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Professor Stephen Banfield

Historical musicology: music and locality

My recent and current work has been focusing on two large-scale projects mapping and interpreting the histories of music beyond received models and narratives: music in the British Empire, and music in an English region (the west country). Both range widely across time and space and aim to understand the symbolic and commodified dimensions of music in urban and rural communities and uncover a prosopography of musical practice. Christopher Small's 'musicking' is a pertinent concept, and the literature on colonialisms is naturally drawn upon. So is soundscape theory, and a third project, The Sounds of Classical Music, relates the aurality of musicking back to what we hear in classical music compositions and thereby reconciles the social history project with my ongoing concern with 'the music itself' as one who was trained to criticise it and has trained others to do so. One book has already been published, Music in the West Country: social and cultural history across an English region (Boydell, 2018), and another is in progress, Music in the British World: a critical anthology of newspaper readings, 1763-1901. I also hope to write a general history of music in the British Empire, and it is intended that the final single-authored monograph in this series will be Victorian Music and Beyond, because no better arena can be imagined in which to wrestle with the conflict between the achievements of the exceptional few (and their perceived value) and the products and engagements of the many.

Research keywords

  • historical musicology
  • colonialism
  • soundscape
  • musicking
  • social history
  • topic theory
  • prosopography
  • Victorian