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  • Wed, December 16, 2020 12:04 PM | Anne Ocone (Administrator)

    By William Garlette, Major, US Army (Retired). As promised, this blog article is a follow-up on “Influences on Grainger’s Original Compositions for Wind Band.” Captain Arthur A. Clappé (born, July 22, 1850 – died, November 22, 1920) had a musical relationship with Percy Grainger prior to Grainger’s entrance into the US Army band in 1917 and after, when Grainger was transferred to his faculty at the Army Band Leaders Course, Military Music Department, Institute of Musical Art, Fort Jay, Governors Island, NY. Clappé’s philosophy on wind band instrumentation and approaches to composing for and teaching of wind band were comprehensive and innovative. Grainger strongly recommended to all who would be band conductors to read and follow Clappé’s sound advice.

    Clappé wrote four books: “The Band Teacher’s Assistant or Complete and Progressive Band Instructor “(1888), “Musical Essays Pertaining Particularly to Military Bands” (1893), “The Wind-Band and its Instruments” (1911) his most well-known, and the posthumously released “The Principles of Wind-Band Transcription” (1921).

    Major (Retd)) James R. Milne OMM CD, “Arthur A. Clappé”, a biography.

    “My 'opus' on A.A. was published in The Journal of the International Military Music Society - 'Band International'. It was published in two parts: Volume 32 No. 1 - April 2010 and Volume 32 No. 2 - August 2010.” -Major (Retd) James R. Milne OMM CD

    Please click below for the full article,  Arthur A. Clappé: Early Influencer on American Wind Bands: a1.Arthur A. Clappe- Early Influencer on American Wind Bands .html

    The author is indebted to Patricia Marshall and Robin Rodger, both descendants of A. A. Clappé's English family, for supplying valuable information.

  • Tue, November 17, 2020 1:14 PM | Anne Ocone (Administrator)

    The 15th Band, Coast Artillery Corps, U.S. Army, Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn, 1917. Front row center, in civilian attire, is Arthur A. Clappé (faculty 1911-20), principal of the bandmaster training school on Governors Island. Rocco (Robert) Resta (Diploma ’13, Military Bandleaders Course), leader of the Fort Hamilton band, is second to the left of Clappé, holding a baton and his brother, Francis, who would later be the Bandmaster of the US Military Academy Band, is the clarinetist to the viewer’s far right. To Clappé's left is Australian composer and pianist Percy Grainger, Army bandsman at Fort Hamilton, who enlisted in 1917 and was later transferred to Governors Island. (Photo by J.J. Fisher, New York. From the collection of the Grainger Museum, University of Melbourne, Australia)

    By William Garlette, Major, US Army (Retired). Most of Percy Grainger’s music for wind band was written or started between 1900 and 1940. During those years, there were three gentlemen who had a musical impact on him: Robert ‘Rocco’ Resta, Francis Resta, and Arthur A. Clappé. All three were members of the U.S. Army Band program and they all worked directly with Grainger.

    Percy Grainger and his mother, Rose, came to the United States in 1914 in an effort to avoid military service during World War I. Additionally, the 1914-15 performance season had been cancelled in overseas due to the War. When the US entered the war in 1917, Grainger hoped to avoid ‘The Front’ by joining the 15th Coast Artillery Corps US Army Band at Fort Totten/Fort Hamilton. Bandmaster Robert ‘Rocco’ Resta, a 1913 graduate of the Army Band Leaders Course, Military Band Department, Institute of Musical Art (the forerunner of modern-day Juilliard), was his first opportunity to work directly with a professional US military band conductor. During his time with the 15th (1917-1918), he became close with Rocco and his younger brother, Francis, who was also a performing member of the band. These relationships would be life-long. 

    Grainger respected Rocco’s musicianship, writing to his mother, Rose, on June 12, 1917, “Resta is a good & graceful conductor, very Italian, full of fine contrasts.” (1)

    Later, he would write in his Round Letter of May 21, 1947, “For I have passed a mile-stone in my tone-life: Francis Resta’s forth-playment of my Hillsong 1 at West Point on April 20. Rocco Resta (Francis Resta’s brother) was my band-leader in the army, at Fort Hamilton, 1917-1918 --& I was happy there with Rocco. Francis Resta (younger brother) came to Fort Hamilton before I left there to go & teach tone-art in the ARMY MUSIC TRAINING SCHOOL at Governors Island, & he soon came on to Gov. Isl. Himself having won an army scholarship. So we were at Gov. Island together for nearly a year.” (2)

    The musical cooperation between Grainger and the Resta brothers, especially Francis, is well-documented. On many occasions after Francis Resta assumed the position of Teacher of Music/Bandmaster of the West Point Band (1934-1957), Resta performed, read through new works, and had Grainger as a soloist at the US Military Academy. 

