Percy Grainger America
Our Visiting Scholar Arrives...and Conquers
Dr. John Roscigno begins his clean up, fix up, sort out on Monday, July 22
On a dark day in December 2017, Dr. John Roscigno visited the Percy Grainger House. There was no heat, little light, and a whole lot of mysterious, unidentified stacks of paper. But even with the cold, he noted, "Percy Grainger and I had strong musical interests in common. He was a fascinating character, a unique genius, really.”
This simpatico blossomed into a 1999 doctoral dissertation centered on Grainger’s writing for percussion in the 1913 composition “The Warriors—an imaginary ballet.” “The Warriors” is an 18-minute suite that mixes elements of notable Grainger works with references to musicians Arnold Bax, Arnold Schönberg and Richard Strauss. Performance requires a huge orchestral ensemble, large tuneful percussion section including four octaves of chromatic suspended handbells and at least three pianos. In one performance, Grainger used nineteen pianos with thirty pianists, and Grainger insisted that the musicians be "exceptionally strong vigorous players" reflecting his own interest in physical strength and fitness. Roscigno’s dissertation focused on that fact that Grainger was far ahead of his time in writing for melodic percussion and was keenly aware of the colors one could achieve on these instruments through various mallet selections.
Dr. Roscigno is Professor of Music and Director of Orchestral Studies at California State University, Northridge, as well as Music Director, Thousand Oaks Philharmonic and the CSUN Youth Orchestras. He will spend some time in summer, 2019, as well as the coming year, in residence at the Grainger House completing a music cataloging project giving him access to Grainger music and memorabilia.
"The goal will be to carefully organize Grainger’s music and the music of Grainger’s composer friends and to help create a study library in the house for future scholars and musicians to view the vast collection." Roscigno explains.
The International Percy Grainger Society, and its charitable affiliate Percy Grainger America, are engaged in an ongoing re-creation of the life and times of Australian composer Percy Grainger during his forty years in America (1921 to 1961). They rededicated Grainger’s historic landmark home at 7 Cromwell Place in White Plains, New York as a living time capsule that exhibits how an internationally famous, radically inventive creative artist (and his wife, Ella Viola Strom, also an artist) lived and worked as "different drummers" in twentieth century America. The Grainger home, long a destination for a worldwide stream of visiting musicians, is a fascinating storybook world for a larger cultural public.
The benefits of this project to the musical community will be enormous. Future generations will have more accurate information as to Grainger’s entire output and any new findings may be brought to light. “This is a truly unique opportunity for any conductor or musicologist,“ Roscigno noted, “I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to help preserve Grainger’s work.”