Grainger, (George) Percy (Aldridge)

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Grainger, (George) Percy (Aldridge)

Grainger, (George) Percy (Aldridge), celebrated Australian- born American pianist, composer, and folk song collector; b. Melbourne, July 8, 1882; d. White Plains, N.Y, Feb. 20, 1961. He studied with his mother and received piano lessons from Louis Pabst in Melbourne; he then was a pupil of Kwast (piano) and Knorr (composition) at the Hoch Cons, in Frankfurt am Main (1895-99); later he had additional piano lessons with Busoni in Berlin (1903). In 1901 he appeared as a pianist in London, and then played throughout Great Britain, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. In 1905 he joined the English Folk Song Soc. and became an ardent collector of folk songs. In 1914 he went to N.Y., where he made a sensational debut on Feb. 11, 1915. During service as an oboist in the U.S. Army Band (1917-19), he became a naturalized American citizen in 1918. He taught piano at the Chicago Musical Coll. during several summers between 1919 and 1928. In 1926 he toured Australia again. He married the Swedish poet and artist Ella Viola Strom in 1928 in a spectacular ceremony at the Hollywood Bowl, at which he conducted his To a Nordic Princess, written for his bride. In 1932-33 he was chairman of the music dept. at N.Y.U. In 1934-35 he again toured Australia, during which time he began organizing the Grainger Museum at the Univ. of Melbourne to house his MSS and personal effects and to serve as an ethnomusicological research center. He dedicated the museum in 1938. During World War II, he made numerous concert appearances for the Allied cause. After the War, he made his home in White Plains. Although Grainger was honored by election to the National Inst. of Arts and Letters in 1950, his last years were embittered by his belief that his work as a composer had been unjustly neglected. Always the eccentric, he directed that his skeleton be placed on display at the Grainger Museum, but his request was denied and he was buried in the ordinary manner. He prepared an autobiographical sketch as The Aldridge-Grainger-Strom Saga (1933), publ. the vol. Music: A Commonsense View of All Types (Sydney, 1934), and ed. 12 collections of music. Grainger’s philosophy of life and art called for the widest communion of peoples. His profound study of folk music underlies the melodic and rhythmic structure of his own music. He made a determined effort to re-create in art music the free flow of instinctive songs of the people. He experimented with “gliding” intervals within the traditional scales and polyrhythmic combinations with independent strong beats in the component parts. In a modest way, he was a pioneer of electronic music. As early as 1937, he wrote a quartet for electronic instruments, notating the pitch by zigzags and curves. He introduced individual forms of notation and orch. scoring, rejecting the common Italian desig-nations of tempi and dynamics in favor of colloquial English expressions.


ORCH English Dance for Organ and Orch. (1899-1909; 1924-25); Youthful Suite (1899-1945); Colonial Song (1905-12; rev. c. 1928); In a Nutshell, suite (1905-16); Mock Morris for Strings (1910; also for Orch., 1914); The Warriors for 3 Pianos and Orch. (1912-16); The Power of Rome and the Christian Heart for Organ and Orch. (1918-43); To a Nordic Princess (1927-28); Handel in the Strand for Strings (1932); Harvest Hymn (1932); The Immovable Do (c. 1939). B a n d : : The Lads of Wamphray March for Band (1906-07; rev. 1937-38); Hill Song No. 2 for Band (1907; rev. 1911 and 1940-6); Over the Hills and Far Away for Piano and Band (1916-19); Colonial Song for Band (1918); Marching Song of Democracy for Band (1948). CHAMBER: Walking Tune for Wind Quartet (1900-1905); Youthful Rapture for Cello and Piano or Piano Trio, with 9 Instruments ad libitum (1901; 1929); Hill Song No. 1 for 21 Instruments (1901-02; also for 22 or 23 Instruments, 1921; rev. 1923) and No. 2 for 22 or 23 Wind Instruments and Cymbal (1907; rev. 1911 and 1940-6); Free Music for String Quartet (1907; also for Theremins, 1935-36); Arrival Platform Humlet for Viola (1908-12); Mock Morris for 3 Violins, Viola, and 2 Cellos (1910; also for Violin and Piano, 1910); Handel in the Strand for Piano Trio and Viola ad libitum (1911-12); The Lonely Desert Man Sees the Tents of the Happy Tribes for Various Instrumental Combinations (1911-14; 1949); Colonial Song for Piano Trio (1912); Echo Song Trials for Various instrumental Combinations (1945); many keyboard pieces. OTHER: Choral works, pieces for Solo Voice and Piano or Other Instruments, and numerous folk song settings.


D. Parker, P. A. G.: A Study (N.Y., 1918); C. Scott, P.G.: A Course in Contemporary Musical Biography (N.Y., 1919); T. Slattery, The Wind Music ofP.A. G. (diss., Univ. of Iowa, 1967); M. Tan, The Free Music of P. G. (diss., Juilliard School, 1971); T. Slattery, P. G.: The Inveterate Innovator (Evanston, 111., 1974); T. Balough, A Complete Catalogue of the Works of P. G. (Nedlands, 1975); J. Bird, P. G.: The Man and the Music (London, 1976); L. Foreman, ed., The P. G. Companion (London, 1981); T. Balough, ed., A Musical Genius from Australia: Selected Writings by and about P. G. (Nedlands, 1982); D. Tall, ed., P. G.: A Catalogue of the Music (London, 1982); R. Simon, P. G.: The Pictorial Biography (N.Y., 1984); K. Dreyfus, ed., The Farthest North of Human Kindness: Letters ofP.G. 1901-14 (London, 1985); J. Blacking, “A Commonsense View of All Music”: Reflections on P. G.’s Contribution to Ethnomusicology and Music Education (Cambridge, 1987);T. Lewis, Source Guide to the Music of P. G. (White Plains, N.Y., 1991); W. Mellers, P. G. (Oxford, 1992); M. Gillies, ed., The All-Round Man: Selected Letters of P. G., 1914-1961 (Oxford, 1994).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire