RELATED TERMS: Music
A leitmotif or leitmotiv, meaning leading motif, is a recurring musical theme associated with a particular person, place, or idea. By extension, it is also taken to mean any sort of recurring theme, whether in music, literature or the life of a fictional character or a real person. Leitmotifs can help to bind a work together into a coherent whole, and also enable the composer to relate a story without the use of words, or to add an extra level to an already present story.
In the context of the design of narrative environments, the sense of leitmotif as threading device, consisting of an image or a sound or an action or a phrase that recurs, to remind the reader, audience or participant of states or agents, usually characters in the story possibky also other agents such as objects or forces, is mos relevant. In this sense, it was originated by Wagner for the range of melodies that cluster round the characters, objects and states in his operas. Transformation in leitmotifs depict transformations in the elements to which they are attached. They are a very powerful structural tool.