What are your thoughts on Percy Grainger?

Who better to ask than the people on the "Classical" section on Yahoo!answers ;)

I'm just wondering what you think about him, or his music, or better yet, tell me something you think that I don't know about him haha

6 Answers

  • petr b
    Lv 7
    9 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    A very capable and deft composer, fairly 'anti-establishment,' a bit anti-social, a vegetarian (did not like veggies, ate nuts and fruit,) He was a body culture near-fanatic, and he was sexually, uh, quite complex and 'deviant.'


    ....though I fail to see what, exactly, either diet or sexuality has to do with any composer's music :-)

    When on concert tour, he carried some of his food supply (natural grains, dried fruits) with him, and he preferred sleeping in a knapsack (sleeping bag) to a bed. His performing tuxedo was kept pressed, neatly rolled in that knapsack.

    He quite earnestly made very well crafted music with a tongue-in-cheek feeling about it - almost deliberately 'not serious' - again, he was likely naturally inclined to mock or defy the more conservative and 'earnest' music establishment.

    He loved arranging folk tunes, was a very deft orchestrator. His works for wind ensembles are well-known and somewhat admired for their orchestration.

    So much of his music is 'light-hearted' in character that I sometimes think his strength of ability as both composer and orchestrator are overlooked or greatly underestimated.

    The quality of the writing is quite high. The music itself might be called 'superficial' but that is not truly the word for well-made and light-hearted fare. Just because a composer has little or no gloom to express or 'share' does not make them a lesser composer.

    Some art Is meant to merely 'entertain.'

    Best regards.

  • 9 years ago

    With both my good friends & colleagues having addressed the music so fully, I'll just happily concur with them in that regard and instead add an aspect of Grainger's art that even many pianists are not aware of, which is his very varied experimentation with entirely new sound effects, probably the most startling of which is the incorporation of the closed fist as a legitimate means to attain specific sound effects -- not just one, inevitably rather obvious one -- which had a very direct bearing on the way mid-20th C pianist/composers who were aware of Grainger's innovations approached novel ways of addressing the keyboard.

    Using the fist for the generation of explosive dynamics in isolated instances was the inevitable first iteration of the new device, but soon thereafter Grainger could not resist the paradox and began to use the fist to colour extremely low dynamic levels, resulting in astonishingly rich 'blooms' on individual sounds so generated with very long decay times indeed. The technique requires meticulous weight and tension control, and an ability to generate lightning-fast lateral/side-on 'flicks' of the wrist joint treated as a single 'hinge', or the most unfortunate 'howls' erupting from the instrument can be the rather undesirable outcome. Any truly ill judged execution likely will snap the string or strings concerned almost instantly, the inevitably perpendicularly applied key impact with uncontrolled, excessive weight generating so much energy it becomes fatal to the string(s). (Interestingly, I know of no snapped hammer heads in consequence of such poor executions, something one could be tempted otherwise to expect.)

    The effects capable of being drawn from this deployment of the fist is a unique Graingerian contribution to the library of piano techniques and individual sound qualities and one that handsomely repays careful study. For the safety of instruments, however, *never* try to experiment with this approach without *first* having had instruction from an experienced practitioner of the specific technique or you'll likely find yourself keeping your tuner/technician in a champagne lifestyle for some considerable time to come. "Do not try this at home, folks!" :-))

    All the best,

  • 9 years ago

    I love Grainger's music. As petr b has already made very clear, he was a first-class weirdo and had some VERY strange views on race and religion (eg he would only used musical directions in his music that had an Anglo-Saxon derivation, nothing Italian, French or Latin). However, one needs to ignore that when considering his music.

    For me, Grainger wrote many mini masterpieces (eg 'Handel in the Strand'), while his 'imaginary' ballet 'The Warriors' (one of his few large-scale compositions) is a fine piece that deserves better recognition. Some of his re-workings of other composers' music (eg 'Blithe Bells', based on JS Bach's 'Sheep May Safely Graze') are respectful and sheer genius.

    However, I think Grainger's masterpiece is 'Green Bushes - Passacaglia on an English Folk Song' - I never get tired of it.

  • Bob
    Lv 5
    9 years ago

    Class A eccentric/weirdo, but I'd say he is the most important composer for wind ensemble. He also had a style very reminiscent of the SVS, except he did all of this before they did. He's also the only composer I know of that has tried to create beatless music, and Grainger is the only guy I know who requests 19 pianos with 30 concert pianists for a performance(The Warriors). Surprisingly the orchestra/hall actually complied and there were 19 pianos and 30 pianists.

    Some favorites:

    Lincolnshire Posy for obvious reasons. I absolutely adore the second movement, the stark contrast between the lows and the highs sets the mood of the piece perfectly. It's arguably his most famous piece, and it's a good one for sure.


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    The Immovable Do both because it's great music, and it's the epitome of Grainger. My harmonium is constantly playing a concert C? Oh well, I better just compose around it instead of getting it fixed.


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    I also love the Warriors, but the full piece isn't on youtube


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  • 9 years ago

    I love Grainger's music! When I was at all-state, we played two of his pieces: Irish Tune From County Derry and Shepard's Hey. I also love Colonial Song and Children's March and I hope to play them some day. He is defiantly one of my favorite composers.

  • 9 years ago

    I've never heard anything of his except Country Gardens.

    So he seems to me like a one-hit wonder.

    According to the Wikipedia article, he hated Jews.

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