    Grainger was reassigned to the Army Band Leaders Course, Military Band Department, Institute of Musical Art at Fort Jay, Governors Island, NY in 1918. This was mainly done because there was talk that the 15th C.A.C. Band was going to France and ‘The Front.’ It was here that he began working with Captain Arthur A. Clappé. Captain Clappé was the Principal of the Army Band Leaders School of Music from its inception in 1911 until his death in 1920. Clappé (3), along with John Phillip Sousa (4), was instrumental in getting Grainger into the 15th Coast Artillery Corps US Army Band in 1917 writing to senior Army commanders on his behalf.

    Grainger was so impressed with Captain Clappé, he wrote in the publication, Metronome Orchestra Monthly (5), an essay entitled Possibilities of the Concert Wind Band from the Standpoint of a Modern Composer (6): “Those who are interested in exploring the full latent possibilities of the modern concert wind band should consult Arthur A. Clappé's The Wind Band and its Instruments, an epoch-making work which is to the band of today what Berlioz's Treatise on Instrumentation was to the orchestra of his time – a standard work that no composer, musician, bandmaster, or bandsman should fail to know and absorb.” (7)

    He continues “…[Clappé] has furthermore demonstrated in practice the truth and practicability of his theories in the beautifully balanced ‘Institute of Musical Art’ Band that he has built up at the Army Music Training School at Governor’s Island of which he is principal. When I first heard this band, at a concert at Washington Irving High School, with its quintet of saxophones, its quartet of alto and bass clarinets, its quartet of oboes, bass oboe and bassoon, with the tone of its well-rounded brass section so proportioned and controlled so as never to (except for quite special intentional effects) obscure or over-blare the more subtly expressive sound colors of its unusually complete woodwind sections, I realized, more than ever before, the truly immense potentialities of the concert wind band as an emotional musical medium.” 

    This experience with Clappé lead him to state, “It is not so much the wind band as it already is, in the various countries, that should engage the creative attentions of contemporaneous composers of genius, as the band as it should be and will be; for it is still in a pliable state as regards its make-up as compared with the more settled form of the sound-ingredients of the symphony orchestra.” (8)

    After World War I, Grainger established himself as a composer of the highest level of prominence in the Wind Band genre composing over 30 works for the medium.

    This article makes clear that his experiences in the Army and with the various military music leaders at the time, solidified his beliefs in the importance and approaches to writing for the modern wind band.

    1 The all-round man: Selected letters of Percy Grainger, 1914–1961 Gillies, Malcolm & David Pear (eds), Oxford [England] : Clarendon Press ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1994. p. 40

    2 ibid, p. 208

    3 Drawn from James A. Milne, “Arthur A. Clappé”, an unpublished biography and a Letter from Arthur Clappé to Manuel Comulada, June 10, 1917, Grainger Museum

    4 Letter from John Philip Sousa to General White, June 6, 1917, Grainger Museum

    5 Metronome Orchestra Monthly 34/11, November 1918, p.22-3 Possibilities of the Concert Wind Band from the Standpoint of a Modern Composer

    6  http://online.anyflip.com/wkyv/laeu/mobile/index.html

    7 ibid

    8 ibid

    (To follow: a reprint, “Arthur A. Clappé”, a biography published in The Journal of the International Military Music Society - 'Band International'. Published in two parts: Volume 32 No. 1 - April 2010 and Volume 32 No. 2 - August 2010 by James A. Milne.)

  • Tue, October 13, 2020 9:51 AM | Anne Ocone (Administrator)

    Video by Matthew McGarrell 

    To view the video: https://vimeo.com/467176217/4049a70be6

    During his long career, Percy Grainger used cameras and film to record events and people in his life, to make pictures for publicity, and, as most people do, to take pictures so as to see what they will look like after they are printed. This video is intended as an introduction to Percy Grainger as a photographer.  After some commentary employing ideas in Janet Malcolm’s essay, Diana & Nikon, as a filter to view Grainger’s photographs and to link them to his work with the phonograph in collecting folksong, the video shows two groups of pictures that Grainger made on his Kodak 3A Autographic Junior camera during two extended trips: 

