The Art-Forms of Music, Letters: L-N

  Article Tools

Print This Page

E-mail This Page To A Friend

J-K (No Listing)



In music, the title of compositions that are based on some legend of saints. But today the title is frequently given by composers to shorter instrumental compositions of an elegiac character which have no underlying programme whatever.


A term made popular mainly by Wagner, and applied to the musical phrases which constitute the basic material out of which he constructed his musical dramas. Previously Weber had used so-called typical phrases, the object of which was to recall a similar situation. In the works of his second period (Dutchman, Tannhauser, Lohengrin), Wagner makes extensive use of the typical phrase. The phrase characterizing the Dutchman or Lohengrin's warning phrase are heard repeatedly, but they undergo no organic changes, i.e. they are always literal repetitions, even if the instrumentation is varied. It was in Florence that Wagner first conceived the idea of expressing the chief personages and situations of his dramas by means of typical phrases. Any changes of states of the persons were to be represented by corresponding changes of the fundamental typical phrase. The whole music was to be thematically developed from these simple motives, which he thus very happily characterized as leading motives. Whereas the typical phrase recalled only similar situations, the leitmotiv characterizes, i.e. represents, essential qualities of persons, things, and even abstract thoughts. Wagner's genius for musical characterization enabled him to invent pregnant motives. Thus he is enabled to give typical musical representations of individual persons (Siegfried, Hunding, Kundry), whole classes of persons (Mastersingers, giants, Nibelungs), forces of nature (storm, fire, forest-sounds), mental-states ( Brunnhilde's ecstasy, pleading, Mime's plotting, Kundry's longing), general emotions (love, sympathy, compassion). From these latter it is but a step to the representation of symbolism (love-potion, Tarnhelmet, Ring), and general abstractions (Walhall, fate, curse, grail). The leading motives do not occur as mere literal quotations; they undergo vital changes, so as to adapt themselves to the most exacting demands of the dramatic situation. To produce these changes Wagner has recourse to all the technical devices known to musical art: change of harmony, rhythm, melodic intervals, diminution, extension, inversion, contrapuntal combination of two or more themes. Another important means to vary the expression or emotional character of the leitmotiv is the master's marvelous and unerring instinct for instrumental color.

Through this employment of the Leitmotiv Wagner is enabled to attain perfect dramatic unity. Hence there are no closes or cadences within an act. The leitmotivs make their appearance one after another, are logically developed, run through every act until the climax is reached at the end of the drama. The final scene of Gotterdammerung, for instance, is absolutely unintelligible, unless the hearer has followed the development of the various motives from the beginning of Rheingold. Thus it is seen how the principle of the leitmotiv gives organic unity not only to a single drama, but even to a whole cycle of dramas. For a full exposition of this subject, consult: Finck, Wagner and His Works (New York, 1898); and Wagner, "Ueber die Anwendung der Musik auf das Drama," in Gessamelte Schriften und Dichtungen (10 vols., Leipzig, 1897).


A German term which has no equivalent in any other language, denoting an art-form established by Franz Schubert and extensively cultivated since then by composers of all ranks and nationalities. The Germans also use the term Kunstlied to distinguish the art-form of Schubert from the Volks-lied or folk-song, from which it is a natural development. During the latter half of the eighteenth century several German composers began to compose simple songs which were consciously modeled after the old folk-songs and were called volkstumliche Lieder. J.A. Hiller (1728-1804) may be regarded as the father of this style. A.T. Schulz and his followers created the short symmetrical liedform. By means of this the composer was enabled on the one hand to preserve the unity of mood (Stimmung), on the other to reproduce faithfully the spirit of the individual word by means of proper declamation and harmonization. Schubert's rare genius raised this simple form at once into the domain of the highest musical art. The next step was the broadening of the strophic form into the durch-komponierte Lied. In the strophic form all the verses are set to the same music. The durchkomponierte Lied pays more attention to the individual word by allowing different musical themes for different stanzas. Schubert succeeds in preserving artistic unity by various means, repetition of some musical phrase, insistence upon some rhythmic or melodic figure in the pianopart, etc. Besides Schubert other great composers of the lied are Schumann, R. Franz, Liszt, Rubinstein, Mendelssohn, Jensen, Brahms, Grieg, and Tschaikowski.


A musical form very much employed in instrumental music and borrowed originally from the strophic lied. It consists of three sections with two themes, A,B, A. See Form.

MUSICAL DRAMA or Musikdrama.

A term now generally employed to distinguish the later works of Wagner (Tristan und Isolde, Die Meistersinger, Die Nibelungen, Parsifal) from his earlier ones, or operas (Rienzi, Der fliegende Hollander, Tannhauser, Lohengrin). Of a musico-dramatic work Wagner demands that the literary drama be the first and music the second consideration; whereas in the opera the music was almost the sole consideration. In his introduction to Oper und Drama Wagner declares emphatically: "The error in the art-form of the Opera consisted in the fact that a means of expression (music) was made the end; the end of expression (the drama) a means." After Lohengrin Wagner wrote chiefly theoretical works dealing with the method to be followed by the poet and composer in the production of a new form of art, which was to take the place of the opera. Several years elapsed before he began the composition of Die Nibelungen, according to his new artistic convictions. In the musical drama the fundamental material from which the music is constructed is the leading motive. (See Leitmotiv.) By this means artistic unity is obtained, whereas in the opera the different numbers may be artistic wholes, but can never be welded intimately together into the higher unity of the entire drama. Wagner's musical dramas have exerted a powerful and lasting influence upon all dramatic composers. For full information, the reader is referred to Wagner's Oper und Drama, vols iii.-iv. of his Gesammelte Schriften und Dichtungen, (Leipzig, 1887); Das Kunstwerk der Zukunft, vol. iii. of same ed.; Eine Mitteilung an meine Freunde, vol. iv.; Zukunftsmusik, vol. vii.


The name given by John Field to a composition of a soft, dreamy character somewhat free in form. The greatest master of the nocturne is Chopin, who has filled this form with the loftiest contents.


Website: The History
Article Name: The Art-Forms of Music Letter: L-N
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: From my Collection of Books: The New International Encyclopedia; 1902-1905 Dodd, Mead and Company-New York Total of 21 Volumes
Time & Date Stamp: