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Biography George Perle

Born in 1915, George Perle is considered one of America’s eminent composers. He was among the first American composers and theorists of the early years of the twentieth century to recognize the importance of, and be influenced by, the Second Viennese School of twelve-tone composers (Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg, and Anton Webern). He studied composition at DePaul University in Chicago (B.M., 1938), and privately with Ernst Krenek. He earned additional degrees from the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago (M.M., 1942) and New York University (Ph.D., 1956).

Perle’s musical compositions include works for orchestra, concert band, chamber ensembles, solo voice, chorus, various solo instruments, and the theater. His many written publications include The Operas of Alban Berg in two volumes (1980, 1985); Twelve-Tone Tonality (2nd ed., rev., 1996); The Listening Composer (1990); The Right Notes: Twenty-Three Selected Essays on Twentieth-Century Music (1995); and Style and Idea in the “Lyric Suite” of Alban Berg (1995).

Perle has taught at the University of Louisville (1949-57), the University of California, Davis (1957-61), and Queens College of the City University of New York (1961-84). He has served as composer-in-residence with the San Francisco Symphony (1989-91) and at the Marlboro Music Festival (1993), artist-in-residence at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, and as a frequent visiting composer at the Tanglewood Music Festival. His book Serial Composition and Atonality, published in 1962 and now in its sixth edition, is generally recognized as the standard text on the atonal and twelve-tone music of Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg, and Anton Webern.

The accomplishments of George Perle in the realms of music composition, analysis, and theory have been repeatedly acknowledged in the many honors he has recieved throughout his life. These include two Guggenheim Fellowships (1966, 1974), election to the Institute of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters (1978) and to the National Academy of Arts and Sciences (1985), the Pulitzer Prize in music (1986) for Wind Quintet no. 4, and a MacArthur Fellowship (1986). His book The Operas of Alban Berg was the 1981 recipient of both the Otto Kinkeldey Award of the American Musicological Society and the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award.

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Selected Works at the Library of Congress