George Perle was among the first American composers to recognize and to be profoundly influenced by the revolutionary work of the “Second Vienna School” in the early years of this century. From the very beginning, however, his own work, both as composer and theorist, represented a radical reinterpretation and departure. In his very first published article (1941) Perle presented a fundamental critique of Schoenberg’s “twelve-tone method,” which he saw as the first step toward a new tonality rather than as a special technique of atonal composition.
Perle’s first book, Serial Composition and Atonality (6th edition 1991), is widely recognized as the standard work on the music of Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern, and was recently published in Chinese translation. The Operas of Alban Berg, in two volumes (1980, 1985), is a comprehensive work on all of Berg’s compositions, as well as on his life.
In Twelve-Tone Tonality (1977, 1996) and The Listening Composer (1990) Perle sets forth his own musical language and presents the view that the disparate styles of post-diatonic music share common structural elements that collectively imply a new tonality.
Two new books were published in 1995: The Right Notes: 23 Selected Essays on 20th-Century Music and a monograph, Style and Idea in the Lyric Suite of Alban Berg.
George Perle was a member of both the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Serial Composition and Atonality:
an Introduction to the Music of Schoenberg, Berg and Webern
1962; 6th edition, revised,
1991. University of California Press.
1977; 2nd edition, revised, 1996.
University of California Press.
The Operas of Alban Berg: Wozzeck Volume I
The Operas of Alban Berg: Lulu Volume II
1985. University of California Press.
The Listening Composer
1990. University of California Press.
The Right Notes: 23 Selected Essays on 20th-Century Music
1995. Pendragon Press.
Style and Idea in the Lyric Suite of Alban Berg
1995; 2nd edition, revised and enlarged, 2001. Pendragon Press.