Lisa Cheney


Lisa Cheney (born 1987) is an Australian composer. Cheney writes music for orchestra, chamber, voice, acousmatic collaborations and works for stage. Her music reflects an interest in the ‘edge of beauty’; whether it be through a human-like fragility, poeticism or variations in resonant space, timbral transitions, pacing or light and dark sound worlds. Cheney’s work has been described as ‘atmospheres of unfathomable spaciousness’ (Partial Durations), ‘melodic slivers with plaintive intensity’ (The Australian) and ‘fantastic and frightening in its detail and colour’ (Resonate).

Cheney has received several accolades, including a grant from the Australia-Korea Foundation, the 2017 Art Music Fund, the Griffith University Owen Fletcher Postgraduate Award, the Silver Harris and Jeff Peck Composition Prize and was a finalist for Instrumental Work of the Year at the 2018 Art Music Awards for her cello work ‘When We Speak’. Her music has been commissioned and performed by The Southern Cross Soloists, The Australian Voices, Queensland Conservatorium Symphony Orchestra, Plexus, Syzygy, Sydney Antiphony, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra and the Australian Ballet amongst others.

Cheney holds a Bachelor of Music in Composition and Master of Music from the Queensland Conservatorium of Music where she studied with Gerard Brophy and Dr. Gerardo Dirie respectively. Her research in to the early career experiences of female composers in Australia was supervised by Dr. Brydie-Leigh Bartleet. She is currently completing a PhD in Music at The University of Melbourne, supervised by Dr. Elliott Gyger and Dr. Katy Abbott.

Her music and work within the community (co-founder of Making Waves) has been recognised by the Art Music Fund, Art Music Awards, Matilda Awards, Victoria Young Achiever of the Year and the Australian Women in Music Awards.

Composer website:


A Bridge Between, for oboe, violin, viola, cello, double bass and piano.

“Growing up I spent most of my time with my nose in a fiction novel. It wasn’t unusual for me to sneak a book along when we went out to dinner as a family or to be reading on the way to and from school. I am still passionate about fictional stories and love the way in which an author can conjure such vivid magical lands and images that can capture, inspire and challenge my imagination. As I grew I began to experiment through sounds, rather than words, and began to find my own unique ways to create sound-worlds that could capture the imagination (just like the books I loved so much). ‘A Bridge Between’ represents the middle ground between two such creative worlds. Rather than describing the worlds that I imagined, I ask the listener to use their imaginations to ponder where this music might be coming from and going to. After all, I have always found that what happens in the bridging units, in that magical space somewhere in the middle, to be the most captivating and rewarding.”

Featured in Playlist 6: Meditative Waves 30/06/15

Elegy, for baritone saxophone and string quartet.

“At its core this work is an Elegy for a love lost. However, it is also a joyous revelling in the extreme dexterity, range and emotional power of the Baritone Saxophone. Raw, beautiful and intense with a climatic improvised passage, this is a work that I will always regard as one I felt I really ‘needed’ to express at the time.”

Featured in Playlist 1: Chamber Waves 31/01/15

When We Speak, for solo cello and electroacoustic track.

“When We Speak for solo cello and electroacoustic track. The work was premiered at the This Will Be Our Reply concert, International Women’s Day concert at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, Melba Hall in 2o16.

When We Speak seeks to comment on broader issues surrounding gender inequality and these considerations on my compositional practice.  Throughout the work the interweaving of many ‘voices’ is present in: my own musical language, the music and speech of influential Finnish composer, Kaija Saariaho, the expression of the live cellist and her own literal voice in places. This, at times semi-improvised cello part, weaves its way through an atmospheric soundscape derived from a recent public interview with Saariaho. The accompanying recorded musical sounds are extracted and manipulated from Saariaho’s own compositions. What links all of these wonderfully musical and powerful elements together conceptually is that the manipulated musical sounds stem largely from a pre-recorded performance of Gemma Tomlinson playing  Saariaho’s Sept Papillons for solo cello. Much like the fragile ecosystem of that connects each of us in society, in this work invisible individual threads connect each ‘voice’ to make one musical whole.

Featured in Spoken Waves September 2016

Drought, for SSAATTBB choir.

In ‘Drought’, Cheney sets the poem of the same name by the late Brisbane poet, Judith Wright to music for SSAATTBB voices. The music, text and voices work together to sculpt beautiful, haunting soundscapes and images of an ever-changing Australian landscape, perched beneath an unforgiving sun.

Featured in Landscape Waves, February 2018

Somewhere in the Middle, for solo piano.

Somewhere in the Middle explores the notion of cultures and composers feeling a loss of identity and place in their own music. It leads the listener to question whether feeling a sense of identity and place in a work of music is important and whether imposing labels on music is really necessary. This work seeks to blend traditional and contemporary musical worlds and is influenced by the contemporary classical music of Seoul, South Korea.

Featured in Evolving waves, November 2019