Scope and Contents
The Goddard Lieberson Papers highlight Lieberson’s career at Columbia Records and his work in the record business more broadly. His work as a producer, vice president, and president of the label is documented by an impressive volume of correspondence, published writings, business files, recording projects, and a selection of audio recordings and interviews. Particularly notable is the variety of correspondence between Lieberson and Columbia’s recording artists, whose work spanned classical and popular music, musical theater productions, and historical documentary projects. Collaborators whose correspondence are in the collection include: Leonard Bernstein, Eugene Ormandy, Aaron Copland, Dave Brubeck, the New York Philharmonic, Igor Stravinsky, Lehman Engel, Samuel Beckett, Noël Coward, Truman Capote, Stephen Sondheim, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, Mary Martin, Rex Harrison, Barbra Streisand, Groucho Marx and dozens of others, as well. Also notable is the array of publicity materials and news clippings collected from contemporary publications that feature stories or press releases about Lieberson’s projects or his personal success in the industry.
While there is a wealth of correspondence between Lieberson and collaborators, it is not always the case that full projects are documented in correspondence. Also note that the business documents give a general idea of Columbia’s business proceedings, but do not provide an exhaustive account of Columbia’s budgeting, marketing, or production procedures.
- 1920 - 1990
Language of Materials
Conditions Governing Access
The materials are open for research.
Conditions Governing Use
Copyright status for collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Gift of Goddard Lieberson, Brigitta Lieberson and Lisa Norsigian (Goddard Lieberson's daughter-in-law), in 1986, 1991 and 2015 (respectively).
The papers are arranged in nine series. I. Correspondence, 1939-1977. II. Photographs, 1920-1975. III. Business Files, 1948-1978. IV. Audio, video and film, 1943-1977. V. Music and art, 1930-1960. VI. Writings by Goddard Lieberson, 1930-1975. VII. Writings by others, 1930-2000. VIII. Scrapbooks and programs, 1950-1975. VIIII. Personal documents and awards, 1957-1977.
48 Linear Feet (94 containers)
Biographical / Historical
Goddard Lieberson was born on April 5, 1911 in Hanley, Staffordshire, England. The family moved to Canada and then the United States in 1915, settling in Seattle, Washington. Lieberson attended North Queen Anne School between 1921 and 1925, and later, Ballard High School in Seattle. George McKay, a composition professor at the University of Washington arranged a scholarship that allowed Lieberson to attend the University as an undergraduate beginning in 1929. He studied at the University of Washington until 1932, after which he moved to pursue composition with Bernard Rogers at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York.
Lieberson lived and worked in Rochester, New York until 1936. During his time there, he was as a music critic for local publications and a music teacher at Harley Day School. By 1939, Lieberson had moved to New York City, where he became quickly enmeshed in the musical community. He joined the Musicians Union and the Society of Professional Musicians, helped found the American Composers’ Alliance, and became a critic for the popular publication Modern Music. After befriending John Hammond, who was then a record programmer in the Popular Music Division at Columbia Records, Lieberson was hired by Columbia as an assistant to Moses Smith, Director of Masterworks.
Lieberson rose through the ranks at Columbia, as documented in this Columbia Records biographical sketch, printed in July 1964:
“In 1939, [Lieberson] joined the Masterworks Division of Columbia Records, then newly acquired by the Columbia Broadcasting System, as Assistant Director. Subsequently, first as Director of that department and later as Vice President in charge of Masterworks Artists and Repertoire, he developed Columbia’s distinguished classical artist roster and catalog. In 1949, Mr. Lieberson was appointed Executive Vice President of Columbia Records and, in 1956, he became President. At the same time, Mr. Lieberson became a Vice President and a member of the Board of Directors of the Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. …”
Lieberson was instrumental in Columbia’s rise to prominence in the recording industry. He had his hand in nearly every part of the recording process: programming, producing, editing and compiling marketing materials. Lieberson furthered the careers of numerous artists including Igor Stravinsky, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Bruno Walter, Eugene Ormandy, Barbra Streisand, and many others. Alongside the development of the Long-Playing (“LP”) record by Columbia in 1948, Lieberson spearheaded a number of important projects including Columbia’s Modern American Music Series (1953). He was also instrumental to the production of over fifty original cast recordings of Broadway shows including My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, and West Side Story. Lieberson produced a number of dramatic projects such as Waiting for Godot, Othello, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, as well as historical documentaries including The American Revolution, The Confederacy, The Union, I Can Hear It Now, and numerous others.
By the time of his retirement in 1975, Lieberson had become a modern-day impresario in the record business. During the later years of his career he was less involved in day-to-day matters of production, but nevertheless participated in a number of important public projects that contributed to his legacy in the industry. He helped to found and curate the Yale University Collection of the Literature of the American Musical Theatre, sat on the advisory committee of the Hopkins Center at Dartmouth College, and served as president and member of the Board of Directors of the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA).
Lieberson was married for a brief time in the late 1930s to Margaret Rosenberg, whom he met in Rochester during his time at Eastman. They separated shortly after his move to New York. In 1946, Lieberson married actress and dancer Vera Zorina (known off-stage as Brigitta Lieberson), and they remained together until his death on May 29, 1977. They had two sons, Peter Lieberson (1946-2011), a notable composer, and Jonathan Lieberson (1949-1989), an editor and teacher of philosophy.
- Guide to the Goddard Lieberson Papers
- compiled by Emily Ferrigno and Mary Jones
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English.
Part of the Gilmore Music Library Repository
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