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Wagnerheim Bookmark System
The Ring of the Nibelung
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  • / -- a backslash, “/,” between two or more motifs, for instance, #33/#20b, indicates that Wagner has combined the motifs in some way

  • [[# ]] --  indicates the first definitive occurrence of a numbered motif in the context of the score and libretto

  • Voc -- indicates the specified music, or motif, is sung. For instance: “Woglinde: (#4 Voc:) Weia! Waga! Welter, you wave, swirl round the cradle (:#4 Voc)!”

  • Orch -- Indicates the specified music, or motif, is played by the orchestra. For instance: “(#7 Orch: His progress repeatedly obstructed, Alberich Clambers to the top of the ledge with goblin-like agility).” In appropriate instances the specific instrument or section of the orchestra which plays the identified passage is named.

  • a, b, etc. -- Dr. Dunning has subdivided some motifs according to identifiable, distinguishable segments, which are sometimes heard independently within the Ring. Such segments are identified by smaller case letters following the motif’s identifying number. For example, the “Valhalla Motif” #20 has five distinguishable segments, #20abcde, which will often be heard separately.

  • A, B -- Wherever a motif number is followed by an upper case letter, this indicates a variant of the Definitive Motif which sounds sufficiently like the Definitive Motif to be listed under its number, but sounds sufficiently different from the Definitive Motif to warrant designation as a key Variant. In some cases, such variants acquire a conceptual resonance which is kin to, but distinct from, the original motif from which it was derived. For instance, #81B is a very distinctive Variant of #81A, which has independent conceptual significance yet remains thematically akin to the original motif #81A (both musically and in terms of dramatic import).

  • Vari -- A “variant” of a motif is sufficiently similar to the original motif to be identified by its number, but sufficiently distinct from it to be classified as a variant of the original, or “Definitive” motif. In some instances a motif is so thoroughly transformed or varied in the course of the music-drama, both musically and in terms of its dramatic context and/or meaning, that it has been given its own identifying number as an entirely independent motif. In such instances, however, its musical genealogy will be indicated. A classic example, first described by Deryck Cooke, is the transformation of #19, the “Ring Motif”, into #20a, the initial segment of the “Valhalla Motif.” And the Spear Motif #21, as demonstrated by Deryck Cooke, undergoes an astonishing series of transformations. Such cases often have great significance in interpreting the drama.

  • Frag -- A fragment of a musical motif, not necessarily identifiable as a lettered segment.

  • > -- A specific motif transforms into another motif which thus has a musical kinship to the original, but is sufficiently distinct from its parent to warrant its own identifying number. An example: #19>#20a.

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