    05:33 Voyage to Europe (with pictures from Sweden, Denmark, and England), begun January 1929

    06:53 Voyage on the 4-masted barque, L’Avenir (Copenhagen to Australia), begun September 1933 

    The following media are seen and heard in the video:


    00:00 audio Rufford Park Poachers sung by Joseph Taylor (1908)

    01:52 audio Rufford Park Poachers sung by Joseph Taylor (1908)

    05:44 audio Horkstow Grange sung by George Gouldthorpe (1906)

    06:59 audio Lord Melbourne sung by George Wray (1908)

    08:07 audio Green Bushes sung by Joseph Leaning (1906)


    00:16 photo Janet Malcolm by Nina Subin

    00:21 photo Diana camera

    00:23 photo Nikon F camera

    00:25 book Diana & Nikon: essays on photography by Janet Malcolm ISBN: 0893817279

    00:33 photo Borderland State Park, Easton, Massachusetts by Matthew McGarrell

    00:38 photo Puddingstone, Middletown, Rhode Island by Matthew McGarrell

    00:43 photo Manville, Rhode Island by Matthew McGarrell

    00:46 photo Lincoln Woods, Rhode Island by Matthew McGarrell

    00:51 photo Close by Matthew McGarrell

    00:56 photo Warren, Rhode Island by Matthew McGarrell

    01:01 photo Mãe d'Água, Lisboa by Matthew McGarrell

    01:07 photo Mãe d'Água, Lisboa by Matthew McGarrell

    01:12 photo Porto by Matthew McGarrell

    01:17 photo R Mutt’s Fountain (Marcel Duchamp) by Giuseppe Schiavinotto

    01:19 photo Marcel Duchamp at the Walker Art Center, 1965 by Eric Sutherland

    01:22 photo Bottlerack, 1961 by Marcel Duchamp

    01:30 photo Edison Phonograph by Matthew McGarrell

    01:38 photo 7 Cromwell Place by Matthew McGarrell

    01:51 photo W88-05 Joseph Taylor, side face by Percy Grainger

    02:08 photo W88-01 George Gouldthorpe by Percy Grainger

    02:23 photo W88-03 George Gouldthorpe [and one other] by Percy Grainger

    02:40 photo W88-04 Joseph Taylor, front face by Percy Grainger

    02:55 photo W141-42 Negro church from SW by Percy Grainger

    03:01 photo W86-08 Elsie standing in front of tree trunk by Percy Grainger

    03:07 photo Springfield 05 (uncatalogued) [West’s Repair Shop] by Percy Grainger

    03:13 book Percy Grainger: the pictorial biography by Robert Simon ISBN: 0878752811

    03:34 photo W24-15 Baptist church, next to ‘Solfiero’ by Percy Grainger

    03-36 photo W64 not numbered-06 [PG and EG, walking away from camera] photographer ?

    03:38 photo W56-03 Aldridge grave plot, West Terrace Cemetery, Adelaide by Percy Grainger

    03:41 photo W4-07 dressed for South Australian desert tramp, 1924 photographer ?

    03:52 photo W24-08 Killala “PG’s favorite boyhood home” by Percy Grainger

    03:57 photo W68-09 old house, N. Adelaide by Percy Grainger

    04:02 photo W68-12 Prince Alfred Hotel (Aldridge home, RG’s childhood) by Percy Grainger

    04:07 photo uncatalogued [Ella, 7 Cromwell Place] by Percy Grainger

    04:12 book Picture taking with the No. 3A Autographic Kodak Special (Eastman Kodak)

    04:47 photo No. 3A Autographic Kodak Special by Matthew McGarrell

    05:43 photo W64-01 January 1929, SS Drottningholm [Ella] by Percy Grainger

    05:47 photo W64-08 January 1929, SS Drottningholm [Percy] by Ella Grainger

    05:51 photo W64-08 January 1929, SS Drottningholm [Percy and Ella] photographer ?

    05:59 photo W64-21 Segeltorp, 1929 [Percy Grainger on skis] by Ella Grainger

    06:03 photo W64-23 Segeltorp, 1929 [Percy Grainger on skis] by Ella Grainger

    06:07 photo W64-33 Segeltorp, 1929 [Percy Grainger on skis] by Ella Grainger

    06:11 photo W64-36 Segeltorp, 1929 [Percy and Ella Grainger on skis] photographer ?

