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Composer Wins Ascaplus Award

Dirk Sutro | Oct. 12, 2009

Photo of Lei Liang
Lei Liang

UC San Diego composer Lei Liang has been awarded a 2009 ASCAPLUS Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.

The awards support the work of American composers in the early or mid-stages of their careers and “are based on the unique prestige value of each writer’s catalog of original compositions, as well as recent performances in areas not surveyed by the Society,” according to ASCAP’s announcement.

Over the past year, there have been more than 60 performances of Liang’s music in the U.S. and in countries around the world, including Poland, Mexico, Thailand and China. His music has been featured in concerts at such prestigious venues as Merkin Hall and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the Library of Congress and Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. Performers of Liang’s music have included Manhattan Sinfonietta, Thailand Philharmonic, the Ying Quartet, the PRISM Quartet and Continuum Ensemble.

At UCSD, Liang teaches a graduate composition seminar, as well as composition and music theory classes. He also directs the undergraduate composition program.

“Lei Liang represents the best in contemporary music composition and pedagogy, and we are honored to have him as a member of the UCSD faculty,” said Seth Lerer, dean of Arts and Humanities at UCSD. “His ‘Brush-Stroke’ was one of the high points of the inaugural concert for the Conrad Prebys Music Center last May, and I always look forward to hearing his latest compositions.”

It’s been an epic year for Liang, 36, who join the composition faculty in the department of music in September 2007.

Last November, he won an Aaron Copland Prize, earning a cash award and a composing residency at Copland's rustic retreat in New York’s Hudson River Valley. (Copland died in 1990). Last April, Liang was awarded a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship.

In recent months, he has also received grants from Chamber Music America and Meet the Composer for a piece commissioned by the Shanghai String Quartet and pipa virtuoso Wu Man.

“My most recent piece was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic and its music director, Alan Gilbert,” Liang said. “It was written for the Philharmonic’s inaugural Contact New Music Series.” The new series connects the listener with “the most interesting, innovative, and engaging new music from contemporary composers,” according to the New York Philharmonic announcement.

In another exciting development, in July Liang and his wife, Takae Ohnishi, a harpsichordist and adjunct faculty member in the department of music, gave birth to their first child, a son named Albert Shin Liang – who has already inspired his father to compose a new piece titled “Verge.”

“Albert’s name asserts itself, translated into notes, in different configurations and disguises,” Liang said. “His heartbeat also makes an appearance in the form of changing tempi and pulsations. In a sense, I composed the piece in order to make a musical amulet for Albert.”

Liang was born in China and moved to the U.S. following the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.

“Perhaps as a result of living in exile, both my creative works and academic research have been driven by a passionate search for the Chinese traditional culture that has been disrupted by violent chapters of 20th century history,” Liang said. “However, it is not my intention to be thought of as a Chinese composer. The goal for creative works is not to evoke cultural significance, but to create music that is rich in its expression, meaningful, and effective in communication. I regard composing as a means to free one’s imagination from the artificial confines of cultural identity.”

On Nov. 18, San Diego audiences will have a chance to hear Liang’s piano suite “My Windows,” performed by UCSD faculty pianist Aleck Karis. The concert will take place in the department of music’s new Conrad Prebys Concert Hall as part of the new Wednesdays@7 concert series featuring new and innovative music performed by UCSD faculty and special guests.

Tickets are available through UCSD Box Office: 858.534.TIXS.

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