Dr Mike Lee

Dr Mike Cheng-Yu Lee ANU School of Music

School of Music

Chair Education Committee
School of Music

Fortepiano, Grand piano, Harpsichord, Keyboard, Piano, Square Piano

Rm 508, ANU School of Music, Building 100, William Herbert Place


+61 2 6125 0542

ANU Researcher page

Awarded Second Prize and Audience Prize at the 2011 Westfield International Fortepiano Competition by a jury that included Robert Levin and the late Christopher Hogwood, (forte)pianist Mike Cheng-Yu Lee’s performances have been described as “portraying integrity, purity, complexity and truth… with balance and control that are breathtaking.” Peter Jacobi of the Bloomington Herald Times writes: "As a keyboard performer, Lee really is a major talent, no doubt about it…[his] Mozart was absolutely radiant, a lesson in refinement mixed with deep devotion."

An advocate of pianos that span the eighteenth century to the present, Mike has appeared with the New World Symphony at the invitation of Michael Tilson Thomas and has collaborated with musicians including Joseph Lin (Juilliard String Quartet), the Formosa Quartet, among others that integrate modern and period instruments. He has performed and given masterclasses at Oberlin Conservatory, the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, 23Arts Festival (NY)Mayfest Chamber Music Festival (NY), the Bloomington Early Music Festival (IN) and others. Current projects include the complete cycle of Mozart’s piano sonatas, “Beethoven Perspectives,” a series of lecture-recitals that explore connections between works by Beethoven and others, and investigating Bach’s keyboard music in terms of late eighteenth-century instruments and aesthetics.

Mike Cheng-Yu Lee has served as Visiting Assistant Professor at Indiana University-Bloomington and was previously Lecturer of music theory at Yale University. As a published scholar, he has presented on issues of musical form, performance practice, and musical embodiment at the Society of Music Theory and the European Music Analysis Conference. Mike studied at Yale University, School of Music and holds a Ph.D. in musicology from Cornell University where he won the Donald J. Grout Memorial dissertation prize. His teachers have included Malcolm Bilson, Boris Berman, and the renowned Haydn scholar James Webster.

Mike is Lecturer of Piano/Keyboard Performance at the Australian National University, School of Music and Director of the ANU Keyboard Institute.


My research centers broadly on the intersection between performance and analysis. My dissertation explores how our biological capacity for intentionality enables aspects of embodiment to relate to domains of musical meaning. The research draws on the philosophies of language and mind – in particular the work of Austin, Grice, and Searle on intentionality and speech acts – to develop a theory of musical intentionality that explores relations between the intentions of agents, the meanings they enact, and musical embodiment.

I have presented papers on issues of musical form, Schenkerian analysis, eighteenth-century schema theory, and Lewinian transformational theory at the Society of Music Theory, the European Music Analysis Conference, the Royal Academy of Music, Yale University, and Indiana University—Bloomington. My writings have appeared in Music Theory Online (the online journal of the Society for Music Theory) and Eighteenth-Century Music.

Research Areas:

I. Performance and analysis:

  • Musical form (Formenlehre) and musical performance
  • Phrase rhythm and meter
  • Musical topics (topoi) and their performance
  • Timbre and the “musical surface”
  • Schema/partimento theory and historically situated listening  
  • Relation between musical embodiment (fingering, bowing, etc.), instruments, and meaning

II. Schenkerian analysis:

  • Schenker’s early writings
  • Schenker’s views on performance as related to his views on musical structure
  • Musical narrative and Schenkerian theory
  • Rhythm and meter as inflected by structural analysis

III. Historically informed performance:

  • 18th- and 19th-century performance practices and their intersection with 21st-century tools of music theory/analysis
  • Notation
  • Early recordings
  • Intersection between keyboard technologies with touch, sound, and expression
  • Translation between instrumental idioms

IV. Music theory and analytic philosophy:

  • Intentionality and mental representation in listening and performance
  • Metaphor as sense and reference in music-analytic discourse
  • Agency
  • Intentionalistic structures of the Lewinian “transformational attitude”

Current research projects:

  • “The ‘Ups’ and ‘Downs’ of Structural Rhythm: Shared Aspects of Bowing and Structural Rhythm in Haydn’s String Quartet, Op. 64 No. 3”
  • “Revisiting Sources for Ambiguity in Haydn String Quartet Op. 33 No. 1”
  • “Musical Materiality, Meaning, and the Functions of Intentionality”
  • “Toward an Intentionalistic Re-orientation of Lewin’s Transformational ‘Doings’”
  • “Keyboard Fingering as Cross Domain Mapping between Musical Structure and Musical Embodiment”
  • “Formal Disorientation, Sonata Theory, and the Slow Movement of Schumann’s Piano Trio in F major, Op. 80”
  • “The Meanings of Schubert’s Octaves: Gesture Formal Processes in Piano Sonatas D. 845 and D. 840, Reliquie

Updated:  9 April 2018/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications