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  • Wed, March 09, 2022 2:12 PM | Anne Ocone (Administrator)

    What are the first colors of spring you notice?

    For me it is the chartreuse green of the weeping willow trees and the vivid green hues of moss that emerge as the snow finally melts away. Looking through images for this blog post I came across Percy Grainger's 1916 illustrated cover of Four Irish Dances, the obvious choice for this March edition. Grainger documented folk music arrangements preserving for posterity the legacy of these unique musical styles. Through Grainger’s music, letters, photographs, program notes, newspaper promotions, and reviews he leaves us ample documentation of his influence and legacy. With investigative work we can piece together a timeline, a progression. You can see the patterns of daily life over a lifetime and begin to contextualize his contributions. Seeing how one note led to the next. 


    Here at the Percy Grainger House and Studio I am helping to preserve the environment in which he created this work. As a graduate student working towards a master's in museum studies, I began an internship here last summer. My weekly visits to 7 Cromwell Place have been a delight in assisting with the work of uncovering, documenting, and cataloging the objects in the house. There is an intimate feeling here, like one of the Graingers might simply walk in the front door at any moment. I am learning how Percy and Ella lived and worked in the house over a span of forty plus years. This work is about peeling back the layers as much as it is about building an archive of information.


    There are many stories to tell here, and one of them can be told through examining the physical house the Graingers lived in at 7 Cromwell Place, in downtown White Plains, New York from 1921-1979. One of the first things I noticed was that the color green is everywhere in the interior design and architecture of the home. Popular in industrial and decorative designs from the 1920s through the 1950s, the color green was ubiquitous with the modern era home. McCoy Pottery, Fiestaware, linoleum rugs, textiles, kitchen utensils, and appliances, were all readily available in shades of green. 



    In the home there are several stained-glass windows and delicate tiffany-style lamp shades that evoke the earlier era of the home's construction sometime in the early days of the 20th century. There is the green detail on the “modern” gas stove and the assortment of dishes on the kitchen table that sit as if waiting in anticipation for the arrival of an afternoon guest. There are lamps made of pressed metal, Bakelite, and ceramic in varying shades of green; indeed, there is a lamp style for every occasion. In the living room a decorative detail on a rattan armchair, the quirky English-style Knole sofa, and the linoleum rug in the pantry all hint at variations on the theme. There remains a linoleum rug in the upstairs bathroom, a rose bordered green runner.


    So how did the Graingers live in this house? The home was both a retreat and a launching point, a creative hub for the Free-Music collaboration between Percy Grainger and Burnett Cross and the studio where Ella designed her tiles. As I have been cataloging photographs into the museum’s database or packing documents into archival storage boxes, I uncover images of the Graingers in their home. I look for clues, scanning the photos for a familiar lamp, a chair, or a window covering. We understand that the Graingers freely moved the furniture around the house to make way for creative endeavors such as the work on the Free Music machines or impromptu music concerts. 

    I recently helped Museum Coordinator Anne Ocone search the kitchen for a rolling pin, a replacement part needed for the Free Music machine slated to be restored this summer. In the cupboard we found a wooden rolling pin with green handles. Was this the one in the photographs? We assumed the handle was red, but with only a black and white photograph as evidence it was hard to tell. Was this one of the original rolling pins used? Maybe. Was it likely? Possibly. I can imagine Grainger walking around the house gathering materials for the Free Music machine.

    There is an art and science to museum work. You rely on primary source materials: photographs, letters, documents, objects, and piece together the sequence of events to craft a narrative about the totality of a collection. Ella and Percy Grainger filled their home with many objects the color green. There is something to this. I can’t know what its meaning held for them, but only observe that it was so. 


    Sometimes here at the Grainger home the process of uncovering and documenting their life and work is as much about determining what things are not as to what they are. What is here and what is not. Most of their belongings were shipped off to the Percy Grainger Museum in Melbourne, Australia. I assume that this was Grainger’s attempt at curating his own narrative. Fitting these pieces that remain into the puzzle supports the vision and mission of the Percy Grainger Society of “promoting a deeper understanding of the cultural, social, and economic context of his life and work” helping “to preserve it and interpret it for future generations” (1). The house is full of evidence of their life here in White Plains. Letters, photographs, sheet music, books, toolboxes, artwork, clothing, suitcases, furniture, musical instruments, and mementos all help to tell the story of who the Graingers were, and helps to celebrate a richer understanding of their life.

    Here at the Percy Grainger House and Studio, Green seemed the perfect musings for March as we await the outdoors to join in the chorus of green found inside 7 Cromwell Place. With the hope of brighter, lighter days ahead I look forward to the arrival of the yellow daffodils of April and the Spring Open House & Jazz concert here on April 10th. 

    Stewart Lee March 9, 2022

    (1) .www.percygraingeramerica.org

  • Fri, January 21, 2022 9:51 AM | Anne Ocone (Administrator)

    The collection at the Percy Grainger Home and Studio has many treasures, and highlighted here are a few of the images from a box of photos dating to 1941 when Grainger traveled and performed with the Gustavus Adolphus College Band on their two-week tour in Minnesota.

    Percy and Ella had developed a strong relationship with Gustavus Adolphus College and their band director Frederic Hilary.  They visited the college multiple times in the early 1940s. Percy gave lectures, taught, and performed. Judging by the photographs, he spent a lot of time with the students including traveled together with the band on the bus during the tour.

    Percy and Ella made friends wherever they traveled.  During the tour in March of 1941, they stayed at the home of friends Mr. and Mrs. Roy Hendrickson, at 819 Ella Avenue, Wilmar Minnesota.  Their son, Charles, age five at the time of the Grainger's visit, reported to the Percy Grainger Society in a September 2, 2001 letter: "Realizing that the lack of a piano did not present us as worthy for such a visit, my father ordered a Baldwin delivered to the house just in time for Percy to dedicated it.  I still have the piano."  The letter noted it was Fred Hilary, the then Gustavus Adolphus music director, that was responsible for bringing Percy to Minnesota for the tours. Charles Hendrickson (1935-2020) was the founder of the Hendrickson Organ Company.

    Like the Percy Grainger Society, Gustavus Adolphus College has a collection of Grainger photos as well as many stories about Percy and his time at the college.

  • Thu, December 02, 2021 4:32 PM | Anne Ocone (Administrator)

    This eight-minute video photo montage was first shown at the November 14, 2021 concert of Percy Grainger’s music by the Westchester Symphonic Winds, with Curt Ebersole as Music Director and performed at the Tarrytown Music Hall in Tarrytown, New York.  The photographs were selected from the collection of the Percy Grainger Home and Studio in White Plains, New York by Barry Peter Ould, Susan Edwards Colson, and Anne Ocone.  The video was created by Matthew McGarrell.  The soundtrack is taken from a 1929 78 rpm disc recording of Percy Grainger playing his piano arrangement of Jutish Medley.

