Forte, Allen, significant American music theorist; b. Portland, Ore., Dec. 23, 1926. He was educated at Columbia Univ. (B.A., 1950; M.A., 1952), where he served on the faculty of its Teachers Coll. (1953–59). After teaching at the Manhattan School of Music (1957) and the Marines Coll. of Music (1957–59) in N.Y., he joined the faculty of Yale Univ., where he was an instructor (1959–61), asst. prof. (1961–64), assoc. prof. (1964), prof. (1968–91), and the Battell Prof, of the Theory of Music (from 1991). He served as ed. of the Journal of Music Theory (1960–67) and general ed. of the Composers of the Twentieth Century (from 1980). From 1977 to 1982 he was president of the Soc. for Music Theory. In 1981 he held a Guggenheim fellowship. He was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1995. The vol. Music Theory in Concept and Practice (1997), ed. by D. Beach, J. Bernard, and J. Baker, is dedicated to him. Forte’s most important contribution to music theory is an analytic method designed for the explication of atonal music. His Tonal Harmony in Concept and Practice (1962; 3rd ed., 1979) represents an original and sophisticated approach to traditional harmony. In addition to his other books, he has also contributed many articles to scholarly vols. and journals.
Contemporary Tone-Structure (1955); The Compositional Matrix (1961); Tonal Harmony in Concept and Practice (1962; 3rd ed., 1979); The Structure of Atonal Music (1973); The Harmonic Organization of The Rite of Spring (1978); with S. Gilbert, Introduction to Schenkerian Analysis (1982); The American Popular Ballad of the Golden Era 1924–1950 (1995); The Atonal Music of Anton Webern (1998); Listening to Classic American Popular Songs (2000).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire