Born in Scotland, Pert gained a Trinity College diploma in piano performance, graduated B.Mus from Edinburgh University and went to study composition and percussion with Alan Bush and James Blades at the Royal College of Music. There he won several composition prizes, including the Royal Philharmonic Society Award in 1970 for the orchestral work Xumbu-Ata. A two-year period working with the world-famous Japanese percussionist Stomu Yamash’ta followed, with performances, recordings and musical collaborations in several European music festivals and in Yamash’ta’s own Red Buddha Theatre. This led him to form his own experimental music group, Suntreader, which performed and recorded much of his own and his colleagues’ music.
In the 1970s, Pert was one of the most prominent composers of his generation, receiving regular BBC commissions for large-scale orchestral works, including the first and second symphonies. At the same time, he was one of the foremost percussionists in the world of popular rock music. His serious works draw their inspiration from an eclectic range of sources, but especially from ancient mythology, astronomy and oriental culture.