    Click here to watch the video

    Matthew McGarrell

  • Sat, October 23, 2021 11:00 AM | Susan Colson (Administrator)

    By Dana Paul Perna

    Editor's Note: With Ray Davies, longtime frontman for The Kinks, confessing to an enduring interest in Percy Grainger's work ("The warm gentleness of his My Robin Is To The Greenwood Gone is joyful to behold") in a recent album, we thank Dana Perna for further drawing our attention to Grainger's influence on musicians in surprising ways.

    What an unexpected thrill in discovering that a new, thoughtfully conceived album has been devoted to music by four American composers you seldom encounter on orchestral programs anymore, if not ever. The new release of whence I write is by the Basque National Orchestra (Euskadiko Orkestra) under the baton of conductor Robert Trevino that appears on the ONDINE label, catalog number 1396-2. With the exception of one work, three of the titles have been recorded previously, yet each of them have been captured in truly glorious technicolor sonority, marking a most welcome inclusion to any record collection.

    During their lifetimes, these four composers were performed, esteemed and acclaimed, yet, alas, have fallen into a degree of undeserved neglect since their passings. While it is uncommon enough to find these masters sharing the same album, the conductor Robert Trevino has taken his exploration still further, into the recesses of their repertory – complete with a Hanson piece, “Before the Dawn”, op. 17, that has had to wait a century for this, its premiere recording. Since all four of these composers knew Percy Grainger, and visa versa, it seems wholly appropriate to make mention of this release to Grainger enthusiasts specifically.

    Based on a play by Maeterlinck, “La Mort de Tintagiles”, by the Alsatian-born Charles Martin Loeffler (1861–1935), opens this release. Completed during the summer of 1897, this impressive 25-minute orchestral work features a solo part for viola d’amore that is performed on this recording by Delphine Dupuy. “La Mort de Tintagiles” is a richly orchestrated treasure of an opus that Loeffler and Franz Kneisel premiered with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in January 1898  - as originally scored for TWO viola d’amores and orchestra. Loeffler revised the work, prepared the featured parts for one viola d’amore, receiving its premiere in that final form in 1901; the version presented on this release. (For motion picture buffs, some of you may recognize the viola d’amore’s presence amidst the score for “On Dangerous Ground” by [Grainger’s student] Bernard Herrmann. One of Loeffler’s own viola d’amores [he owned 2] was gifted to Isabella Stewart Gardner on 14 August 1903, and is currently on display at the library named for her in Boston, but, I informatively digress). While he is often referred to as being an “American Impressionist,” that would not completely define Loeffler’s identity as a composer, nor to generate a picture as per the late-romantic richness, color, depth and dramatic nature that one shall comprehend upon encountering this major opus among his catalog. The sumptuousness of Loeffler’s orchestration, alone, is worth stating as remaining paramount to this unique work among the symphonic repertory; viola d’amore, orchestral, or otherwise.

    Despite having completed only a little more than an hour’s worth of music over the course of his 95 years, Carl Ruggles (1876–1971) remains among the very greatest of America’s “maverick” composers. His “Evocations” exists both as versions for solo piano and orchestra, respectively, the orchestral version of which appearing on this release. In four relatively brief movements, his treatment of the symphonic idiom being a bit more forward-looking than the other works on this release demonstrates the Basque National Orchestra’s ability in performing a diversity of styles.

    Howard Hanson (1896–1981) remains one of the major figures in American music. As well as being a composer and conductor of distinction, under Hanson’s leadership, he established the Eastman School of Music to world-renowned status. (His piano piece “Clog Dance” is dedicated to Percy Grainger). Prior to winning the Prix de Rome in 1921, Hanson had already written 20 compositions, including an orchestral work, “Before the Dawn, Op. 17”, that receives its premiere recording via this release. It remains a mystery as to why Hanson hid this orchestral work in his archives, although it is highly likely that, due to his schedule of multi-faceted activities, he may simply have forgotten about it, or, he may have dismissed it due to his consideration of it as having been a product of juvenilia. Imbued with a lavish orchestral palette, these Basque forces render Hanson’s richly melodic hidden gem with the proper panache it truly deserves.

    The album concludes with “Variations for Orchestra” by Henry Cowell (1897–1965), of whom Jerome Moross (who “informally” studied with Grainger) stated to me that “America will never fully pay the debt it owes to Cowell for his contribution to its culture.” Is this a step in the right direction - by way of sunny Spain, no less? I certainly hope so, but, let me think for a moment. When the last time I encountered an orchestral composition of Cowell’s on a major US orchestra’s subscription program?……..…thinking…..…… still thinking……….thinking……..NOPE, not coming to me – let alone this nearly 20 minute winner from 1956. Being one of the more exceptional titles to have flowed from Henry’s brilliance, and vast output, it is a pleasure to note that it has finally received the representation it justifiably deserves in superior audio quality, coupled with a first-rate performance... and, of course, Grainger enthusiasts will well know about the long relationship Cowell had with Percy, and Percy’s wife, Ella.

    With the exception of Hanson’s opus that will be new to any orchestra, period, I will bet that all of this music proved a “first” for this orchestra that is set to celebrate its 40th Anniversary in 2022, and probably marked their first presentations in Spain overall. Robert Trevino, who serves as their current music director, has made a compelling addition to the discography of these composers in, as previously mentioned, superb and vivid sonics, expertly played by the fine Basque National Orchestra. For those interested in this repertory, and it has been refreshing to encounter these pieces anew, this release is definitely the one for you.

  • Thu, September 23, 2021 11:20 AM | Anne Ocone (Administrator)


    Following is an excerpt from “The Power of Place: The Percy Grainger Home and Studio” by Susan Edwards Colson, recently published in The Grainger Journal, Volume 17, Number 1. Print and digital copies of the journal are distributed free of charge to members of the Percy Grainger Society. Non-members may purchase individual print copies via our distributor, Lulu.com. Please consider joining as a member!

    Percy Grainger made news in 1921 [1]when bought he a house in White Plains.  He, and his mother, Rose, had arrived at Boston harbor, via the ship Laconia, on September 14, 1914. They left London in haste, putting their furnishings in storage.  After arriving they immediately traveled south by train to New York City, becoming residents of one New York City rental or the next for the seven more years. During this time, Percy first established himself as a pianist extraordinaire, followed with a brief tour as a bandsman in the US army.  But they could not accommodate their London belongings, and truly settle in, until they had the space and permanency of a home.

