The Harmonic Organization of The Rite of Spring


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Allen Forte

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When The Rite of Spring was first performed in Paris in 1913, it was greeted with a riot. After the shouting died down, it became possible to discern that Igor Stravinsky had created a monument of modern music, and the work has been universally regarded as such for half a century. Although it is widely studied in classes in music theory, no effort has yet been made to comprehend the extraordinary way in which its pitch materials are organized. This book will correct that omission.
Allan Forte set forth his analytical approach fully in The Structure of Atonal Music (1973). Here he applies it in detail to a large-scale work that is familiar to every student of music. In his introduction Forte reviews certain technical aspects of his method in order to prepare readers for the close analysis that follows. He particularly considers general features of pitch and interval structures and the ways in which those structures may be interrelated to form coherent musical spans. Together the introduction and the analysis, with its more than 100 musical examples, both illuminate the structure of the music and demonstrate the way in which Forte's method may be applied in the analysis of complex music.

Allen Forte is professor of the theory of music at Yale University. 

"[This study] is welcome and long overdue. . . . The influence of Allen Forte on contemporary music theory has been enormous, and The Harmonic Organization of 'The Rite of Spring' has importance for a number of serious musicians, particularly for disciples and others interested in the set-theoretic approach, [and] for those interested in Stravinsky's work. . . . Seeing the theory applied consistently to a specific work can show if it provides any true illumination of the the work . . . This study should not be ignored."—Frank Retzel, Notes

"[A] most valuable study. . . . Forte has revealed the music's harmonic construction, identified its characteristic chordal formations, and mapped their relationships. His book is of capital importance because it provides the long-awaited analytical means with which Stravinsky's harmonic system can be understood and at the same time throws new light on his mind, showing, for instance, that what seems to be most immediate was often most reflective. Everyone with an interest in contemporary music is indebted to the author for one of a few permanent studies of the subject."—Robert Craft, The Musical Quarterly
ISBN: 9780300105377
Publication Date: January 5, 2005
160 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4