    06:19 photo W64 not numbered 05 Rørvig, Denmark by Ella Grainger

    06:23 photo W64 not numbered 03 Rørvig, Denmark [Ella and Alfhild (on horse)] by Percy Grainger

    06:27 photo W64 not numbered 11 Rørvig, Denmark [Percy, Alfhilde, Herman] by Ella Grainger

    06:31 photo W64 not numbered 10 Rørvig, Denmark [Ella and Percy] by Percy Grainger

    06:45 photo W360-07 Lilla Vrån, Pevensey Bay, England [Ella Grainger in window] by Percy Grainger

    06:48 photo W360-07 Lilla Vrån, Pevensey Bay, England by Percy Grainger

    06:58 photo W66-00b L’Avenir off South Coast of England by Williams

    07:02 photo W66-L’AV II-06 [off South Coast of England] by Percy Grainger

    07:06 photo W66-L’AV XI-01 [from small boat, L’Avenir on horizon] by Percy Grainger

    07:10 photo W66-L’AV XI 03 [from small boat, approaching starboard of L’Avenir] by Percy Grainger

    07:14 photo W66-L’AV IX 03 [from small boat, approaching bow of L’Avenir] by Percy Grainger

    07:18 photo W66-L’AV IX 01 [from small boat, approaching larboard of L’Avenir]

    07:22 photo W66-L’AV II 03 [from deck of L’Avenir] by Percy Grainger

    07:26 photo W66-L’AV VII 04 [from deck of L’Avenir] by Percy Grainger

    07:30 photo W66-L’AV IV 06 [from rigging of L’Avenir] by Percy Grainger

    07:34 photo W66-L’AV IV 01 [from rigging of L’Avenir] by Percy Grainger

    07:38 photo W66-L’AV IV 02 [from rigging of L’Avenir] by Percy Grainger

    07:42 photo W66-L’AV IV 04 [from rigging of L’Avenir] by Percy Grainger

    07:46 photo W66-L’AV III 03 [from rigging of L’Avenir] by Percy Grainger

    07:50 photo W66-L’AV III 05 [from rigging of L’Avenir] by Percy Grainger

    07:54 photo W66-L’AV IV 05 [from rigging of L’Avenir] by Percy Grainger

    07:58 photo W66-L’AV VII 02 [from deck of L’Avenir] by Ella Grainger

    08:07 photo W66-L’AV VII 01 [from deck of L’Avenir] by Ella Grainger

    08:11 photo W66-L’AV VI 05 [from deck of L’Avenir] by Ella Grainger

    08:16 photo W66-L’AV VII 03 [from deck of L’Avenir] by Ella Grainger

    08:21 photo W66-L’AV XII 03 [from deck of L’Avenir] by Ella Grainger

    08:31 photo W66-L’AV VII 05 [Captain Nils Ericsson] by Ella Grainger

    08:36 photo W66-L’AV VII 06 [Captain Nils Ericsson] by Ella Grainger

    08:41 photo uncatalogued [oil painting of Nils Ericsson by Ella Grainger] by Matthew McGarrell

    08:46 photo W66-L’AV IV 03 [from rigging of L’Avenir] by Percy Grainger

  • Tue, September 15, 2020 2:05 PM | Anne Ocone (Administrator)

    by Cora Angier Sowa

    Duke Ellington at New York University

    In 1932, Percy Grainger was teaching a course called "A General Study of the Manifold Nature of Music" at New York University. On October 25, he invited the famous jazz bandleader Duke Ellington and his orchestra to perform several compositions for his class. Under such bandleaders as Ellington (pictured above), jazz had been adapted from different kinds of African and African-American song and made into forms that were popular with a wider, i.e. white, audience. Grainger had become a big fan of jazz, which he saw (as might be expected of him) through the lens of his own rather peculiar musical views.

    The origins of jazz

    The beginnings of jazz are usually associated with New Orleans, with its brass bands marching in Mardi Gras parades and jazz funerals, and with the singing and dancing in Congo Square, a neighborhood just north of the French Quarter, where enslaved Africans, given the day off on Sunday, would set up a market (at which they could often make enough money to buy their freedom) and dance to rhythms and songs inherited from Africa, like the Bamboula, Calinda, and Juba. The area is now included within Louis Armstrong Park.

    But the origins of jazz are complicated, drawing from many sources, African, Asian, and European. In Africa, the roots go back to the songs of the griots or bards, who were the keepers of the history of the tribe, to songs to accompany work, songs for religious ceremonies, and songs of play. Percy Grainger's friend Natalie Curtis recorded many of these songs, and her work in collecting the songs of African and African-American singers was discussed in a previous blog, Natalie Curtis, Busoni, and Grainger.

