George Perle

born on 6/5/1915 in Bayonne, NJ, United States

died on 23/1/2009

George Perle

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

George Perle (May 6, 1915 – January 23, 2009) was a composer and music theorist. He was born in Bayonne, New Jersey. A student of Ernst Krenek, Perle composed with a technique of his own devising called "twelve-tone tonality," which is different from, but related to, twelve-tone technique[1] of the Second Viennese School of which he was an, "early admirer," and whose techniques he used aspects of but never fully adopted.[2] Perle's former student Paul Lansky described 12-tone tonality thus: "Basically this creates a hierarchy among the notes of the chromatic scale so that they are all referentially related to one or two pitches which then function as a tonic note or chord in tonality. The system similarly creates a hierarchy among intervals and finally, among larger collections of notes, 'chords.' The main debt of this system to the 12-tone system lies in its use of an ordered linear succession in the same way that a 12-tone set does".[3]

In 1968 Perle cofounded the Alban Berg Society with Igor Stravinsky and Hans F. Redlich, who had the idea (according to Perle in his letter to Glen Flax of 4/1/89). Perle's important work on Berg includes documenting that the third act of Lulu, rather than being an unfinished sketch as long thought, was actually three-fifths complete and that the Lyric Suite contains a secret program dedicated to Berg's love-affair.[2] After retiring from Queens College in 1985 he became a professor emeritus at the Aaron Copland School of Music.[2] In 1986 Perle was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his Fourth Wind Quintet and also a MacArthur Fellowship.[2] "Widely considered the poetic voice of atonal composition," he died aged 93 in his home in New York City in January 2009.[2]

Partial bibliography

  • Perle, George (1992). "Symmetry, the Twelve-Tone Scale, and Tonality", Contemporary Music Review 6 (2), pp. 8196.
  • Perle, George (1962, reprint 1991). Serial Composition and Atonality: An Introduction to the Music of Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern. University of California Press.
  • Perle, George (1978, reprint 1992). Twelve-Tone Tonality. University of California Press.
  • Perle, George (1990). The Listening Composer. California: University of California Press.
  • Perle, George (1984). "Scriabin's Self-Analysis", Musical Analysis III/2 (July).
  • Perle, George (1980). The Operas of Alban Berg. Vol. 1: Wozzeck. California: University of California Press.
  • Perle, George (1985). The Operas of Alban Berg. Vol. 2: Lulu. California: University of California Press.


  1. Perle (1992), [page needed].
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Kozinn, Allan (January 24, 2009). "George Perle, a Composer and Theorist, Dies at 93", New York Times.
  3. Chase, Gilbert (1992). America's Music: From the Pilgrims to the Present, p. 587. University of Illinois Press, ISBN 0-252-06275-2.

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