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Early life and education
Liang is the son of musicologists Liang Mao-chun (b. 1940) and Cai Liang-yu (b. 1940) and studied piano as a child.
He came to the United States in 1990 for further studies, receiving BM and MM degrees from the New England Conservatory of Music, both with academic honors and distinction in performance, and a Junior Fellowship and Ph.D. from Harvard University.
Liang was the winner of the 2011 Rome Prize and the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Aaron Copland Award, a Koussevitzky Foundation Commission and a Creative Capital Award. His concerto Xiaoxiang (for alto saxophone and orchestra) was named a finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Music. He was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic and its music director Alan Gilbert for the inaugural concert of the CONTACT! new music series. He studied composition at New England Conservatory of Music, where he received both a BM and a MM and then took his PhD at Harvard University as a recipient of The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans. During this time, his teachers included a number of notable composers, including Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Robert Cogan, Chaya Czernowin, and Mario Davidovsky.
Liang's seven portrait discs are recorded on Naxos Records, Bridge Records, Mode Records , BMOP/sound and New World Records, in addition to fifteen compilation discs, released on Innova, Telarc and GM Records. As a scholar and conservationist of cultural traditions, he edited and co-edited four books and editions, and published more than twenty articles.
From 2013 to 2016, Liang served as Composer-in-Residence at the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology where his multimedia works preserve and reimagine cultural heritage through combining scientific research and advanced technology. In 2018, Liang returned to the Institute as its inaugural Research Artist-in-Residence.
Lei Liang's recent works address issues of sex trafficking across the US-Mexican border (chamber opera "Cuatro Corridos"), America's complex relationship with gun and violence (chamber opera "Inheritance"), and environmental awareness through the sonificiation of coral reefs.
Liang served as Honorary Professor of Composition and Sound Design at Wuhan Conservatory of Music, as Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Shaanxi Normal University College of Arts in Xi'an, and as Visiting Assistant Professor of Music at Middlebury College. Since 2009, he has taught at the University of California, San Diego where he served as chair of the composition area and Acting Chair of the Music Department.
Liang's catalogue of more than a hundred works is published by Schott Music.