    After seven years, they certainly understood that the greater New York area offered an overwhelming choice of residences and lifestyles. There is the island of Manhattan itself, in the 1920’s as today, the hub of a thriving music and art scene, as well as four (huge) surrounding boroughs that comprise New York City proper.  There was suburban Long Island to the east, suburban Westchester County to the north, and the entire state of New Jersey to the west; with Connecticut to the Northeast. What to do?

    The Grainger’s chose White Plains, the county seat and near geographical center of Westchester County. White Plains offered quiet county living (including the physical space between houses to play piano twenty-four hours-per-day, if necessary, impossible in the city) punctuated with train service leading smoothly south to Manhattan in under thirty minutes. There were also easy train connections within a day to Cincinnati and Chicago.  Dallas? Los Angeles? Calgary?  A day or two more perhaps, but easily done.

    Grainger’s manager, Antonia Sawyer, herself a Westchester (Scarsdale) resident, was influential in this choice.  In 1931, Grainger was interviewed for a local newspaper column, “Our Famous Neighbors.” [2] When asked why he chose White Plains as his home he explained:

    When our musical instruments and furniture came over from London in 1921, White Plains was suggested to my mother by Antonia Sawyer (his manager) as a good place for the storage of musical instruments of which there are an endless array.  For instance, two harmoniums, about ten guitars, two metal marimbas, one wooden marimba, one staff bells, and several oriental and African instruments.

    Any suitable house had to be large, private, quiet, and well-located for travel.  Then, the selected house at 7 Cromwell Place, had to be organized. The shipment came over in early summer 1921, and Rose and Percy set about arranging it.  Rose sorted and labeled the keys.  Percy set up the music room.  Both of them enjoyed the large front porch, feeding the squirrels while having tea.

    When asked why the smallest room in the eleven-room house was chosen as the music room, Grainger replied “I like my music loud and close.” [3] As various house photos have shown over the years, this preference for “loud and close” was consistently observed in the music room, the first room to the left when a visitor arrives, with various pianos and an-ever-present harmonium showing up in photos over the years. The front bedrooms, with Rose in the larger, and Percy in the smaller, were selected and furnished in the style of the day.  Again, plenty of storage was necessary, the Grainger’s rapidly filled drawer after drawer. The basement and the third floor were for overflow storage. There were filled, with more added over the years.

    Early 20th Century White Plains 

    During the 1920s the city of White Plains was quickly transitioning into a desirable satellite suburb of New York City.  The New York, Westchester & Boston Railroad,[4] completed in the early years of the twentieth century, made New York City an easy commute from the leafy Westchester.  Following WWI, a group of community-spirted women organized a house-by-house canvas [5] to locate those who served in WWI (Percy Grainger had served as a bandsman).  Each name was entered onto a card file, in the White Plains City Archives. WWI veterans were honored with a monument installed that features an artillery rifle, bearing a simple dedication to soldiers, sailors and marines on its north face.

    White Plains is near the midpoint of Westchester County, both geographically and culturally. To the south, high rises and warehouses abound, resembling the Bronx.  Heading north, the land spreads gently out into small towns and estates.  Beyond White Plains, Westchester County was blossoming in the 1920s and 30s.  D. W. Griffith built and operated a movie studio complex on Orienta Point in nearby Mamaroneck.  [6] Mary Pickford, as well as Lillian and Dorothy Gish, were filmed there.  The Lawrence Family Theatre, a summer stock theater, opened on the Moses Taylor Estate in Mount Kisco. Tallulah Bankhead, Henry Fonda and Margaret Sullivan appeared in production there. 

    The Grainger House does not appear in 1900 Map of White Plains.  By 1910, residents were Charles and Mable Prigge, along with their three children, Charles, Jr., Jean, and Alan.  There was also a servant, Annie Pahockus.  With four bedrooms on the second floor, and three (for servants and storage) on the third floor, this configuration would be perfect for a family of five, plus the servant(s) necessary to manage a 2,600 square foot house. 

    Cromwell Place/Chester Avenue, only one block long, had nine parcels. There were three buildings among the five parcels on the Cromwell side:  A private residence at the corner of Cromwell/Boston-New York Post Road occupied the first three. Then, the Grainger home resided on on parcels 2 and 1A.  Parcel 1 was the formerly the grounds for the annex to the Keeley Institutes for Inebriates[7]. The Institute was founded in 1879, with a branch in rural White Plains.  Those seeking Dr. Leslie Keeley’s Gold Cure (a potion containing “a double chloride of gold containing old salts, alcohol, and morphine cannabis, suspended in colored water) included alcohol users plus “opium inebriates” and “morphine fiends.” Their original White Plains locations had overflowed capacity and so the institute added an annex on Cromwell Place.  The annex was closing by the time Percy and Rose arrived, but the large parcel of land it included allowed Percy to purchase an additional side lot.  The Grainger Home today has a large side yard resulting from this early parceling.

    Home Sweet Home, 7 Cromwell Place, 1921-79

    The house was Percy’s home base for more than half his life.  While he performed in many concerts and made many trips, he always returned to 7 Cromwell Place.  In 1930, Ella’s daughter, Elsie Fairfax, arrived at Percy’s urging[8].  In residence for many months in the early 1930’s, Elsie was a stenographer at Bush and Heartfield (an insurance agency) in White Plains. Her correspondence from that time remains in a suitcase in her room.  

    In the 1950s, as his health deteriorated, Percy began to stay closer to home. This allowed him to focus his considerable, but declining, energy on his free music machines.  He was gone early in 1961, and Ella Grainger was a widow.

    Ella Grainger has the distinction of residing at 7 Cromwell Place longer than anyone else.  She arrived in 1928 and died in 1979, making a record of fifty-one years.  During the 1960s, she was a member of the Victorian Society, and she hosted gathering of Society members.  There were many private visitors, and a few concerts. One such visitor was Dorothy Payne, a former student of Percy’s from the Chicago Music School, and a long-time friend.  After Ella’s death, the house slowly disintegrated into frightful condition.  For nearly forty years, it was only the occasional, hearty visitor who ventured into the musty, overfilled rooms.

