Professor Patrick Zuk joins the IAS as Director, Arts & Humanities, on 1 October 2021. Based in the Department of Music, Professor Zuk joined Durham University in 2006. A cultural historian specialising in the study of music in Eastern Europe and Great Britain and Ireland, his research has from the outset transcended traditional disciplinary boundaries. His recent publications include Nikolay Myaskovsky: A Composer and His Times (2021), a ground-breaking revisionist account of the career and achievement of a central figure in Soviet artistic life. He has contributed essays to Music and Letters, the Journal of Musicology, the Journal of the Royal Musical Association, and other leading specialist periodicals, and co-edited the volume Russian Music Since 1917: Reappraisal and Rediscovery (2017) for the Proceedings of the British Academy series. He is currently Deputy Executive Dean (Postgraduate Research) in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities and Academic Director of the AHRC Northern Bridge doctoral training partnership (www.northernbridge.ac.uk), which links the seven universities in the North-East of England and Northern Ireland. Here he introduces himself and shares some thoughts on his role at the IAS.
‘Like many cultural historians, I have found myself drawn to topics that can only be explored satisfactorily from multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives, which makes the prospect of working for the IAS very attractive. Much of my work has been concerned to elucidate how musical creativity and musical life in two very different geographical contexts—Russia and Eastern Europe, Ireland and Great Britain—were shaped by their socio-political contexts and the wider currents of intellectual life. My studies of artistic cultures under repressive political regimes initiated a Wellcome Trust-funded project on musical representations of trauma and extreme experience, leading me to venture into the medical humanities. I am currently planning a follow-on project which will explore the psychological and cultural significance of musical symbolisations of resolution and the working-through of conflict, drawing on perspectives from neuroscience, psychotherapy, aesthetics, and other fields.
The IAS makes a valuable contribution to the university in various practical ways—assisting Durham staff members to develop projects and secure research funding, enriching the research environment by fostering connections with scholars based elsewhere, and strengthening Durham’s international presence. Equally important, however, in my view, is its symbolic significance as a uniting centre linking the university’s constituent schools and departments and their varied fields of investigation—something akin to the mediaeval notion of the universum. The IAS is a manifestation of our collective commitment to the pursuit of knowledge as a worthy aim in itself, aside from whatever practical benefits it may bring. We might think of it as a temenos or special precinct, a site dedicated to encouraging experiment and creativity, where representatives of all disciplines can gather to study questions of common concern and seek new insights and understandings. As such, I believe passionately that the Institute deserves our continuing support and that it has abundant potential to develop in unexpected and interesting directions.
I hope that my experience of working between languages and cultures, my curiosity about a range of artistic media, and my interest in issues of common concern across the humanities and social sciences will equip me well to support colleagues in my own faculty and beyond in generating new ideas and projects. I look forward to learning more about their work-in-progress, to discussing their plans, and helping to establish new and productive partnerships.’