American composer George Perle, who turned 84 last week, has devoted much of his career to refashioning Schoenbergian atonality to his own ends. Perle’s an authority on Alban Berg, and his affinity for that most lyrical exponent of Schoenberg’s Second Viennese School has led Perle’s detractors to dismiss his music as derivative. But Perle himself describes his method as “12-tone tonality”–an intentional contradiction in terms meaning that he splashes neoclassical forms with episodes of spiky dissonance and irregular rhythms. This Friday DePaul University honors Perle, a 1938 graduate, with a birthday presentation of a handful of his chamber works. Of the five on the program, only the Stravinskyan Wind Quintet no. 1, from 1959, predates Perle’s signature style; he composed the rest over the past two decades, his fecundity unabated after his retirement from teaching. Serenade no. 3 (1983) is one of his most accessible works: a Nonesuch recording of it was nominated for a Grammy, and the American Ballet Theatre set a dance to it under the title Enough Said. For Piano and Winds, from 1988, pours on the instrumental color, adorning the keys with a variation on the traditional wind quintet’s lineup–flute, clarinet, English horn, bassoon, and French horn. And in his latest, Critical Moments and Brief Encounters (the latter commissioned for DePaul’s centennial), Perle seems to be taken with the sort of structural fun and games that have preoccupied his contemporary Elliott Carter. The 15 movements of Brief Encounters, for example, to be performed here by the nimble and precise Chicago String Quartet, increase progressively in duration from 27 seconds to four minutes and 45 seconds, while a more elaborate scheme governs changes in tempo. Other ensemble players include flutist Mary Stolper, English hornist Robbie Hunsinger, and pianist Andrea Swan. Friday, 8 PM, Concert Hall, DePaul University, 800 W. Belden; 773-325-7260. TED SHEN

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Peter Schaaf.