    [1] The Daily Pantagraph, Bloomington, Indiana, June 9, 1921 edition, p 8

    [2] Keir, Alissa, “Our Famous Neighbors: Percy Grainger of White Plains” The Port Chester Daily Item, February 26, 1931, p. 3 

    [3] Keir, “Our Famous Neighbors” p. 3

    [4] Himmelfarb, Ben and Massena, Elaine, White Plains In the Twentieth Century, Arcadis Publishing, Charleston, South Carolina, 2019, p 32

    [5] Himmelfarb, Ben and Massena, Elaine, White Plains, p 31

    [6]Westchester County, New York, History 1920-1983: Westchester Comes of Age, 2021, www.westchestergov.com, 2021

    [7]  Larson, Erik, (2003). The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America, Crown Publishing Company, a division of Penguin Random House, New York, New York, 2003

    [8] Grainger, Percy, Letter to Elsie Bristow, December 25, 1929. White Plains, New York. As reproduced in Simon, Robert, Percy Grainger, The Pictorial Biography, 1983, p. 71

  • Fri, July 30, 2021 9:23 AM | Anne Ocone (Administrator)

    By Bill Garlette

      • The first thing to remember is that Grainger had no use for the standard formal style of the four musically predominate European countries at the time– Germany, Austria, France, and Italy. He felt that the hegemony that these countries imposed on the music world was unfair. This is part of the reason that he never wrote in symphonic or sonata form preferring to let his music unfold for itself and follow its creative path wherever it led. This then resulted in using what he called the Democracy of Music or a Democracy of Lines. The concept of theme and variation or development didn’t apply. The main ideas of a composition were not the exclusive domain of only the ‘first parts.’ This ‘Democracy’ resulted in the theme or tune being shared throughout the ensemble. All of this doesn’t mean there isn’t structure to his music or no ‘melodies’ are employed. Quite the contrary. Tunes are prevalent and embraced. They just don’t reside in the first parts.


        “Grainger (Dec. 2, 1929): "TO CONDUCTORS and to those forming, or in charge of, amateur orchestras, high school, college and music school orchestra and chamber-music bodies.

        "ELASTIC SCORING. My 'elastic scoring' grows naturally out of two roots:

        1. That my music tells its story mainly by means of intervals and the liveliness of the part-writing, rather than by means of tone-color, and is therefore well fitted to be played by almost any small, large or medium-sized combination of instruments, provided a proper balance of tone is kept.

        2. That I wish to play my part in the radical experimentation with orchestral and chamber-music blends that seems bound to happen as a result of the ever wider spreading democratization of all forms of music.

        "As long as a really satisfactory balance of tone is preserved (so that the voices that make up the musical texture are clearly heard, one against the other, in the intended proportions) I do not care whether one of my 'elastically scored' pieces is played by 4 or 40 or 400 players, or any number in between; whether trumpet parts are played on trumpets or soprano saxophones, French horn parts played on French horns or E flat altos or alto saxophones, trombone parts played on trombones or tenor saxophones or C Melody saxophones; whether string parts are played by the instruments prescribed or by mandolins, mandolas, ukeleles[sic],, guitars, banjos, balalakas[sic],, etc.; whether harmonium parts are played on harmoniums (reed-organs) or pipe-organs; whether wood-wind instruments take part or whether a harmonium (reed-organ) or 2nd piano part is substituted for them. I do not even care whether the players are skilful[sic],  or unskilful[sic],, as long as they play well enough to sound the right intervals and keep the afore-said tonal balance--and as long as they play badly enough to still enjoy playing ('Where no pleasure is, there is no profit taken'--Shakespeare).”

        "This 'elastic scoring' is naturally fitted to musical conditions in small and out-of-the-way communities and to the needs of amateur orchestras and school, high school, college and music school orchestras everywhere, in that it can accommodate almost any combination of players on almost any instruments. It is intended to encourage music-lovers of all kinds to play together in groups, large or small, and to promote a more hospitable attitude towards inexperienced music-makers. It is intended to play its part in weaning music students away from too much useless[sic], goalless, soulless, selfish, inartistic soloistic technical study, intended to coax them into happier, richer musical fields--for music should be essentially an art of self-forgetful, soul- expanding communistic cooperation in harmony and many-voicedness.” 1)


        Elastic Scoring was a natural result of Grainger’s life-long philosophy of Democracy in Music (1931).


        “‘A chance for all to shine in a starry whole.’ Some such thought as this underlies, I suppose, our working conception of democracy. Democracy seems to our mind’s eye not merely a comfortable system of ensuring personal independence & safety to each man, but also an adventure in which the oneness & harmonious togetherness of all human souls is lovingly celebrated – for it is obvious that democracies are just as patriotic & humanitarian as they are freedom-loving.” 2)


        The next crucial item was Grainger’s strong belief of being completely clear as to what his intention was with each part, each line. This requires conductors and performers alike to attend to every performance directive, every dynamic indication, and all note markings to truly render his works the way he intended. It is imperative that the lower dynamics and decrescendo be strictly adhered to.


        Next item on the list refers to the first. Always look for who has the ‘tune’ and ensure that part is ‘to the fore.’ Next is to embrace that movement in music is life so look for the ‘faster notes’ and let them shine for their moment. After all, Grainger loved Bach and Bach lived during the age of ornamentation – bring out those quick notes.


        Now we come to what was very unconventional for his time but quite common in ours – mixed meters and composite meters. Grainger’s favorite works for wind ensemble were his Hill-Songs. Hill-Song No. 1 is rarely played because of its instrumentation and rhythmic complexity. Hill-Song No. 2 was a realization by Grainger that the instrumentation needed to be more in keeping with the wind ensemble or Small-Room music set-up of the time. Even in its reduction, Hill-Song No. 2 has 88 metrical changes in the span of a 5-minute work and employs meter markings such as 11/2/4. He had choice words for those who recoiled at these metrical time signatures or his approach to ‘Free Music’ as in the Fifth Movement, Lord Melbourne, of Lincolnshire Posy.


        To Bandleaders

        Bandleaders need not be afraid of the two types of irregular rhythm met with in the “Lincolnshire Posy”: those conveyed by changing time signatures in “Rufford Park Poachers,” and those (mark “Free Time”) left to the band leader’s volition in “Lord Melbourne”.” Both these types lie well within the powers of any normal high school band. The only players that are likely to balk at those rhythms are seasoned professional bandsmen, who think more of their beer than of their music.” 3)


        Then we have Grainger’s ‘Blue-eyed English.’ A cleansing of the Old English/Anglo-Saxon of Latin, Greek and other foreign languages that infected the original. 4)


        There are numerous methods of approaching and rehearsing Grainger’s music. Many articles discuss conducting techniques and how to accomplish balance, technically difficult passages, and metrical complexities but not the foundations of the Composer’s Intent. This is where we must look at Grainger’s music in totality and his remarkable insights into music, music performance, and social philosophies. This is where we unlock the real secrets of Percy Aldridge Grainger!




