Challenging Performance:

Classical Music Performance Norms
and How to Escape Them


by Daniel Leech-Wilkinson


This is a book, or maybe in the end a website, or a set of podcasts, or two or three of these—we’ll see. It’s addressed to performers of western classical music and it’s about freeing performance from unnecessary rules and constraints.

If, during the pandemic, you need music to reassure and comfort, this may not be the right book for you at the moment: maybe come back to it when things look brighter. If, on the other hand, you want to use this time to think about how we might do things differently in the future (more equitably, more creatively) then this may be just the text for you.

If you’re a passionate believer in the status quo you will hate it. But that doesn’t mean it’s wholly wrong. As you can already tell, it’s a polemical piece rather than a scholarly tome. But that doesn’t mean it includes no truths.

I’m writing it during 2019–20, and posting chapters in first draft as they’re written. I’d very much like your feedback, in the light of which I’ll make improvements. So the text will grow and change. Please follow it, and let me know what you think at Please let others know at @ChalPerformance and anywhere that classical musicians follow.

Continue to Chapter 1: Introduction. Use the list of contents below, or the menu in the green band at the top of the page, to skip ahead to other topics. Or start with the podcast digest of Chapter 1 and return here afterwards, if you enjoy it, to find out more.


“Challenging Performance: Classical Music Performance Norms and How to Escape Them” by Daniel Leech-Wilkinson is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.
version 1.9 (


To come…

(Pt 2:) recording (Pt 3:) more examples, limits of principle and practice

Part 4: Psychological Explanations

music as infantilisation, music as religion, music as another person, music and attachment

Part 5: Conclusions

ways of acting, objects as music, rights and freedom

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