Here's a leit motif, called the "Cathedral Motif," that weaves its way through the entire score of Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame.
We hear it, for example, in D major when Clopin sings with reverence about the bells of Notre Dame.
We also hear it, for instance, in D minor when Frollo sings about his soul descending into Hell.
What do you think?
It's well-known among film music fans that leit motifs represent certain characters, emotions, or ideas.
But so, so, so often, leit motifs are more complicated than that. As the cool kids say, leit motifs can be semantically flexible: carrying a wide array of meanings that ebb and flow over the course of a film.
This is certainly the case with the "Cathedral Motif," which perhaps shows how a Cathedral can be a place of both sanctuary and imprisonment, or how a soul (in Christian theology, at least) can ascend to Heaven or descend to Hell, or how religion can be (ab)used for both good and evil.
And it's also the case with other leit motifs in Hunchback, such as the theme from "Out There" that we also hear during Quasimodo's public humiliation, or the recitative-like melody with which both Quasimodo and Frollo sing so much of their music.
But enough of what I have to say. What do you think? I'm really curious to know!
Sam Zerin is a PhD student in musicology at New York University and a former lecturer in music theory at NYU, Brown University, and the Borough of Manhattan Community College. He also runs Social Media Music Theory (@SocialMediaMus1)