It's surely a sign that a composer has added something to
our lives when merely the mention of his
name will conjure up musical images in our mind's ear. It
is only necessary to say Chopin, for
example, in order to recall the rich legacy of his music
in our aural memories. We even go so far as to form adjectives, such as Mozartian, or Schoenbergian,
to describe musical features in meaningful ways.
For many people today the name George Perle has this magic.
Just its mention rings
with the sound of his music: it recalls artful phases, overlapping,
colliding, dovetailing, dancing
with wonderful elegance one moment, coming to a sudden halt
the next, rich harmonies which
seem to have an internal logic and consistency all their
own, unlike that of any other music; clear,
brilliant, and inventive orchestration which masterfully
captures the colors and subtleties of instruments
and allows them to sound free and natural; a high minded
and deeply serious concern with making music all that it can be; a rich and humorous texture
full of musical equivalents of puns, jokes, and riddles; and most of all a music which is clear,
understandable, and inviting.
For those fortunate enough to know the composer personally,
his name also conjures an
image of tirelessness and passion for music; he sleeps little
and is totally absorbed by his work—
how else could he have written seven important books and
numerous articles, dozens of extraordinary pieces, been a devoted and effective teacher for more than
forty years, and become known as an important theorist of contemporary music as well as the
world's leading Berg scholar.
with George invariably revolves about music—he always
has an infectious enthusiasm about
something musical. Whether he is enthralling you with the
mysteries of Berg, his own compositional
theories, or any of the musical discoveries he makes daily,
you always feel enlightened and uplifted. For him music is simply the most wonderful thing
there is, and after having talked with George you feel this way too.
Despite the depth and breadth of his activities, he is basically
and deeply a composer, and
his music is his finest and most eloquent accomplishment.
The sound and surface of his music is
marked by a relative simplicity which is actually the underpinning
of a rich and complex language
based on principles he has developed and which owe much
to the thinking of Bartók, Stravinsky,
Schoenberg, and Berg. He has eschewed serialism, however,
and his compositional approach is
one which differs fundamentally from most post–Schoenbergian
Perle's music does not present itself in radical disjunction
with tonal music and music of the past. In fact, his way
of composing owes as much to tonality as it does to post–chromatic
dodecaphonic thinking. Concepts of harmony, counterpoint,
formal consequence, and coherence are as vivid and lively
Perle's music as they are in tonal music. His music is a
special language, and while each piece sings
uniquely and individually, his language is consistent, convincing,
and all his own. The quality and
character of his body of pieces is remarkable and unforgettable;
there is nothing else remotely like it. It reveals no sense of arbitrary abstraction, formalism,
or the whims of fashion. The notes are alive with a life, breath, and purpose which only a superbly
gifted musician can create.
George Perle often talks enthusiastically about dance:
Balanchine and Stravinsky hold a
special place in his heart. It is therefore not surprising
that one of the most palpable features of his
music is its compelling and persuasive rhythmic profile.
His music moves with the subtlety and
sureness of good ballet—it has a real physical, rhythmic
presence. Some might say it "swings," but I prefer to sky that George's music really dances!