'Putting It Together': Investigating Sources for Musical Theatre Research

An international conference in honour of Stephen Banfield

The University of Sheffield, 10-12 May 2016

What are the sources of our research? By now, musical theatre is a well-established field of research in disciplines ranging from musicology to American studies. The numerous monographs, journal articles, symposia, doctoral theses and practice-based research outputs attest to the richness of musicals as a critical sphere. Yet the basis for our research remains debatable. Critical studies rely on primary sources such as published scores as the basis for their discourse, but these published sources are frequently unreliable. Many sources remain unpublished and inaccessible. Current musical theatre practitioners can be reluctant to share materials when their work is still commercial in the mainstream, while sources for older musicals might be lost in the attics of the families of their long-deceased writers. And since theatre is a performance-based discipline, can we even trust paper sources to reveal the essence of the musical theatre experience?

Hosted by the Department of Music at the University of Sheffield, this three-day conference seeks to interrogate the use of sources in research into musical theatre and film, covering interdisciplinary perspectives from musicology, film, theatre, media, information management, criticism and performance. Keynote speakers include Geoffrey Block and Jeffrey Magee, with contributions from the Library of Congress and New York Public Library. There will also be a concert of lesser-known songs by Lerner and Loewe, acknowledging the contribution scholars can make to keeping Broadway and West End history alive beyond the academic world.

The conference will be held in honour of Professor Stephen Banfield of Bristol University. Professor Banfield's ground-breaking research into the musicals of Stephen Sondheim helped to establish musicals as a valuable focus of study, and is one of the key reasons for the growth of this area over the last twenty years. His monographs on Sondheim and Kern and his numerous articles, book chapters, conference papers and research students paved the way for the discipline, and he joins us to lead the discussion about where we are now and where might consider going.

Registration is open now. Please visit the conference shop to book your attendance.

'Putting It Together' has received generous support from the Royal Musical Association. Please follow this link to find out more about the organisation.