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Section 11.1 Motive

A motive (or motif) is the smallest identifiable melodic idea in music. However, we will find times when it will be necessary to discuss a smaller fragment (called a “germ” by some authors) from a motive.

In the following example from the first movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1, we find four motives within the first four measures of the primary theme.

Figure 11.1.1 Beethoven, Symphony No. 1, Op. 21, I, Motives in Primary Theme

Later in the movement we find Beethoven extracting motives from this four-measure phrase in order to develop them through sequences.

Here is development of motive 1.

Figure 11.1.2 Beethoven, Symphony No. 1, I, development of motive 1

Here is development of motive 2

Figure 11.1.3 Beethoven, Symphony No. 1, I, development of motive 2

Here is development of motives 2 and 3 together.

Figure 11.1.4 Beethoven, Symphony No. 1, I, development of motives 2 and 3

The previous excerpt leads directly into the next, which features development of motive 4.

In the next section, we will look at some of the various ways one can alter a melody

Figure 11.1.5 Beethoven, Symphony No. 1, I, development of motive 4