      • 1)    A Source Guide to the Music of Percy Grainger by Thomas P. Lewis, ISBN 10: 0912483563 ISBN 13: 9780912483566, Publisher: Pro Am Music Resources, 1990, APPENDIX 1: ADDITIONAL COMMENTS ON INSTRUMENTATION, ETC. p. 272-277 http://www.minervaclassics.com/grainger/progno11.htm
      • 2)    Malcolm Gillies and Bruce Clunies Ross, Grainger on Music, Oxford University Press, 1999, p. 217.
      • 3)    To Bandleaders contained in Lincolnshire Posy score.
      • 4)    Percy Grainger Journal, Vol. 10 No. 2, Winter 1991, Author, Leroy Osmon, Percy Grainger’s Blue-Eyed English – A Catalogue of Terms, 10 – 26. http://anyflip.com/wkyv/btaq

  • Fri, May 21, 2021 3:58 PM | Anne Ocone (Administrator)
    • By Bill Garlette

    • The Global pandemic of 2019-2021 created a unique situation for musicians and music educators. Because of the highly contagious nature of the SARS-CoV-2/COVID 19, what is called ‘social distancing’ was enacted as one of the preventative measures. This, in essence, dictated that people should be separated by at least six feet (ten feet for performing musicians) from each other. Subsequently, rehearsal and performance space that had been adequate for 50, 60, 100 musicians were now reduced to half that number or less. No longer could instrument sections of 10-16 members be allowed. In some instances ensembles were reduced to one per section and many times mixed ensembles with some instrument types being absent altogether.

    • This led composers to start writing for what is now call ‘Flex-Bands’ or ‘Flex-Ensembles.’ The interesting thing is a prominent, 20th century composer, Percy Grainger, had already employed this technique over 100 years ago – Elastic Scoring is what he called it. This was all part of Grainger’s philosophy of Democracy in Music. Providing music in such a manner that all different types of ensembles from a few players to 100s could perform the same work with success. What better way to tell the story than through Grainger’s own words:

      My “elastic scoring” grows naturally out of two roots:
      1. That my music tells its story mainly by means of intervals and the liveliness of the part-writing, rather than by means of tone-color, and is therefore well fitted to be played by almost any small, large or medium-sized combination of instruments, provided a proper balance of tone is kept.
      2. That I wish to play my part in the radical experimentation with orchestral and chamber-music blends that seems bound to happen as a result of the ever wider spreading democratization of all forms of music.
      As long as a really satisfactory balance of tone is preserved (so that the voices that make up the musical texture are clearly heard, one against the other, in the intended proportions) I do not care whether one of my “elastically scored” pieces is played by 4 or 40 or 400 players, or any number in between; whether trumpet parts are played on trumpets or soprano saxophones, French horn parts played on French horns or E flat altos or alto saxophones, trombone parts played on trombones or tenor saxophones or C Melody saxophones; whether string parts are played by the instrument prescribed or by mandolins, mandolas, ukuleles, guitars, banjos, balalaikas, etc.; whether harmonium parts are played on harmoniums (reed-organs) or pipe-organs; whether wood-wind instruments take part or whether a harmonium (reed-organ) or 2nd piano part is substituted for them. I do not even care whether the players are skillful or unskillful, as long as they play well enough to sound the right intervals and keep the afore-said tonal balance – and as long as they play badly enough to still enjoy playing (“Where no pleasure is, there is no profit taken” – Shakespeare). 
      This “elastic scoring” is naturally fitted to musical conditions in small and out-of-the-way communities and to the needs of amateur orchestras and school, high school, college and music school orchestras everywhere, in that it can accommodate almost any combination of players on almost any instruments. It is intended to encourage music-loves of all kinds to play together in groups, large or small, and to promote a more hospitable attitude towards inexperienced music-makers. It is intended to play its part in weaning music students away from too much useless, goalless, soulless, selfish, inartistic soloistic technical study, intended to coax them into happier, richer musical fields – for music should be essentially an art of self-forgetful, soul-expanding communistic cooperation in harmony and many-voicedness. (1)

      Elastic Scoring was a natural result of Grainger’s life-long philosophy of Democracy in Music (1931)

      “A chance for all to shine in a starry whole.’ Some such thought as this underlies, I suppose, our working conception of democracy. Democracy seems to our mind’s eye not merely a comfortable system of ensuring personal independence & safety to each man, but also an adventure in which the oneness & harmonious togetherness of all human souls is lovingly celebrated – for it is obvious that democracies are just as patriotic & humanitarian as they are freedom-loving.”

      “Such a banner seems fair enough for any upward-yearning soul. And, in fact, this ideal, as applied to life, art & thought, has spurred on many a genius, such as Walt Whitman, Tennyson, Martin Luther, Bach, Grieg, Edgar Lee Masters, etc.”

      “Yet, in spite of the master-minds that have championed democracy, & in spite of the fact that the measure of a country’s democraticness is almost exactly the measure of its prominence in freedom, science, power & prosperity, we hardly ever meet an individual (even in those lands most nearly democratic)who whole-heartedly believes in the practical wisdom of democracy; nearly always the individual is held back from a happy embrace of democratic doctrine by the sway exerted over his nature by old-time influences that make for superstition, personal greed, leisure-worship, celebrity-hunting, slavishness & lack of selfhood. As a result, so many of those who would give lip-service to democracy where the large issues of world affairs are at stake are unwilling to practice democracy in the small & immediate affairs of their everyday life. As a result of this weakness & blindness in so many individuals we may truly say that democracy (like Christianity, like socialism like many another noble idea) has never yet been given ‘a fair chance.’ Yet its cause goes marching on.”

               “It is not the same as the cause of the best, the deepest, the grandest, the loveliest art music? Its cause, also, goes marching on with quiet but steady invincibility, although retarded by the blindness & smallmindedness of some many individuals – amongst whom, it always seems to me, there is too large a percentage of highly-trained professional musicians. These individuals seem to forget that art music is an essentially democratic art, an art that mingles souls while it mingles sounds, an art in its self-forgetful collectivism transcends individualism, an art of fusion and cooperation, an art that feeds on soul-ecstasy but starves on mere cerebral cleverness. In the highest forms of art music, as in democracy, ‘the starry whole’ (the radiant glory of art itself, of collective humanity itself) counts for at least as much as ‘the chance for all to shine.’ Technically, this means that the various melodic lines, that make up the harmonic texture, must enjoy, at various moments, equal opportunities to be independent, prominent & volitional; but that the splendor & beauty of the composite whole is the goal that none may lose from mind.” (2) 

    1.    Percy Grainger, December 2, 1929 (from the Preface to Spoon River, AFMS2, 1930) Found in The New Percy Grainger Companion, ed. Penelope Thwaites (The Boydell Press, Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK), 2010, Appendix I.

