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Research at St Andrews

Percy Leung


Research overview

I began my PhD in Modern History at St Andrews in January 2017, under the supervision of Professor Frank Lorenz Müller, having completed my BA in Combined Honours in Arts (History, Music, Politics & International Relations) at Durham University in 2015 and my M.Phil in Music Studies at the University of Cambridge in 2016. I have always been deeply passionate about the relationship between music and politics. My undergraduate dissertation explores the contradictions and paradoxes of the Nazis' cultural policies on music, whereas my masters' dissertation is a comparative analysis of the Soviet Union's and the United States' Denazification policies on the German musical scene in post-war occupied Berlin between 1945 and 1947, arguing that the cultural policies implemented by the USSR, which was widely recognised as an authoritarian state, were much more liberal and lenient than the policies of the USA, which prided herself as a world-leading democracy.

My doctoral research focuses on the social, economic and political contributions to the German and British war efforts made, respectively, by the Berliner Philharmoniker and the London Symphony Orchestra during the First World War. I will investigate the value of classical music and its public performance in fostering national identity in war-time societies and in bolstering the morale in the home fronts, the ways that these two orchestras transformed classical music from a serious, elitist art-form to an offering located within popular mass culture and how the changing circumstances of the First World War affected the musical life and administration of both orchestras.

My research interests are centred on the relationship between music and politics in the first half of the Twentieth Century, with a special focus on the cultural history and the musical life of Germany and Britain, the history of symphony orchestras and the role of music in authoritarian regimes, namely Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia and Maoist China; whereas as a musicologist, I focus on the effects of classical music on societies and how compositions' texts, notational idiosyncrasies and compositional devices influenced a population.

Outside academia, I am a keen conductor, having conducted various orchestras in the past, including the Universities of Scotland Symphony Orchestra, the University of Cambridge's Emmanuel and Corpus Christi Orchestra, the Durham University Hill Orchestra, the St Andrews Symphony Orchestra, the St Andrews and Fife Community Orchestra and the University of St Andrews’ Concert Wind Band.

My doctoral studies are generously fully funded by the St Leonard's College Scholarship, awarded by the School of History.

I was awarded a scholarship by the Studienstiftung of the Berlin House of Representatives, the State Parliament of Berlin, and was a Visiting Scholar at the Humboldt University of Berlin from October 2018 to September 2019. 

During the first three months of 2020, I was a Postgraduate Visiting Scholar at the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing at Wolfson College, University of Oxford. I am currently an Assistant Lecturer at the Humboldt University of Berlin. 

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