The composer Jorge Liderman died Sunday morning after reportedly jumping in front of an oncoming BART train in the Berkeley, CA area. I had initially heard of him after coming across his name on a bulletin board in the early 80’s at the U of Chicago, and when I saw the news item about his untimely death at the age of 50, it caught my attention. Of Argentine descent, Liderman was being increasingly performed, although I regret that I actually never have heard a note of his music. The circumstances of his death are currently under investigation. (Update: a newer and fuller article from the San Francisco Chronicle.)

29 thoughts on “jorge liderman, 1957-2008”
  1. I’m coming to this conversation quite late but will post this anyhow.

    Jorge was my staunchest supporter among the faculty when I was at grad school and went to bat for me more than once. As several above have said, he was as much a friend as he was a teacher.

    One of my fondest memories of him: I was showing him a piece I was working on at our composition seminar. It was the very end of the class and other students were starting to come in. He said to me “It seems like you didn’t spend very much time on this.” Which really bothered me, because I had.

    Later that day he actually called me at home to apologize and explain that he was rushed and didn’t look carefully enough at my score. I thought that was truly remarkable – that a professor would call his student to apologize for an offhand caustic remark. It showed me that he was sensitive to my reaction and cared about my feelings, as well as that he had reflected on his own behavior. I felt extremely grateful for that and was endeared to him for the rest of the time we knew each other.

  2. It is with terrible sadness that I read the news of Jorge’s tragic death. My thoughts and prayers go out to his many friends, family and colleagues throughout the world.
    I had the priviledge of recording Jorge’s wonderful GLIMPSES with the Kiev Philharmonic. I remember telling him after the recording sessions how much I enjoyed recording them and how I enjoyed further study of the score. I still delve into the score to this day.
    He will be missed by many. I know I will miss his spirit. Robert

  3. I was truly shocked and saddened to open up the latest Berkeley Music Department flier and learn of the death of Jorge Liderman. Sadly, the news had taken this long to reach darkest Lancaster, PA.

    I remember Jorge as a dedicated and supportive teacher who was perhaps a little shy, but always generous and with a quiet sense of humour. I was fortunate enough to conduct the American premiere of Antigona Furiosa, an intense, challenging score.

    I was more fortunate that, although he was not my advisor, he took the time to study my Piano Concerto (when I was working on my dissertation in 1994) and come up with many insightful observations and suggestions that ended up improving both its detail and large framework.

    At this distance of time I have no idea what demons were tormenting him, except to say that sometimes a highly creative mind can turn on itself to become highly destructive.

    My heart goes out to his family, colleagues and students.

    Simon Andrews

  4. Thank you for your response and for your two additional pieces of information regarding Jorge Liderman. Both pieces of information are terrible to think about.

    I am troubled that his experimental medical treatment for depression may have led to the terrible side-effect of his ‘sudden’ suicide.

    I also hope that someone among the 19 or so former students who posted so eloquantly at New Music Box (or among Mr Liderman’s academic and professional colleagues) might be in the position to reach out to Jorge’s sister, Claudia, and to his mother — both in Argentina; in addition to Mr Liderman’s wife, Mimi.


    [I had meant to indicate earlier that I found Mr Liderman’s earlier chamber music, on the Albany CD, to be “process-music influenced”, rather than “minimalism-influenced”. And I wish that Mr Liderman’s award-winning Munich opera would become available on a recording. Does anyone reading recall the name of Mr Liderman’s beautifully engraved score that was featured for several months in the central showcase of Berkeley’s new Music Library?]

  5. While I felt that zeno’s comment was a little out of place, I didn’t feel insulted by it. There was something endearing in its naiveté.
    There are two things that one should know about Jorge Liderman which puts his suicide into perspective:
    1. Very few people know that his father died in a horrible accident. If I remember correctly, he was a chemist and blew himself up in an experiment. This certainly can cause a chip on someone’s shoulder.
    2. I was told that Jorge struggled with depression and sought relief in a mind-altering treatment considered highly dangerous for its rebounds. I have no concrete information on this, though.

  6. And what’s wrong with minimalism exactly, or is it just not your cup of tea? Why did your preference for one album merit a presumptive put-down of minimalism? Why not just say that you prefer the Song of Songs and move on?

  7. Mr Fried,

    I accept your comment that I should not have stated a comparative opinion when mentioning Mr John Thow. I regret this error. (The second comment you cite was a reasonable response, I believe, to Jerry Bowles’s first comment above.)