    2. Malcolm Gillies and Bruce Clunies Ross, Grainger on Music, Oxford University Press, 1999, p 217 - 222.

  • Mon, March 15, 2021 9:26 AM | Anne Ocone (Administrator)

    Photo of Grainger, Program booklet for the 1916 Worcester Music Festival.

    Percy Grainger appeared eight times in Worcester, Massachusetts. His first performance, to great reviews and media attention, was as soloist in the Grieg Piano Concerto at the 59th Worcester Music Festival in 1916; he also performed four original solo arrangements as part of the formal program. He returned in 1917 (the 60th Festival) armed with a World Premiere.  His appearance here in 1919 was outside the Festival on tour with the New York Philharmonic under Joseph Stransky in the Steinert concert series, but still at the acoustically remarkable Mechanics Hall; he played the Tchaikovsky Concerto.

    On October 25, 1929, just days before the stock market crash, he played a solo recital at Clark University’s Clark Auditorium; he quickly returned in the Festivals of 1930 (71st,) 1931 (72nd,) and 1942 (83rd.) His eighth and final appearance was in a joint recital with violinist Leona Flood and her accompanist Pablo Miquel in Clark University’s Fine Arts concert series in 1945.

    Two major Grainger works were given their world-premiere at the Festival: “Marching Song of Democracy” (60th Festival, 1917) and “Tribute to Foster” (72nd Festival, 1930.)

    As the popularity of the Festival grew exponentially, Mechanics Hall’s 1,600 seats could not accommodate the crowds. Built in 1857 (the Worcester Chorus and the annual Festival were established in 1858) it was a popular and much-used jewel in the civic crown of a city that was a major economic powerhouse. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, it was and is acoustically favorable to speakers and musicians alike. It had also become a little care-worn over the years, mentioned in some of Grainger’s later press, and the Festival moved to the new War Memorial Auditorium in 1933, only returning to a beautifully restored and modernized Mechanics Hall after 1977.

    I have included these early Worcester Daily Telegram articles to give a sense of the reception he was receiving as a fresh face on the concert scene, not only musically but personally. These took the form not only of concert reviews but Festival interviews and previews, “Women’s Interest” and “Entertainment News” articles, breathless information on arrivals and departures, hotels, extra-musical activities and what Grainger and his mother Rose wore at various events.

    Not surprisingly tickets to the open morning rehearsals, where audience and performers were more casual, were as in demand as the concerts, especially among younger members of the audience, many of them aspiring musicians. The press saw the rehearsals as an opportunity for personal insight, as fascinating for review as the more formal events. The performers, of course, were in performance.

    Please click here for the continuation of Percy Grainger in Worcester: Two World-Premières.

    - Eric Culver

    Photo of Mechanics Hall interior, early 20th c., from Raymond Morin, The Worcester Music Festival 1858-1976

  • Thu, February 18, 2021 9:30 AM | Anne Ocone (Administrator)

    By Marissa Kyser, May 2019


    As a man who obsessed over the meticulous documentation of his life, it is strange that little is known about Percy Grainger during the time he spent living in Springfield, Missouri. Though it is acknowledged that the world-famous composer moved to this area around the time of World War II, there is a lack of compiled evidence that detail his whereabouts and residence. Many researchers have contributed to understanding Grainger’s life in New York, Europe, and Australia, but most fail to describe this brief period of his life in Springfield, let alone recognize that he lived there at all. The purpose of this study is to fill this gap in the timeline of Percy Grainger’s life.

    Percy and Ella Grainger moved to Springfield, Missouri in November 1940 and returned to their home in White Plains, New York in October 1943. Percy sought after the safety of his wife and career with the relocation to Springfield out of precaution, rather than cowardice. To display his support during the war, he took part in countless events that would benefit the war effort, such as fundraisers for the Red Cross, War Bond Rallies, and other charity concerts.

    Though Percy frequently spent his time traveling for his performances, the time spent at the Wilshire Apartments can be viewed as entirely positive. As a man entering his sixtieth year of life, Grainger was very keen on taking advantage of the quiet lifestyle that Springfield provided him in comparison to his residence in White Plains. 

    "House at Springfield", photo by Percy Grainger, 1943


    Percy and Ella arrived by train in Springfield in June 1940 and promptly checked into the famous Colonial Hotel, located on Jefferson Avenue.[1] This short trip was planned for them to find for a permanent residence, their preference being an apartment that was “high up” and not on the ground floor. Just a few blocks south from their hotel, they discovered the Wilshire Apartments.[2]

    The Wilshire Apartments, located at 520 South Jefferson Avenue, were built in 1919 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008. The terracotta-red brick building is three stories and contains six units available for rent. When submitted to the register through the National Park Service in 2008, significant detail was provided regarding the physical appearance and historical importance of the building:

    The Wilshire embodies the characterizing features of this property type: a flat parapeted roof, rectangular form, symmetrical fenestration, central main entrance, and Classical Revival styling. The use of contrasting stone and terra cotta detailing, pilasters, arches, keystones, dentils, and ornamental brackets help to establish the Wilshire as a notable example of the Downtown Apartment Building property type.[3]

    The building has undergone renovations since 1919; photos from the 2008 NPS application show the condition of the building prior to its most recent renovation completed in 2009. The photos from 2008 display the unit layout as it would have been in 1940. Recent photos taken ten years later (2018) depict the apartment’s layout post-renovation after being restored to reflect the “level of styling that would have been attractive to upper-middle class renters.” It was just a short walk to the public square and many local performance venues, such as the Landers Theatre, Gillioz Theater, Jewell Theater, and Electric Theater.

    The Wilshire Apartments were owned by Mrs. Carrie Dell Shelpman and managed by her son, Mr. Edward J. Shelpman at this time. Edward Shelpman’s wife, Mattie, spoke with the Graingers when they initially inquired about available space in June 1940.[4]  

     An interview with Mattie Shelpman (recorded by Mary Jacqueline Blanton in 1977) revealed that she was hesitant to rent a room to Percy, whom she described as “odd and poorly dressed,” and presented himself wearing “work clothes, heavy work shoes, knapsack and bushy, long, reddish hair…accompanied by his plainly dressed wife.”[5] Mattie was skeptical the world-famous Percy Grainger was interested in living in Springfield, Missouri and would present himself in such strange attire. To politely mask her uncertainty, she asked the Graingers to return later that afternoon when her husband would be home to assist her. Percy and Ella agreed to the appointment and left. Meanwhile, Mattie contacted the Colonial Hotel, where the Graingers were staying for the short trip, to confirm Percy’s identity with the front desk.

