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Professor Stephen Banfield

Professor Stephen Banfield

Professor Stephen Banfield
M.A.(Cantab.), D.Phil.(Oxon.), F.R.C.O.

Emeritus Professor of Music

Area of research

Historical musicology: music and locality

43 Woodland Road,
Clifton, Bristol BS8 1UU
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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.


Educated at Clare College Cambridge (organ scholar), St John's College Oxford (senior scholar) and Harvard University (Frank Knox Fellow), I was lecturer, then senior lecturer, at Keele University from 1978 to 1992, and Elgar Professor of Music at the University of Birmingham from 1992 to 2003, in which year I took up the Stanley Hugh Badock chair of music at the University of Bristol. I have been Head of School at Birmingham (1992-5) and Bristol (2006, 2010-12). I retired in December 2012, thereafter becoming professor emeritus at the University of Bristol.


I have taught a wide range of topics and material from historical, analytical, technical and practical standpoints. In more recent years these have mostly focused on American musicals and 'golden age' popular song, the 20th-century English art song, elements of the 19th- and 20th-century canon, and the English late 16th and early 17th century. At masters level the focus has been on bringing 'new musicology' concerns to bear on some of these areas or, conversely, leading 'new musicology' claimants back to close reading and source study.


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



Department of Music

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