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.
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.
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.
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.
Perle is a member of both the American Academy of Arts and
Letters, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.