Lieberson was the son of Goddard Lieberson, then president of Columbia Records, and Vera Zorina, an actress and former ballerina. He learned harmony by listening to great jazz recordings and live Broadway shows, as well as recordings his father’s company made of living classical composers including Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky.
Those influences converged in Lieberson’s music, along with a fascination for Buddhism that blossomed during his years at Columbia University. He went to Colorado in 1976 to study with the Buddhist master Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and married another disciple, Ellen Kearney. The couple led a Buddhist program in Boston, and Lieberson earned a doctorate from Brandeis University and taught composition at Harvard University.
Buddhism was central to his opera “Ashoka’s Dream,” the story of an ancient emperor of India. It premiered in Santa Fe in 1997, with Lorraine Hunt singing the part of Ashoka’s second wife. Around then, Lieberson stumbled across a paperback at the airport in Albuquerque, N.M., that would change their artistic lives _ Neruda’s “100 Love Sonnets,” with its shocking pink cover.
Lieberson leaves three children from his first marriage. He also is survived by his third wife and longtime friend, the Tibetan writer Rinchen Lhamo.
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