    Mr. and Mrs. Shelpman, reassured that they were not being deceived, met the Graingers for their afternoon appointment. Mattie recalled taking the couple up to the third floor to view Unit 6 where “they ran from room to room like excited children,” exclaiming, “We take it!”[6]

    Grainger penned a handwritten note to personally record the rental agreement (See Figure 1.1):

    Springfield, Missouri

    June 27, 1940, signed contract with E.J. Shelpman, Wilshire Apartment, 520 South Jefferson Ave., Springfield, Mo. for 6 month lease of Apartment No 6, Wilshire Apartment, 520 South Jefferson Ave. Springfield, Mo. from July 1st, 1940., at $35.00 monthly. Contract is in safe (A check for $35.00 should be sent to Mr. Shelpman, as above, to reach him before the 1st of each month).


    Figure 1.1
    Percy Grainger Personal Note, Wilshire Apartments, June 27, 1940.
    Grainger Museum Archives, Melbourne, Australia.


    Though Grainger mentions a written contract, Mattie Shelpman stated that there was no record of a signed physical document from this agreement. The Graingers paid $35.00 a month in the 1940s to rent this two-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1400 square foot apartment. For reference, the current price in 2019 to rent Apartment 6 unit is $1,345.00 a month.[7] They would not move to Springfield and into the apartment until several months later in November.

    The Wilshire Apartments
    520 South Jefferson Street
    Springfield, MO

    Photo Taken: Marissa Kyser, 2019



    Whilst in Springfield, Percy composed and edited multiple works of significance including his Youthful Suite, The Power of Rome and the Christian Heart, settings from his Kipling Jungle Book cycle, The Immovable Do, and several others. He maintained his professional and personal connections via letter correspondence and continued to develop the Grainger Museum in Melbourne, Australia. His standard for performance and composition did not suffer during this time, but rather flourished.

                The Springfield years yielded four formal concerts featuring Percy Grainger on June 1, 1941, January 13, September 13, and November 12, 1942. These concerts were of high interest to the public and had consistently high attendance. Performance venues included Southwest Missouri State Teachers College (now Missouri State University), Senior High School (now Central High School), and the Shrine Mosque Theater. He performed several times with the Springfield Civic Symphony under the direction of James Robertson.

                In terms of leisure and entertainment, Percy was a frequent patron of the Springfield movie theaters. During weeks when he wasn’t away for a concert tour, he records attending multiple film showings in the same week. He would often partake in eateries located within walking distance of the apartment such as Davidson’s Cafeteria and Donovan’s Café.

    Based on multiple instances observed in their correspondence records, it can be interpreted that Percy and Ella lived happily in Springfield and only moved back to White Plains for practical reasons. As a growing city located in the Midwest, Springfield maintained average temperatures and featured beautiful Ozarks scenery, which was plausibly attractive to an older couple. Percy makes references to Springfield in letters to Ella: “How I love Springfield & our Missouri home! It smells sweet of my angel. It is a rare love-&-art nest.” [8]

     In another letter, he writes:

    What a lovely state this is! So full of half-wild, half-filled, well-bread, well-watered ample … land, & full of happy comfy farms & brawny farmers. It looked its best today. Yet I slept nearly all day. I must have been all worn out![9]


    However, as all good things must come to an end, the Graingers decided to return to their home in White Plains near the end of 1943. On September 28, 1943, Percy sent a letter written in Swedish to Ella’s mother. A translated version of this letter, explaining their seemingly sudden departure, reads as follows:   

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            28 Sept, 1943

    Dear Mamma,

    Ella and I have now lived in the state of Missouri (right in the middle of the United States) for 3 years. I thought that this would be safer for Ella, during the war, to live here in Springfield, Missouri, and that is why we moved here. But now we think an air attack on the American Coast is quite unlikely and that is why we, in a couple of days, move back to White Plains, where our address always is: Percy Grainger, 7 Cromwell Place, White Plains, NY.

    It really is unfortunate that we must move from here, as we have been so happy here. But for practical reasons it seems better for us to live in White Plains.

    It is pleasant to look back over the last 3 years and on all the artistic work we have both produced during this time period. Ella has completed a bunch of beautiful portraits—one of herself, a wonderful picture, and also about 6 others of different others of different people. Ella has also (while we lived here in Springfield) finalized her second book of Poems (“A Wayward Girl”)–which has been printed here in Springfield itself—and this book as “won” itself quite a few friends.

    The war is quite far from being over. But it seems like we can assume the end is closing in, and that makes us both so happy.

    Soon comes the day when Ella and I will once again travel to Sweden and visit Mamma.

    That happy event we long for.

    We are always talking about Mamma and hope that Mamma is well and has it as well as can be under the circumstances. Both Ella and I have been wonderfully healthy this summer.

    With the dearest of greetings.

    Mamma’s respectfully,          



    After Percy Grainger returned home to White Plains, he lived there until his battle with prostate cancer caused his death on February 20, 1961. He was buried in Adelaide in March 2, 1961. It was his wish that his skeleton be preserved in the Grainger Museum for display, but this wish was not granted. At the age of 83, Ella Grainger was remarried to a gentleman named Stewart Manville in 1972. She lived in their home at 7 Cromwell Place until her death on July 17, 1979.

    Photo from Newspaper Article

    Docia Karell, “Composer Grainger And Artist Wife Come to Make Home in Springfield,” Springfield News and Leader, (Springfield, Missouri), November 10, 1940, 16.


    To read the complete contents of this research paper, please contact Marissa Kyser via email at mkbleu15@yahoo.com. Resources and documents used with permission from the Percy Grainger Museum, Melbourne, Australia.


    Blanton, Mary Jacqueline. Interviewed by Marissa Kyser. Personal Interview. Columbia, Missouri. May 1, 2019.

    Blanton, Mary Jaqueline. Percy Grainger in Missouri. Thesis. University of Missouri-Columbia. 1978.

    Emrie, Gail, and Debbie Shields. Wilshire Apartments. United States Department of the Interior National Park Service: National Register of Historic Places. 2007.

    [1] Located at 205 South Jefferson Avenue, the Colonial Hotel was considered to be the grandest hotel in Southwest Missouri at the time. Built in 1907, this hotel had many notable occupants, including Elvis Presley, John F. Kennedy, and of course, Percy Grainger. The official ceremony naming Route 66 was also held at this famous hotel. The building was donated to Missouri State University in 1986 and sat vacant for several years until it was razed in 1997 due to extensive dilapidation that was too expensive to revert. Today, this plot of land is covered with a small university parking lot.

    [2] Mary Jaqueline Blanton, Percy Grainger in Missouri, (University of Missouri-Columbia, 1978), 47.

