- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Yale University Press (1 July 1977)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0300021208
- ISBN-13: 978-0300021202
- Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 1.8 x 25.4 cm
- Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 98,719 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Structure of Atonal Music Paperback – 1 Jul 1977
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About the Author
Forte is Battell Professor of the Theory of Music at Yale University.
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Top Customer Reviews
Although the book is generally well organised, the presentation can be at times confounding, for example it is almost possible to mistake figure numbers for page numbers, and the appendix mapping the similarity relations is a little challenging to read (it might require a ruler to ensure the tables are being read correctly). The explanations are fairly good, although some sections might require multiple re-readings in order to obtain a sound grasp of the topic, yet this book is (notwithstanding its rigour) more approachable than much literature on this topic, which takes knowledge of the theory as a given. Two other good guides are Rahn: /Basic Atonal Theory/ and Straus: /Introduction to Post-tonal theory/, although it should be noted that there are some small but important differences in methodology, for example in calculating the prime form of a pitch-class set and in the syntax of the set-classes as set out in the index/appendix (although all use the same reference numbers, thankfully [May 2013: although Forte's numeration is almost universally followed in the scholarly literature, I have recently read that the late Elliott Carter used his own idiosyncratic numeration, which is detailed in David Schiff's book]). Ideally, I suggest reading all three in the order: Forte, Rahn (chapters 1 to 3), Straus, Rahn (chapters 4 and 5).Read more ›
I cannot recommend it at all, even though it is often still regarded as #the# book on atonality.
...many of the analytical decisions are arbitrary, and self-serving. Many times examples illustrate a point and don't relate to the composition as a whole, and nowhere does his analysis make 'musical' sense and relate to the acoustic experience of music.
A case in point is Ives Unanswered question, where amongst other things he notes that major and minor chords are the same PC set (a revelation indeed!), and also combines into sets verticalisations that Ives cared nothing for: the strings play independently from the trumpet and winds, and at their own tempo - the verticalisations are fortuitous. To analyse them is to find order in the sound of twelve radios tuned to random stations.
As for the math - only Lewin has perpetrated a more impenetrable explanation of music.
Read something else.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I am deeply engaged in a study of symmetry in 12-pitch music, and Forte's book has been essential to me. The numerous one-star reviews of this book seem unnecessarily bitter and perhaps even a bit irrational.
atonal music. In this role, it is regarded as an
important and seminal work. While it uses a quantitative
language, as does all music theory, and indeed music
itself, it is not a treatise on mathematics.
A few reviews below have criticized Forte for what are
claimed to be mathematical flaws. As a researcher with
a PhD in mathematics and a side interest in composition,
I'd like to counter this. As long as Forte is analysing
music, and not claiming to prove Fermat's Last Theorem,
I'm happy to let him use whatever terminology suits his
purpose. I am no more concerned about his set theory
than I am whether classical harmony is a good number
Pedantry about mathematical terminology in this context
may sound impressive to non-mathematicians but is likely
based on shallow knowledge/understanding of mathematics.
More importantly, it certainly distracts from the central
focus, which is how well Forte's framework contributes to
understanding and composing a certain kind of music.
In particular, a review titled "quackery" below has been found
useful (as of this writing) to 5 of 8 readers. The
"quackery" reviewer cites the use of the term "cardinality"
as an abuse of mathematical terminology when applied to
finite sets. In fact, applying "cardinality" to finite
sets is commonplace, about as controversial as using stringed
instruments in an orchestra.