Perle, George (1915–2009) By Headlam, David
George Perle (1915–2009) was an American composer and scholar, awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, a Pulitzer Prize (1986) for his Wind Quintet no. 4, and the Otto Kinkeldey Award (AMS) for his books on the operas of Alban Berg. Born in Bayonne, NJ, Perle discovered Alban Berg’s Lyric Suite when studying with Ernst Krenek in 1937 and went on to develop a compositional system called twelve-tone tonality from the implications of Berg’s score. Collaborative work with Paul Lansky expanded on the compositional possibilities of the system (1969) and led eventually to Perle’s mature style, exemplified by the two Piano Concerti (1990, 1992) and Transcendental Modulations for Orchestra (1993). Perle’s dual role as composer and scholar is reflected in his seventy-five compositions, ranging from solo to orchestral pieces, and seven books and numerous articles on analysis and theory issues related mostly to twentieth-century music.