Percy Grainger

Percy Aldridge Grainger was born near Melbourne, Australia in 1882 and was to die in White Plains, New York in February 1961. In the intervening 78 years, he had become an American citizen whilst travelling regularly to Britain (he was invited to perform at the 1959 Aldeburgh Festival, for example, though illness prevented him from taking up the invitation). He always maintained he was an Australian composer, however, though he felt the country had rejected him. Nevertheless, that sense of Australian-ness led him to create the Grainger Museum in Melbourne (which is now part of and run by Melbourne University and is an absolute delight to visit, if you ever get the chance to do so).

As a description, "odd" doesn't really do Percy justice! He became a vegetarian, despite hating vegetables, for example. He was also famously sado-masachistic, with his large collection of assorted whips and restraints prominently displayed these days in the aforementioned Grainger museum, Melbourne. He experimented with 'free music', whereby machines would auto-generate music without human input: again, there's a fascinating example of one of his machines to see in the Grainger museum. He happened to also be racist and a believer in the innate superiority of the Nordic races (he was a firm champion of all things Grieg, for example).

It took me quite a while to get to like Grainger's music, because it is superficially so odd. In any given piece of his, for example, you will quite often start with a nice tune (he was an avid collector of folk tunes) and then it will soon enough wander off into God knows what byways and alleyways, with strange harmonisations and rhythmic elaborations. I soon found I was able to tell an unknown piece was by Grainger if it started tunefully enough and then went completely bonkers! Nevertheless, I admire almost everything he wrote and I think him to be an under-rated composer (though I am naturally a bit biased towards anything Australian!)

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Music Plays from my collection
(since January 9th 2021)

Date of PlayTime of PlayGenreCompositionLength
Date of PlayTime of PlayGenreCompositionLength