Alfred Whitford Lerdahl (Fred Lerdahl) (born March 10, 1943, in Madison, Wisconsin) is the Fritz Reiner Professor of Musical Composition at Columbia University, and a composer and music theorist best known for his work on pitch space and cognitive constraints on compositional systems or "musical grammar[s]." He has written many orchestral and chamber works, three of which were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for Music: Time after Time in 2001, String Quartet No. 3 in 2010, and Arches in 2011.
Lerdahl's influences include Elliott Carter, late Sibelius, early Schoenberg, Bartok, and Stravinsky. Lerdahl has said he "always sought musical forms of [his] own invention," and to discover the correct form for the expression. His spiral form (implying both change and repetition), "in which a simple and stable musical idea is expanded on," has been described as a "recurrent motif of interweaving patterns."
Lerdahl studied with James Ming at Lawrence University, where he earned his BMus in 1965, and with Milton Babbitt, Edward Cone, Roger Sessions, and Earl Kim at Princeton University, where he earned his MFA in 1967. He then studied with Wolfgang Fortner at the Hochschule für Musik in Freiburg/Breisgau in 1968-69, on a Fulbright Scholarship. Lerdahl was awarded an honorary doctorate from Lawrence University in 1999, and previously taught at the University of Michigan, Harvard University, and the University of California at Berkeley. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Lerdahl's maternal uncle was the noted astronomer Albert Whitford.
- 1966, Koussevitzky Composition Prize
- 1971, 1988 Composer Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters
- 1974, Guggenheim Fellowship
- 1977, Naumburg Recording Award
- 1982, Martha Baird Rockefeller Recording Award
- 1988, Rome Prize
- 1991, National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship
- Lerdahl, Fred (1992). Cognitive Constraints on Compositional Systems, Contemporary Music Review 6 (2), pp. 97–121.
- Lerdahl, Fred and Jackendoff, Ray (1983). A Generative Theory of Tonal Music. MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-62107-X.
- Lerdahl, Fred (2001). Tonal Pitch Space. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-505834-8
- "Lerdahl, Fred", Columbia University
- Schweitzer, Vivien (November 21, 2010). "Spiral Form and Other Compositional Modes of Fred Lerdahl", NYTimes.com.
- Sabel, Claire (20 November 2010). Composer Portrait: Fred Lerdahl, Bwog.
- "The Living Composers Project". Retrieved 15 October 2010.
- "Fred Lerdahl", bussigel
- Fred Lerdahl's Attack on Serialism by Ken Overton
- Art of the States: Fred Lerdahl
- New Music Box asks Fred Lerdahl: What role has theory played in your compositions and how important is it for people to know the theory behind the music in order to appreciate it?