Schoenberg says that the melody of a motive may be adapted to changes in the harmony "[b]y transposition," "[b]y addition of passing harmonies," or "[b]y 'semi-contrapuntal' treatment of the accompaniment" (Fundamentals of musical composition, page 10). To illustrate the latter two of these three techniques, he points to Ex. 29 (see picture).

Why does Schoenberg think of "'semi-contrapuntal treatment' of the accompaniment" as a kind of adaptation of the motive's melody to changes in the motive's harmony? Is Schoenberg thinking that, in the context of semi-counterpoint, the melody doesn't reside wholly in the main voice? Is that the reason?

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  • I think you mean motif - gingersoftware.com/english-online/spelling-book/confusing-words/…
    – Tetsujin
    Sep 28, 2023 at 16:59
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    @Tetsujin Schoenberg always says 'motive' not 'motif'. Also, 'motif' sounds like a loanword, but we already have the English 'motive'. Also, "motive" sounds better (in my opinion). Also, 'motive' has a richer connotation, since it's also a term in psychology, as you point out. Despite this connotation, context probably almost always suffices to make clear that 'motive' is being used as a (in my opinion, better) synonym of 'motif,' and not as a psychological term.
    – Noah J
    Sep 28, 2023 at 17:26
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    @Tetsujin Yeah none of the professors in the music school at my university say or write "motif", they all say and write "motive". I think some have gotten tired of trying sort out the nuances and we're just picking a single word and running with it. Sep 28, 2023 at 17:37
  • I mean, sure, both words come from the same origin… but their meanings have diverged so far in the intervening years that it's now just weird to try use them interchangeably. Also… did he write in English, or are we always looking at a translation?
    – Tetsujin
    Sep 29, 2023 at 7:24
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    @Tetsujin I’ve seen them defined as alternate ways to spell the word in many textbooks, so in the musical sense my experience is that they are synonyms or alternate spellings. It may be this is historically incorrect, but it’s what has happened to the language. Once a whole generation of students has been taught that motif and motive are the same thing, only the grumpy old purists will care anymore. Also "impact" can now be used as a verb. Doesn’t matter how much I hate that, it’s common usage. Sep 29, 2023 at 15:33


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