from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A short melody or pattern that is constantly repeated, usually in the same part at the same pitch.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun music A piece of melody, a chord progression, or a bass figure that is repeated over and over as a musical accompaniment.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun a musical phrase repeated over and over during a composition


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Italian, from Latin obstinātus, stubborn, past participle of obstināre, to persist; see obstinate.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Italian ostinato ("stubborn").



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  • "He drank from the glass. In the midst of failure all the sounds he heard seemed very neat. The sounds of April were unlike any others. No leaves on the trees. No vegetation to dampen reflection and diffusion. He heard the last rush-hour traffic from Glostrup. The distant drone from Ring Road 4. The birds in the bogs. Voices of the seamstresses. Cheered by the sunset. By closing time. Yet, not completely present. A part of their systems was already on the way home. Most of them had children. Women's voices developed a certain gravity when they had children. An ostinato."

    - 'The Quiet Girl', Peter Høeg.

    March 18, 2008

  • The rustle of the child-molesters luring their prey into vans. Warbling of the spinsters. The soft pirip-pirip of the Lyme tics in the grass. The merry laughter of the calf-roping chartered accountants in the schoolyard. The soft whimpering of Miss Smilla, as she is repeatedly pecked by the seagulls of despair. The blond acolytes in single file, each with a bun in the oven, looking forward to that evening's repast. Sauerbraten mit Apfelkompott. The delicate filigree of angelhair pasta. A fragrant osso buco. Followed by that rarest of sweet treats - the child-molester chocolate souffle.

    April 12, 2008

  • Hey, can you pluck that up and insert (no purchase necessary) on my Miss Smilla list, coming soon?! Pretty psychoplease with a Fiji apple on top?

    April 12, 2008

  • Peter Høeg's neatly accurate characterisation of bariolage in the same novel had me impressed. This is less clear. If he is saying that "all the sounds he heard" were coming together to create an ostinato according to musical definition then that makes sense.

    But if (and this is how I interpreted it on first read) he is using "ostinato" to extend the idea of women's voices acquiring gravity after having children, then it makes no sense at all. Unless he is being wicked and making a subtle reference to the fact that women with children are more likely to have to repeat the same small things over and over, i.e. ostinato = nagging.

    April 12, 2008

  • riff: a jazz ostinato; usually provides a background for a solo improvisation

    February 27, 2010