Tag Archives: Percy Grainger

Grainger and world music


Today, on Percy Grainger’s 130th birthday, let’s recall his reflections on the two broad stylistic groups he discerned in world music.

Grainger believed that strong musical and human characteristics unite the musical output of the Nordic countries, which include Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Ireland, the United States, Canada, Australia, and several others.

The melodic habits of Nordic music are more like those of China and other Mongolian countries than those of such European countries as France, Italy, Spain, Germany, and Austria. The Mongolian-Nordic musical tradition favors solemn or spiritual unadorned melodies with long sustained notes, gapped scales, and a tendency to underlying polyphonic thought. The Nordic musical mind seeks inspiration in nature.

In contrast, the southern or Mohammedan tradition favors nervous, excitable, and florid tunes with quickly fluctuating notes, closely filled-up scales, and a tendency to seek surface complexity in technical passagework rather than in harmony.

This according to Characteristics of Nordic music, a talk broadcast on New York’s WEVD radio on 4 July 1933. Grainger’s talk is reprinted from a typescript held by the Grainger Museum, Melbourne, in Grainger on music (Oxford: Clarendon 1999, pp. 258–266). Above, Grainger with a radio microphone in 1928; below, some rare footage.

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Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Curiosities, World music

Delius’s taste

Today, on Delius’s 150th birthday, let’s eavesdrop on the reminiscences of his friend Percy Grainger.

“Composer never had truer colleague than I had in Frederick Delius, and when he died I felt that my music had lost its best friend.

“Our outlook on life was very similar, our artistic tastes met at many points. Both of us considered the Icelandic sagas the pinnacle of narrative prose. Both of us knew the Scandinavian languages and admired the culture of Scandinavia as the flower of Europeanism.

“Both of us worshipped Walt Whitman, Wagner, Grieg, and Jens Peter Jacobsen. Both of us detested music of the Haydn-Mozart-Beethoven period. ‘If a man tells me he likes Mozart, I know in advance that he is a bad musician’ Delius was fond of saying.

“One year he would ask for Bach; the next year he would say ‘You know, Bach always bores me.’ But Chopin and Grieg he never turned against. He preferred Ravel to Debussy. He had no patience with Richard Strauss, Mahler, or Hindemith.”

This from “About Delius”, reprinted in Grainger on music (Oxford: Clarendon, 1999, pp. 361–368). Above, Grainger and Delius in 1923. Below, Felicity Lott sings Delius’s “The bird’s story” with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Eric Fenby.

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Filed under Impressionism, Reception, Romantic era

Grainger studies

Grainger studies: An interdisciplinary journal (ISSN 1838-8892) was launched in 2011, the 50th anniversary of Percy Grainger’s death, by the University of Melbourne Library, the custodian of the Grainger Museum.

Edited by David Pear and Belinda Nemec, this peer-reviewed scholarly journal is published annually and distributed electronically for free, with print copies available for purchase from the Custom Book Centre at the Melbourne University Bookshop.

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Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, New periodicals