    [3] Emrie and Shields. Wilshire Apartments.

    [4] Carrie Dell Shelpman (1806-1958) and Edward J. Shelpman (1868-1936) had two children. Their son, Edward J. Shelpman (1898-1999), married Mattie Lee (1902-1987) and their daughter, Isabel Shelpman (1899-1987) married Josiah Elijah Keet (1893-1973) in 1922. The family owned the Wilshire Apartments until 1970.

    [5] Blanton, Missouri, 47.

    [6] Ibid.

    [7] The Wilshire Apartments, Web Page, Wilshire Apartments, accessed May 1, 2018.

    [8] Percy Grainger, “Percy Grainger to Ella Grainger, Sept 13, 1941,” Letter, Percy Grainger to Ella Grainger Correspondence, 2016/10, Box 7, Accessed February 14, 2019.

    [9] Percy Grainger, “Percy Grainger to Ella Grainger, July 3, 1941,” Letter, Percy Grainger to Ella Grainger Correspondence, 2016/10, Box 7, Accessed February 14, 2019.

    [10] Percy Grainger, “Percy Grainger to Ella Grainger’s Mother, September 28, 1943,” Grainger File, Grainger Home, White Plains, New York, Accessed May 11, 2019.

  • Wed, January 06, 2021 4:08 PM | Anne Ocone (Administrator)

    “Art is either plagiarism or revolution.” – Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)

    By Chalon Ragsdale. Percy Grainger’s status as an innovative genius in the area of orchestration is reinforced for me practically with each score of his I have the good fortune to study. His knowledge of the instruments is an important factor, his search for new and unique combinations of instruments is an important factor, but perhaps the most important factor in the brilliance of his orchestration is his democratic respect for each instrument’s worth and ability to contribute positively to the total fabric (Grainger might say the “weft”) of the music. Though I am constantly amazed at Grainger’s use of all the instrumental and choral resources at his disposal at any one time, as a percussionist myself, I am most keenly struck by Grainger’s brilliant use of the mallet-played percussion; what he termed the “tuneful percussion.”

    Grainger’s transformational energy found fruit in a new model of orchestration in the early years of the 20th Century, as expressed most convincingly in his large orchestral works The Warriors and Suite: In a Nutshell. Grainger continued the work of Wagner and Mahler in completing the woodwind and brass families of the orchestra; but he also created a new family of instrumental color by combining the “tuneful” percussion with harp and the various keyboard actuated instruments (piano, celesta, dulcitone, etc.)

    Thus, in The Warriors, Grainger provides a fourth complete family to add to the Woodwinds Brass and Strings.  He used 3 players on the normal orchestral percussion - Side-drum, tambourine, cymbals, bass drum, gong, and the like. But he then added as many as eight players on Xylophone; Wooden Marimba (2 players); Glockenspiel; Steel marimba or bar-piano, or dulcitone; Staff Bells (an instrument of his own invention, consisting of up to 4 octaves of handbells strung in keyboard fashion on a wooden rack and played with various mallets); Tubular Bells; Celesta; Piano(s); and Harp.

    Though The Warriors and Suite: In a Nutshell received mixed and negative reviews (many of which seem now frankly unenlightened), the appeal of Grainger’s use of orchestration was undeniable. Writing for Musical America in August 1917, Charles L. Buchanan said,

    “… Grainger’s contribution to the sheerly instrumental side of his art is obviously far and away the most important development in contemporary symphonic music. An inborn knack, a ceaseless practical intimacy with the orchestra and a utilization of a whole new army of percussion instruments […] lend his orchestra an individual timbre of an exceeding richness of texture […] and a wealth of tone color that appears to mark a new high record in the contemporary concert hall.” (Bird, p. 193; emphasis added)

    Before Grainger, composers had used percussion as “salt and pepper” in their orchestral palate. But Grainger was convinced percussion could be a satisfying “course,” combining on equal footing with the other sections of the orchestra, and Warriors and In a Nutshell proved him right.

    But Grainger also believed that the tuneful percussion and their cousins (piano, harmonium, celesta, etc.) could constitute a complete meal. And he proved his hypothesis with his brilliant setting for tuneful percussion (and their cousins) of Debussy’s Pagodes. Grainger realized that Debussy’s Pagodes was an attempt to render by means of the piano the sounds and textures that Debussy had been exposed to at the Javanese exhibit at the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle (International Exposition).

    In 1934, Grainger published a series of twelve lectures under the collective title A Commonsense View of All Music. In the eleventh lecture, “Tuneful Percussion,” Grainger wrote,

    “Of late years the bell-makers of Europe and America have adapted many Asiatic and other exotic tuneful percussion instruments to our European pitch and scale requirements, with the result that we are able to decipher Oriental music from gramophone records and perform then on the Europeanized Oriental instruments whenever we want to.

    I have tried the experiment of orchestrating Debussy’s Pagodes for a complete tuneful percussion group - thus, as it were, turning back to its Oriental beginnings the Asiatic music Debussy transcribed for a Western instrument (the piano). In so doing I am merely giving it back to the sound-type from which it originally emerged.”

    Most sources point to Edgar Varese’s Ionisation (1929-1931; first performed 1933) as the first percussion ensemble. Might not Grainger’s setting of Pagodes (1928) be worth considering, at least as “among the first?”

    One of the earliest anthologies of writings by and about Grainger was A Musical Genius from Australia, published by the University of Western Australia Department of Music, compiled and with Commentary by Teresa Balough. The word “genius” has an elusive definition. Does “genius” describe a person? Or is it a quality all of us can possess in some measure? If it is a quality, perhaps it is the ability of a singular individual to look at what the rest of us are looking at, but see something different. If we accept that definition, then Percy Grainger certainly had a quality of genius, of seeing things the rest of us missed, and the “tuneful percussion,” and the world of percussion in general, are the beneficiaries of that genius.

    Click here to view a  sample of Grainger's manuscript score for his setting of Debussy’s Pagodes.

    Click here to view printed full score of Grainger's setting of Debussy's Pagodes  as published by Bardic Edition (score and performing material available on rental from Schott Music). 

    To hear a recording of Percy Grainger’s setting of Debussy’s Pagodes.


    To see a performance of “Arrival Platform Humlet,” the opening movement of Suite: In a Nutshell, conducted and with commentary by Michael Tilson-Thomas. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2gMjtlYthk

    Ugo Marcelli’s 1916 caricature of Grainger’s suite In a Nutshell for tuneful percussion and orchestra, featuring (from left to right) Percy Grainger, Aldred Hertz (conductor of the San Francisco S.O.), Louis Persinger (concertmaster) and Redfern Mason, the music critic for the San Francisco Examiner.

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