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Daniel Leech-Wilkinson

Professor Daniel Leech-Wilkinson

Leech-WilkinsonDEmeritus Professor of Music


Tel +44 (0)20 7848 2576

Music Department
King's College London
Strand Campus
WC2R 2LS  



Professor Leech-Wilkinson studied composition, harpsichord and organ at the Royal College of Music, then took the MMus at King's, specialising in 15th-century music. Following doctoral research at Cambridge, working on 14th-century techniques of composition, he became a Fellow of Churchill College. He taught at Nottingham and Southampton universities before rejoining the Music Department at King's College London in September 1997. He received funding for a five-year project on "Expressivity in Schubert Song Performance" within the AHRC Research Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music (CHARM), also directing a large-scale discographical and digitisation project, making available 78rpm recordings from the King's Sound Archive online. He also led "Performers' Perceptions of Music as Shape" within the AHRC Research Centre for Musical Performance as Creative Practice (2009-14). He is currently investigating the constraints on performer creativity in classical music practice. 

Research Interests and PhD supervision
  • Musical communication
  • Music cognition
  • Recordings as documents of performance practice
  • Performance analysis
  • The politics of musical performance norms

Daniel Leech-Wilkinson works on how the mind constructs music in response to expressive performance (seen in the light of recent work on music cognition, evolution and neuroscience) and on the ways in which beliefs about correct classical music performance constrain performer creativity. Within the CHARM project (2004-9) he studied changing approaches to the singing of Schubert songs, documented through 100 years of recordings. As a spin-off from that project his article ‘Portamento and musical meaning’ examined vocal (and by extension, instrumental) portamento in the light of the trans-cultural phenomenon of infant directed vocalisation (popularly known as motherese, or baby talk), proposing that portamento acquires its sentimental associations by automatically evoking carer responses in the listener, responses that may be unwelcome in certain historical-cultural contexts (including Western modernity). From 2009-14 he led an AHRC-funded team that investiged the concept of shape in performance, with research fellows and students deploying a variety of techniques from psychology, sociology and computer science to focus on a commonly-used metaphor in teaching, preparing and criticising performances. Since leaving medieval studies, in which he specialised until ca 2000, his solo research has dealt with many issues surrounding historical performance, including a focus on the pianist Alfred Cortot (1877-1962) and his uniquely bold approach to expressivity. Recently he has been concerned with the implications of early recordings for rethinking our beliefs about how scores should and could be performed; and he has been working with performers to develop new approaches.

Daniel welcomes applications for PhD topics related to any of his research interests. 

For more details, please see his full research profile.

Selected Publications
  • ‘Cortot’s ‘Berceuse’’, Music Analysis 34/3 (2015) 335-63
  • Compositions, scores, performances, meanings’, Music Theory Online 18/1 (2012)
  • ‘Making music with Alfred Cortot: ontology, data, analysis’, in ed. Heinz von Loesch and Stefan Weinzierl, Gemessene Interpretation - Computergestützte Aufführungsanalyse im Kreuzverhör der Disziplinen, (Mainz: Schott 2011)
  • The Changing Sound of Music: approaches to studying recorded musical performances (London, 2009) CHARM
  • The Modern Invention of Medieval Music (Cambridge University Press, 2002). Royal Philharmonic Society Book Award 2002
  • Guillaume de Machaut, Le Livre dou Voir Dit (with Barton Palmer) (Garland, 1998)
For a complete list of publications, please see Daniel's full research profile.


The Philosophy and Psychology of Music Perception; Performance Practice on Record; Musical Quality and Musical Taste; Medieval Music, 850-1300; Medieval Music, 1300-1420; Early Renaissance Music; Music since 1945.


Performance, Gesture, Meaning; Schubert Song on Record; The Invention of Medieval Music.

Media and Engagement

Daniel Leech-Wilkinson manages the King’s Sound Archive, a collection of 150,000 78rpm recordings, ca. 1900-1960, mostly donated by the BBC Gramophone Library, soon to be supplemented by a similar number of 78s and LPs offered to King’s by a major collection. The archive has two professionally-equipped transfer studios in which recordings can be digitised for study and dissemination. A selection of almost 5000 recordings is freely available through the CHARM sound file search. The archive also has a collection of early and modern record company catalogues, discographies and specialist magazines on records and recording, including complete runs of Gramophone and The Record Collector, and various electronic databases.


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