The Development of Diminutions in American Jazz

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Allen Forte


Allen Forte, the prominent Yale music theorist, delivered this previously unpublished lecture in Germany in 1958. In “Forte’s Lecture on Jazz: An Introduction” (included elsewhere in this issue), Benjamin Givan states that this lecture is “the earliest known analytical study of jazz by a professional music theorist.” The lecture applies Schenkerian concepts of “diminution technique” to jazz improvisations from early blues to bebop, including recordings by Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, and the Modern Jazz Quartet. As Forte explains, “By diminution technique is meant the melodic means (as distinct from, say, the rhythmic or chordal means) by which a given basic tonal structure is varied so as to expand or prolong its content.” Several notated examples are provided, as well as an appendix of recordings referenced.

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How to Cite
Forte, A. (2011). The Development of Diminutions in American Jazz. Journal of Jazz Studies, 7(1), 7–27.