Reference Entry

theme

in The Oxford Companion to Music


Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199579037

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A term most commonly used to denote the principal melodic passages of tonal music, and of non-tonal music which retains the feature of melodic continuity. ‘Theme’ usually refers to complete phrases or periods, in contrast to the terms ‘idea’ or ‘motif’, and is used typically of the more important melodic passages. Thus the first and second themes (or ‘subjects’) of a sonata-form movement may expose most of the melodic material of the piece and carry the greatest structural weight. Such a view of tonal forms in general is often called ‘thematicism’, especially when it attempts to show that apparently heterogeneous themes have one common source in a movement or work....

Reference Entry.  221 words. 

Subjects: Music

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