[Smt-talk] Allen Forte (1926-2014)

Charles J. Smith cjsmith at buffalo.edu
Sun Oct 19 13:01:03 PDT 2014

It's a phrase that these days is often trivialized, and is regrettably overused throughout the media, but as far as our discipline is concerned, Allen Forte's passing really does mark the end of an era.

A sad day for the discipline, but also a day for hopeful reflection, on how far we have grown and developed, and how much we owe to Allen—to his scholarship, to his steady leadership through a critical time, and to the inspiration he offered to so many.

If I can be forgiven a personal recollection, I am taken back to 1975, when a bunch of presumptuous graduate students at Michigan, with no credentials and no grounds whatsoever for making a plausible pitch, launched In Theory Only out of the blue. We sent out letters to a couple of dozen of the most prominent theorists we could think of, inviting them to subscribe to an unknown and unprecedented venture. Why any of them would have accepted this offer is still a mystery, but many did. Including Allen, who probably had many reasons to mistrust our judgment and our motives, but instead saw only the potential and the promise for the discipline. That sort of vision for the future wasn't common then, and still isn't. 

I hope that SMT is already working to establish some kind of permanent memorial to Allen, perhaps a way of helping young scholars whose love of music is comparable to his. In any case, we are all incomparably richer for his having passed through our lives.

Charles Smith

> Allen Forte died this morning. His wife, Madeleine, forwarded the following obituary (although no one on this list needs an introduction to such an esteemed figure). See the end for information about the service.
> Allen Forte, born on December 23 1926 in Portland, Oregon, passed peacefully  in his Connecticut home on  Thursday October 16 2014 at 8:00 am. During World War II he served in the American Navy from 1944 to 1946 on the U.S.S. General Butner in the Pacific. Thanks to the G.I. bill he attended Columbia University where he received his masters and doctorate and taught at Teachers College. He also taught at M.I.T., Harvard University, and Yale University, where during forty four and half years he advised seventy two Ph.D. students as Battell Professor of the Theory of Music and as a leading speculative music theorist.  He was a Founder and First President of the Society of Music Theory, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He received an Honorary Doctorate from the Eastman School of Music. He has earned critical acclaim with twelve scholarly books and one hundred articles. The Structure of Atonal Music (1973) ranks as one of the most important contributions 
> to music theory in the twentieth century. His use of the computer as well as traditional means of analysis has led to fuller knowledge of musical structure and thereby enhanced both the understanding and the enjoyment of music.
> He is survived by his wife concert pianist Madeleine Forte, her sons, and her grandchildren.
> There will be a service at the Veterans Memorial Cemetery. The address is: Veterans' Cemetery, 317 Bow Lane, Middletown, CT. Please contact Madeleine Forte at madeleineforte at yahoo.com or allen.forte at yale.edu
> forwarded by
> David Carson Berry
> Associate Professor of Music Theory
> Univ. of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music
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Charles J. Smith
Slee Chair of Music Theory & Director of Graduate Studies
Department of Music, 220 Baird Hall
University at Buffalo
Buffalo, NY 14260
716-645-0639 [academic office]
716-645-3824 [fax]
cjsmith at buffalo.edu

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