ground

In music, an ostinato (derived from Italian: stubborn, compare English: ‘obstinate’) is a motif or phrase that persistently repeats in the same musical voice, usually at the same pitch. The best-known ostinato-based piece may be Ravel’s BolĂ©ro. The repeating idea may be a rhythmic pattern, part of a tune, or a complete melody in itself. Both ostinatos and ostinati are accepted English plural forms, the latter reflecting the word’s Italian etymology. Strictly speaking, ostinati should have exact repetition, but in common usage, the term covers repetition with variation and development, such as the alteration of an ostinato line to fit changing harmonies or keys. Within the context of film music, Claudia Gorbman defines an ostinato as a repeated melodic or rhythmic figure that propel scenes that lack dynamic visual action. Ostinato plays an important part in improvised music, rock and jazz, in which it is often referred to as a riff or vamp. A “favorite technique of contemporary jazz writers,” ostinati are often used in modal and Latin jazz, traditional African music including Gnawa music, and boogie-woogie.