "heaven" (or hell) will be like for me...one massive concert after another of all my LEITMOTIFS forever after... Ah Bliss! Bob!