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“George Perle’s Modal, Tonal, and Dissonant Practice”

Abstract: The American composer George Perle (1915–2009) composed nearly 130 works and wrote works for chamber ensembles, solo instruments, voice, and orchestra. Perle’s compositional output can be organized into three periods. Perle first formulated his “twelve-tone modal system” in 1940 and used this method in the music he wrote for the next thirty years. Perle’s middle period begins in 1969; with the help of Paul Lansky, one of Perle’s former students at Queens College, Perle greatly expanded his compositional system. This collaboration inspired Perle to systemize and document his unique way of composing in his 1977 book Twelve-Tone Tonality. Perle’s late compositional period, which began around 1983, is noted for his use of dissonance. I will discuss one work from each period to not only demonstrate Perle’s compositional method, but to also show the evolution of his compositional method.

Bio: Philip Stoecker is Professor of Music and Department Chair at Hofstra University, where he has been teaching since 2008. His research interests include the music of Thomas Adès, Alban Berg, George Perle, and Arnold Schoenberg. He co-edited Thomas Adès Studies (CUP) with Edward Venn, which won the 2022 Outstanding Multi-Author Collection Award of the Society for Music Theory (SMT). He has presented papers at meetings of SMT, Music Theory Midwest, Music Theory Society of New York State (MTSNYS), the Arnold Schönberg Symposium, and other regional and international conferences. He is currently the President of the Music Theory Society of New York. He also served as Secretary of SMT (2016–2020) and was a member of its Professional Development Committee (2013–2016). He is currently editing Schoenberg’s Fundamentals of Musical Composition for the “Schoenberg in Words” series by Oxford University Press.

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