An A-to-Z edition of State of the Arts, stopping at the letter “O”… For Ostinato, Orff, and “O Fortuna“…  An Ostinato is a musical idea that’s repeated with an insistent focus – it could be a repeated note, or rhythm, or motivic idea, maybe a repeated bass line that is played against an evolving melody. The word comes from the Italian for ‘obstinate’, since an ostinato refuses to give up, and can generate dramatic momentum with repetition. One of the many examples is the ever-growing “O Fortuna” in Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana – as a choir chants over a determined and repeated accompaniment.

Classical Music is filled with repetition – what makes something an ostinato? It’s really a question of intensity, and the way the gesture is being used.

Gustav Holst used the low strings and percussion to create a rhythmic ostinato for “Mars, the Bringer of War” in his The Planets:

AnAnd here’s the famous “O Fortuna” from Carmina Burana, at :44 seconds in: