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Humanities LibreTexts

5.1: Repetition, Variation, and Contrast

  • Page ID
    91149
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    As listeners we recognize the repetition musical ideas. When musicians structure a form they utilize repetition of melodies, rhythms, chord progressions, and metric cycles to create organization units. Small musical ideas that are developed and repeated throughout a piece are called motives. A highly recognizable example of a motive used in Western Art Music is the “three-shorts and a long” motive that is heard at the beginning of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. If a motive is repeated continuously it is referred to as an ostinato. Themes are generally longer (or more substantial) than motives. Themes are melodies or rhythms that are repeated or varied throughout a musical work.