Music in the West Country is the first regional history of music in England. Ranging over seven hundred years, from the minstrels, waits, and cathedral choristers of the fourteenth century to the Bristol Sound of the late twentieth, the book explores the region's soundscape, from its gateway cities of Bristol and Salisbury in the east to the Isles of Scilly in the west, and examines music-making in tiny villages as well as conditions in important centres such as Bath, Exeter, Plymouth, and Bournemouth. What emerges is both a study of the typical - musical practices which would apply to any English region - and a portrait of the unique - features born of the region's physical isolation and charm, among them the growth of festival culture, the mythologising of folk music, the late survival of parish psalmody and nonconformist carolling, and the unique continuance, today, of a professional resort orchestra, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.
Banfield's vividly written and extremely readable history of music in the west country considers an array of subjects, firmly centred on people's stories: musical inventions and the idea of tradition, music as cultural capital, the economics of musical employment and the demographics of musicianship, musical networks, the relationship of the hinterlands to the metropolis, the influence of topography, the importance of institutions and events, and the question of how to measure value. A study in prosopography, it shows how people went about their lives with music and explores how things changed for them - or did not.
STEPHEN BANFIELD is Emeritus Professor of Music at the University of Bristol.