Allen Forte: Questions Regarding the Analytic Method of Set Theory

  • Leon Stefanija


The analytic method of Allen Forte, one of the most influential theoreticians of the musical sets theory presents as a most widely spread analytic tool for dealing with atonal music not written in the dodecaphonic technique a significant topic for consideration by numerous experts in the English-speaking world. Their contributions refer mostly to the technical side of Forte's theory as published in its final version in 1973 in the book 'The Structure of Atonal Music'; here questions concerning its theoretical assumptions in practice are not infrequently left in the background. The present article deals with the issue of what constitutes the origins of Forte's analytic method, i.e. with the question of the 'organic' structure of music - from which this method is derived and which is at the same time one of the fundamental assumptions of the music coming from the century of geniuses, or in Blume's words: the music of the Classicist-Romantic period. The principal problem, or rather complex of problems focuses on the issue of "old" and "new" in music, for which Forte's analytic method offers a ready-made analytical apparatus which becomes questionable at the point when its aesthetic-theoretical background is to be considered. For this background is identical with Goethe's or Darwin's belief in the development and metamorphoses of a certain "primeval cell" or "primeval nucleus" - according to Forte: of a super-set into which other sets are incorporated - from which emanates the entire structure of the composition.


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How to Cite
StefanijaL. (1996). Allen Forte: Questions Regarding the Analytic Method of Set Theory. Musicological Annual, 32(1), 107-120.