Lei Liang

(b. 28 November 1972, Tianjin).

American composer, born in China, of mostly stage, orchestral and chamber works that have been performed throughout the world; he is also active as a musicologist.

Mr. Liang is the son of the musicologists Liang Mao-chun (b. 1940) and Cai Liang-yu (b. 1940). He studied piano in China as a child. He later studied composition with Robert Cogan and Lee Hyla at the New England Conservatory in Boston, Massachusetts from 1992–98, where he earned his BMus and MMus in composition with distinction in performance. He later studied composition with Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Chaya Czernowin, Mario Davidovsky, Joshua Fineberg, Elliott Gyger, Magnus Lindberg, and Bernard Rands at Harvard University from 2001–06, where he was a Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow from 2002–04 and where he earned his PhD.

Among his honours are numerous prizes as both a composer and pianist in China while a child (1984–89), a term as a Junior Fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows (1998–2001), a bursary from the Experimentalstudio des SWR in Freiburg im Breisgau (2004), an honourable mention in the Aliénor Awards for music for harpsichord in Washington, D. C. (2004, for Some Empty Thoughts of a Person from Edo), and the George Arthur Knight Prize from Harvard University (2006, for Serashi Fragments). He was later a finalist in the competition for music for saxophone Thailand in Nakhon Pathom (2006, for Parallel Gardens) and received the Guggenheim Fellowship (2009–10) and the Elliott Carter Rome Prize (2011–12).

As a musicologist, he is engaged with the preservation of traditional music from Asia and has co-produced historical recordings from Inner Mongolia, China, as well as digital versions of historical recordings for the Music Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Arts in Beijing. In addition, he has recorded an extensive interview with jinghu (2-string fiddle used in Peking opera)-player Ni Qiu-ping for the Archive of World Music at the Loeb Music Library of Harvard University. His articles about his research and other elements of Asian music have appeared in publications in China, South Korea and the USA, including in the journals Renmin YinyuePeople's Music and Yinyue ZhoubaoMusic Weekly, both in Beijing, as well as in China and the WestThe Birth of a New Music (2007, edited by Edward Green, Contemporary Music Review).

He taught as an honorary professor at the Conservatory of Music in Wuhan in 2000 and has taught as Distinguished Visiting Professor at Shaanxi Normal University in Xi'an since 2004. He taught composition, music from China and music theory as a visiting assistant professor of music at Middlebury College in Vermont in 2006–07 and has taught composition and music theory as an assistant professor at the University of California, San Diego since 2007, where he has also served as director of the programme for undergraduate composition since 2007.

He has lived in the USA since 1990 and became a citizen of the USA in 2006.


E-mail address:




Somniloquy (choreography by Masashi Harada), male butoh dancer, trombone, 1992

Dialectal Percussions (choreography by Jeong-Ae Yoon), percussion, 1994 (may be performed as a concert work)

Garden Nine (vocalise, choreography by Ling Chu), 8 female voices, 4 male voices, piano, 2 pairs of rocks, 1996 (may be performed as a concert work)

Der gute Mensch von Sezuan (incidental music, play by Bertolt Brecht), 3 mechanical metronomes (around hall; 1 operator), fixed media, 1998

Other Encounter (choreography by the Tremont Theatre Dance Project), fixed media, 1999

Memories of Xiaoxiang (choreography by You Shao-ching), alto saxophone, fixed media (4 tracks), 2003 (may be performed as a concert work)

Garden Eight (choreography by Tiffany Rhynard), female dancer, piano, 2006 (stage version of work for piano)


Pausing, Awaiting the Wind to Rise..., 2003 (version of work for piano)

Brush-Stroke, small orchestra (15 players), 2004

Parallel Gardens, 24 saxophones, 2006

Concerto, harp, small orchestra (15 players), 2008

Xiaoxiang (concerto), alto saxophone, orchestra, 2008–09

Verge, 18 strings, 2008–09

Tremors of a Memory Chord, piano, orchestra of instruments from China, 2011


Peking Opera Soliloquy, alto saxophone, 1994

Dialectal Percussions, percussion, 1994 (concert version of stage work)

Garden Six, soprano saxophone, 4 alto saxophones, baritone saxophone, 1996 (also version for any 6 saxophones, 1996)

Garden Eight, any player, 1996

Feng, cello, 1998 (also version for violin, 2000)

Garden Eleven (text by Li Bai), soprano, pipa (lute from China), ensemble (flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, mandolin, violin, viola, cello, double bass, piano/harpsichord/electronic keyboard, vibraphone), 1998

Invisible Garden, 13-string koto (zither from Japan), zheng (zither from China), gayageum (zither from the Koreas), 2 pairs of rocks, 1998

March Cathedral, soprano saxophone, 4 alto saxophones, baritone saxophone, electric guitar, piano, harpsichord, 6 percussion, 1998

For Shakuhachi, shakuhachi (bamboo flute from Japan), 1999

Lake, 2 flutes (both + alto flute, 2nd + bass flute), 1999 (also version for flute, clarinet, 2004)

Milou, soprano saxophone, 4 alto saxophones, baritone saxophone, electric guitar, piano, harpsichord, 4 percussion (2 around hall), 1999

Extend, guan (oboe from China), alto saxophone, 2000

Parts for a Floating Space, soprano saxophone (+ baritone saxophone), percussion, 2001