    That said, pace Mr Toub, I believe that my response to Mr Hajdu was a reasonable one.


    Having now listened to both the Albany Records Jorge Liderman chamber music album and the Bridge Song of Songs, I recommend the Bridge Song of Songs most highly. (The earlier music is more minimalism-influenced.) The performances on both albums are superb.

    I look foward to hearing more of Mr Liderman’s work.

  8. “What disturbed me most was a something in the SF Chronicle obit, in which one friend of Liderman’s commented that he knew that his friend had longterm “problems” but he was so private about it.”

    In situations such as this, (emotional problems, addiction) there is an unfortunate tendency to simply avoid making the difficult decision to intervene on someone’s behalf. It’s much easier to rationalize the situation and pretend that things work themselves out.

    I say this making no judgment on the person quoted; I’m just pointing out a tendency that I see and that I’m sure I’ve been guilty of myself.

  9. What disturbed me most was a something in the SF Chronicle obit, in which one friend of Liderman’s commented that he knew that his friend had longterm “problems” but he was so private about it. It was as if this was a sign of valor, to keep despair to oneself. It isn’t. But Jerry Bowles is correct (and I haven’t heard anyone mention the book THE SAVAGE GOD in years), suicides plan in private–there is almost never a way to predict these things.

    I listened to Liderman’s moving “Song of Songs” yesterday for the first time. In fact, I’m ashamed to say, it was the first time I heard his music. Maybe there is a lesson to be learned there. I’m ashamed I didn’t know his music, while he was still around to write it. “Posthumous” is a lousy word.

  10. zeno, I stand by my comments. Your uninformed remark to Mr. Hajdu was “beyond the pale,” as is your non-apologetic apology to him. No reasonable person would have interpreted your remark as anything other than critical of him.

    If I were beyond the pale, I would have said “Try being a little less condescending and self-righteous in the future.” But I’m not, and chose not to say that.

  11. “…John Thow, whose works [I] also admired — perhaps a bit more —..”

    “…[My experience], limited though it is, with people who are depressed or suicidal or addicts or alcoholics or psychotics is that basic social structure and communication can be somewhat helpful (and is appreciated), at the margin…”

    Zeno, a Funeral, or a death notice is a place where we think about someone other than ourselves.

    Phil Fried

  12. There was no such implication in my comment, and I stand by it. I apologize to Mr Hajdu if he himself took my comment as to suggest that I thought he was in any infintessimal way responsible for an irrational and tragic action by another person years later and an ocean away. My experience, limited though it is, with people who are depressed or suicidal or addicts or alcoholics or psychotics is that basic social structure and communication can be somewhat helpful (and is appreciated), at the margin. [Mr Liderman was a teenager when several thousands of his fellow Argentinians were being ‘disappeared’ by the Argentine military junta — some being thrown alive from helicoptors over the ocean.]

    While I find Jerry’s comments helpful, I personally find Mr Toub’s comment beyond the pale.


    Yesterday, I finally listened to and enjoyed tremendously Mr Liderman’s hour-long (post-early Stravinskian, slightly Reichian) ‘Song of Songs’ (on Bridge). [One of the two librettists to the work, Ariel Bloch, a U.C. professor emeritus of Near Eastern studies, was reported to have suffered periods of severe mental illness over the past few/several years.]

    I have ordered an additional Liderman CD of chamber music — on the Albany label. [Mr Liderman’s surviving sister provided the cover art to the Bridge “Song of Songs.”]

  13. Stumbled onto this in today’s Times. Says it better than I can: “In his classic study, “The Savage God,” the English poet and critic A. Alvarez, a failed suicide himself, wrote that suicide is “a closed world with its own irresistible logic. … Once a man decides to take his own life he enters a shut-off, impregnable but wholly convincing world where every detail fits and each incidence reinforces his decision.”

  14. Jerry, I held back on responding to zeno’s comment because I was concerned I’d say something a bit too critical in response. I didn’t want to unleash myself to comment about how incredibly insensitive, rude and moralistic his comment appeared to me.

    Oops, there I go. My bad.

  15. Okay, if nobody else will say it, I will. If there is any implication in Zeno’s comment that Georg might have somehow “saved” Liderman by getting in touch sooner, I think that is both naive and unfair. My experience, limited though it is, with people who are suicidal (or addicts, or alcoholics) is that there is nothing (or virtually nothing) that other people can do that will alter the course of their slide. Emotional rescue can only come from within.

