motive or motif, 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 figure. 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.

Motive or motif may refer to:

In a creative work:

  • Motif (music), a perceivable or salient recurring fragment or succession of notes
  • Motif (narrative), any recurring element in a story that has symbolic significance
  • Motif (visual arts), a recurrent theme or pattern
  • Motif (textile arts), a recurring element or fragment that, when joined together, creates a larger work
  • Motif (chess composition), an element of a move in the consideration of why the piece moves and how it supports the fulfillment of the problem stipulation

In mathematics:

In biochemistry:

  • Sequence motif, a sequence pattern of nucleotides in a DNA sequence or amino acids in a protein
  • Structural motif, a pattern in a protein structure formed by the spatial arrangement of amino acids
  • A repeating pattern of elements in a crystal structure

Relating to intent:

In music:


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