For a Lost Stone, cello, percussion, 2002

Trio, cello, piano, percussion, 2002

Memories of Xiaoxiang, alto saxophone, fixed media (4 tracks), 2003 (concert version of stage work)

Tian for Four, sheng (mouth organ from China), trumpet, guitar, zheng, 2003

Gobi Polyphony, erhu (violin from China), cello, 2003

Gobi Canticle, violin, cello, 2004

Motion Parallel, sheng, guan, 2004

In Praise of Shadows, flute, 2005

Serashi Fragments, string quartet, 2005

Septet, flute (+ piccolo), clarinet (+ bass clarinet), zheng, violin, double bass, piano, percussion, 2006

Winged CreaturesA Cadenza for Harpsichord, 2 violins, cello, harpsichord, 2006

Gobi Gloria, string quartet, 2006

Ascension, French horn, 2 trumpets, trombone, tuba, percussion, 2007–08

YUAN, 4 saxophones, 2008

Aural Hypothesis, flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, vibraphone, 2010

Five Seasons, pipa, string quartet, 2010

A Journey into Desire, guitar, 2010


Garden Nine, 8 female voices, 4 male voices, piano, 2 pairs of rocks, 1996 (concert version of stage work)

A Dream within a Dream (text by the composer, after Bada Shanren), mixed chorus, soprano saxophone, piano, 2007


Garden Eight, 1996 (also stage version for female dancer, piano)

Against Piano, piano (2 players), 1999

My Windows (suite), 1996–2007 (its four movements may be performed separately: Tian, 1996–2004; Seven Rays of the Sun, 2007; Magma, 2007; Pausing, Awaiting the Wind to Rise..., 2003 [also version for orchestra])

fragile zones, 2008


Some Empty Thoughts of a Person from Edo, 2001


Project 121899 (sound installation), 1999

Jong-Jin's Rain, fixed media (2 tracks), 2002


The Giver, 2002 (Agnes Mei-Yee Chu)

Shall We Sing?, 2005 (Reina Higashitani)

DISCOGRAPHY (as compiler)

The Commemorative Edition of the Renowned Mongolian Chaorer Player Serashi (produced by Lei Liang and Wang Yin-yin). (China Record Corporation: CRC CCD-2455, 2005)

DISCOGRAPHY (as composer)

March Cathedral; Against Piano; Garden Eight (original version); Garden Six (original version); Dialectal Percussions (concert version); Feng; Extend; Garden Nine (concert version); Other Encounter. Bao Jian, guan; Lenny Bretton, Eric Hewitt, Conrad Kline, Shyen Lee, Chien-Kwan Lin, Samuel Lorber, Ken Radnofsky, Greg Ridlington, Oliver Schneller, saxophones; Van Weng, electric guitar; Feng Hew, cello; Jung Mi Lee, Jon Sakata, pianos; Lei Liang, piano, harpsichord; Christopher DeChiara, Jeremy Friedman, Phillip Kiamie, Matthew Masie, Eric Millstein, Mei-Ying Ng, John Spirtas, Gary Wallen, percussion; Tamara Brooks/New England Conservatory Chamber Singers (Encounter Records, 2000)

Some Empty Thoughts of a Person from Edo. Takae Ohnishi, harpsichord (Opal Records: ORH-1311, 2001)

Gobi Gloria. Ying Quartet (Telarc Records: 80690, 2008)

Parts for a Floating Space. Yesaroun' Duo (GM Recordings: GM2077CD, 2008)

Memories of Xiaoxiang (concert version). Eliot Gattegno, alto saxophone (Spektral Records: SRL4-08039, 2009)

Serashi Fragments; Some Empty Thoughts of a Person from Edo; Memories of Xiaoxiang (concert version); Trio; In Praise of Shadows; My Windows; Brush-Stroke. Paula Robison, flute; Chien-Kwan Lin, alto saxophone; Aleck Karis, piano; Takae Ohnishi, harpsichord; Arditti String Quartet; Stephen Drury/Callithumpian Consort (Mode Records: mode 210, 2009)

Ascension; Winged CreaturesA Cadenza for Harpsichord; A Journey into Desire; YUAN; Lake; Concerto (harp); Milou. John Fonville, Jane Rigler, flutes; Lenny Bretton, Eric Hewitt, Conrad Kline, Shyen Lee, Samuel Lorber, Greg Ridlington, saxophones; June Han, harp; Pablo Gómez, guitar; Van Weng, electric guitar; Kate Hatmaker, Jeff Zehngut, violins; Chia-Ling Chien, cello; Jon Sakata, piano; Lei Liang, Takae Ohnishi, harpsichords; Christopher DeChiara, Jeremy Friedman, Phillip Kiamie, Matthew Masie, Eric Millstein, Mei-Ying Ng, Gary Wallen, percussion; Radnofsky Quartet; Meridian Arts Ensemble; Tamara Brooks/New England Conservatory Chamber Singers; Jeffrey Milarsky/Manhattan Sinfonietta (New World Records: 80715-2, 2011)

Verge; Aural Hypothesis; Five Seasons; Tremors of a Memory Chord. Wu Man, pipa; Chen Pi-hsien, piano; Shanghai Quartet; Stephen Drury/Callithumpian Consort; Steven Schick/Palimpsest Ensemble; En Shao/Taipei Chinese Orchestra (Naxos Records: 8.572839, 2012)