North American Guqin Association

Fredric Lieberman:a personal tribute by Wang Fei


It is with a heavy heart that I pass on the sad news that Fred Lieberman passed away on Saturday morning May 4th, 2013, after a cardiac arrest.

Born in 1940, Fred Lieberman was a distinguished professor at UC Santa Cruz, and one of the pioneers of Chinese music research in the western world.

As a guqin player, I respect what he did for the guqin; his English translation of the Meian Qinpu was a major contribution to the understanding of the guqin in the western world. He also helped the guqin to be declared by UNESCO as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2003 - this is something very important he did for the guqin, but which he never mentioned in public himself, nor did he want to me to talk about it within the guqin community; he felt what he did was not important.I now mention it for the first time. When the China Ministry of Culture submitted their document to UNESCO, the panelists could not recognize the importance of the guqin. When Fred heard this from one of the panelists who knew him, he immediately drove over 2 hours to my house to discuss with me how we could help. We spent many hours and wrote comments, then he drove back to his Santa Cruz mountain home to continue working on it, and to write letters of recommendation to the UNESCO panel. Fred Lieberman and Wang Fei

I respect him a lot as my personal mentor. When I pursued my career in the technology field in 2000 after I completed my MA in multimedia, I still remembered what he said to me: “there are many people doing multimedia in Silicon Valley, but you are the only one who can teach, perform and promote the art of the guqin. He introduced me and my guqin music to many universities, musicians and scholars, taught me how to do guqin presentations, edited my English, and mastered my guqin demo audio CD.
When I gave my first guqin presentation at UC Berkeley, he took a day off and drove 2 hours to my house to take me there. He even told me how to dress correctly and how to address the students at such a world famous university. He took notes and gave me suggestions and comments. Afterwards he even corrected my English pronunciation.

He taught me to remain true to my Chinese origins but also to have an open mind. He introduced me to other cultures and music. He gave me a lot of priceless books and CDs he worked with such musicians as the Grateful Dead, John Cage, Lou Harrison. I still remember how I enjoyed playing guqin at a small qin gathering with him and his friend Lou Harrison in Lou's house: he asked Lou to write a piece of music for my guqin. On another occasion we drove 3 hours to Mickey Harts' house to introduce him to guqin music. Throughout the trip we listened to music and laughed; that memory is still very vivid more than 10 years later...

What he said and what he did for me encouraged me to pursue my guqin dream in the US, and that is one of the reasons why I have devoted much of my career to being a guqin performer and teacher in the US for over a decade.(Fred Lieberman and Wang Fei, April, 2007,photo by Micheal Cohen)

From facebook comments, not only I but many other people like me became Chinese music professors, musicologists and musicians as a result of his kindness, generosity and encouragement.

I saw he was very active in linkedIn recently and can hardly believe he has left us for heaven.

But, he will never leave our hearts. We should all remember him and miss him.
I will play a special guqin piece, Yiguren – Memories of an Old Friend – for him.


Wang Fei
North American Guqin Association

About NAGA

The North American Guqin Association (NAGA) is a nonprofit cultural arts organization dedicated to the public presentation and preservation of the art of the guqin, spreading community appreciation of Chinese culture through the traditional art of the guqin and building a bridge for cultural exchange and mutual understanding between the Chinese and American communities. NAGA offers guqin classes, performances, recordings, workshops etc.
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