  16. “I regret that I stopped communicating with him after he didn’t show up for a talk I had set up for him in Hamburg” …

    Did you try communicating with him after his non-appearance? Are you referring to an appointment in 2002 or in a later year? Perhaps if you had called or e-mailed him he might have apologized and explained that he was overcommitted and ‘frazzled’; or he might have hinted then that he was suffering from some personal problems that were causing him to act less than professionally. My guess is that if you had contacted him he would have apologized.


    Late yesterday, I ordered from an Amazon reseller Mr Liderman’s ‘Song of Songs’ cantata (on Bridge Records), which I had intented to purchase last January, May or September at The Musical Offering on Bancroft Street. I noticed that not too many — if any — of the discounted Liderman CDs offered by Amazon resellers had appeared to have sold over the past 48 or 72 hours since his passing. I also see that he has several CDs set for upcoming release.

  17. I studied with Jorge in the early to mid 90s. We were on as friendly terms as a professor and a graduate student could be, paying racket ball on a regular basis, going out for beers and even once sharing a locker when I forget my UC Berkeley student card. While he was generally a private person, I wouldn’t say that he was distant to me. He was an extremely sincere person and artist, who would tell you his opinion even if it hurt. This way, he was a rare species, in “I loved your piece” country. His music became better and better over the years, distancing himself from the more dry and academic style of his earlier works. I once met him by chance in Mexico City in 2002 at a performance of one of his pieces, which I found very impressive in his personal adaptation of the current minimalist style.

    I regret that I stopped communicating with him after he didn’t show up for a talk I had set up for him in Hamburg (where I live and teach now). I suppose that this might have been a symptom of his increasing psychological trouble. But, I had just decided to call him again in March, on a trip to Northern California. Very sad that I won’t have the chance anymore.

  18. Jorge was a dear friend and an extraordinary composer. few people could claim to possess the same sincerity and authenticity that made Jorge’s music so enjoyable. May his music, full of spark and imagination live forever.

  19. This is horribly sad news. I wish the best to all the composers who studied with him and knew him as a friend, to his colleagues who will miss him terribly, and especially to his wife Mimi.

    When I was a much younger composer, Jorge was a tremendous beacon of support, who encouraged me in ways that, without exaggeration, simply changed my life. While being so generous, he was also so incredibly reserved. I doubt that anyone realized the depths of his sorrow. Without cliché, Jorge truly let his music speak for him.

    That music often retrieved from the musical past ideas and structures to be re-thought and re-invented. I’m thinking not only of Hoquetus or Ut Re Me Fa Sol La but also his use of formal structures like chaconnes, or setting of traditional materials like separdic songs or even the Song of Songs. I always felt that this demonstrated more than simply musical intelligence but rather a tremendous love of the musical past and present.

    Jorge, we’ll miss you.

  20. devestating news. jorge, one of my very best and closest friends, is gone. listen to his music, and remember his big amd loving heart.

  21. This is such terrible news. It points up the fragility of the human spirit. My sympathies to all who knew him.

  22. This is a shock–It seems as if it was only yesterday that we were working together at the U of C. My deepest sympathy to all.

    Phil Fried

  23. I was hoping to see Jorge tonight at the world premiere of his Furthermore… for solo violin (with Carla Kihlstedt). This came as a total shock. I don’t know how to respond. I’d met Jorge a number of times, had him on my radio program on KPFA many years ago when he came to UC Berkeley. And featured his recent CDs on my current Music from Other Minds radio programs. I’m still planning to go to the SF Contemporary Music Players concert tonight. It will probably be a very sad affair.
    The SF Chronicle article by Josh Kosman is at

  24. This is immensely sad news and came as a complete shock. Jorge was not just an excellent composer who was greatly respected by his colleagues and by so many performers. He was such a generous, committed, and serious composition teacher as well. He will be deeply missed by all who knew and worked with him over the years.

  25. Thank you for reporting this, David. I liked the guitar and chamber music of his that I heard in Berkeley.

    With deep sympathy to Mr. Liderman’s wife, family, colleagues, and friends.

    Berkeley-based composer John Thow, whose works I also admired — perhaps a bit more — died, also prematurely, almost one year ago:

  26. Jorge was an inspiration for many berkeley students. This is a shock. There is a San Francisco Contemporary Music Players concert tonight with a premiere of his. Though its a very untimely and tragic moment, I think that it would be the best tribute to his life and legacy, to hear where he was heading musically.

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