Documentary celebrates the life of music theorist Allen Forte

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“Music Makes a Better Person,” a documentary celebrating the life and contributions of the late longtime Yale faculty member Allen Forte, is now available on YouTube.

Forte, who taught at Yale for 44 years, was a renowned music theorist and musicologist.

The documentary, narrated by his former student and noted composer Maury Yeston Ph.D. ’74, features interviews with Forte and commentaries about his contributions by other former students, including Department of Music chair Daniel Harrison, the Allen Forte Professor of Music Theory.

At the start of the documentary, former Yale President Richard C. Levin is seen telling Forte that students of music theory “came to Yale because of your reputation.” Yeston describes his former teacher as “the most profound leader in the cerebral analysis of music.”

The documentary traces Forte’s life from his childhood in Oregon, his service in the Navy during World War II, his years playing jazz piano in New York nightclubs in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and his academic career, particularly through his many years at Yale. Forte was the Battell Professor Emeritus of Music at the time of his death in October 2014.

The former Yale faculty member is also seen in the documentary performing duets with his wife, Madeleine Forte, a classical pianist who served as artistic director of the documentary.

“I believe music makes a better person and a person better,” Forte remarks in the film.

Forte was the author of 12 scholarly books and 100 articles. His book “The Structure of Atoanal Music” has been hailed as one of the most important contributions to music theory in the 20th century. 

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