    Songs of the gandy dancers

    In America, the African slaves continued the traditions of song, often improvising words to fit the circumstances. There were songs for cotton-picking (sometimes with acid remarks about the white boss when he was out of earshot). With the end of slavery, African American laborers continued the tradition of improvising songs or chants to accompany their work, on the railroad or in construction.

    The "gandy dancers" were the track workers on the railroads, in the days before mechanical cranes and steam shovels, like the men pictured in the tintype shown above. (We notice the plump white supervisor standing on the right of the picture.) In the North, the gandy dancers were generally white, many Irish or German. In the South, they were usually Black. Even after the track was laid, crews would periodically have to straighten the track, shoved out of alignment by the constant passing of the heavy trains above. A long line of men with crowbars would stand on one side of the rail, using brute force to rhythmically heave it into place, moving in unison. Spiking the rails in place also required teamwork. It was generally a two-man job, with one man on each side of the rail, striking the spike in fast alternating strokes. The work of the gandy dancers was accompanied by songs or chants, like the sea shanties of sailors. These served two functions, to help keep the rhythm of the work, and to motivate the workers. These chants usually followed a call-and-response pattern, which we find as an important component of jazz. One member of the crew, the "caller," chants a verse of some kind, answered by the others as they heave the rail, thus, giving a heave at each "huh":

    Up and down this road I go
    Skippin' and dodging a 44
    Hey man won't you line 'um...huh
    Hey won't you line 'um...huh
    Hey won't you line 'um...huh
    Hey won't you line 'um...huh

    The caller might choose different topics for the initial verse, turning to sexual jokes if the men were tired and needed encouragement (but these latter only when they were out of earshot of women and children and of the white railroad owners).

    An example of improvisation

    Improvisation to fit the circumstances was an important part of these songs, as it would be for jazz. My own father, Robert M. Angier, describes two examples from Black crews he witnessed when on a summer job with his father's civil engineering firm early in the twentieth century. He recorded them in his book Why Poetry, in the chapter called "Marching Songs."

    "... I recall a crew, in Memphis, Tennessee, who worked as a team putting together the forms for the reinforced concrete piling (which I was there to inspect) at the successive commands which, although not verse, rolled rhythmically from the lips of the gang boss. It went something like this:

    "Pick up de one side:
    Set in de cage:
    Pick up t'othah side:
    Stick in the pins:
    Shake 'im!

    "Ain't got but one eye!" piped a youth.

    "Whut ain't got but one eye?" intoned the boss.

    "Dis hyeah fawm! [form]" answered the youth. One of the lugs on the edge of the half-octagonal steel sheet had broken off, so that the linking strip could not be fastened. With a brief glance in my direction, the gang boss chanted:

    "Git a wy-ah!"[wire]

    One of the men produced a length of wire which, when looped around the remaining opposite lug and passed under the form, shaped a temporary eyelet for the other side, while all the other men stood at attention until, the loop made and the pin run through, the final command was given:

    "Cah-yeh it 'way!"

    Another group, working on "double tracking" and elevating roadbed along the Des Plaines River, near Chicago, included one fellow who, I heard him tell the foreman, wanted to "go back to Bobo, Mississippi. B-o-b-o," he spelled it out carefully, in case the foreman might not know. And later I heard him cogitating vocally, to the rhythm of spike maul or tamping bar:

    "Ah won-dah of a soot-case'll hol mah clo's!"

    "Matchbox'll hol' yuah clo's!" jibed another, and, with perfect calm, without missing a beat, the first continued his improvised chant, but changed the "lyric" (!) to read:

    "Ah won-dah of a match-box'll hol' mah clo's!"

    Fusion of African and European music traditions

    In America, African traditions of complicated, syncopated rhythms, call and response, improvisation, and rhythmic chanting rather than European-style melodic development and orchestration were fused with European musical traditions in many ways. As African slaves adopted Christianity, forms of gospel music and spirituals came into being. In popular entertainment, ragtime fused syncopated polyrhythms with the band music popularized by John Philip Sousa. Ragtime was played on pianos by "professors" in "sporting houses" (bordellos) in the Storyville section of New Orleans. ("Storyville" was the popular name given to a red-light district defined by legislation proposed by City Councilman Sidney Story, to the councilman's embarrassment.)

    Ragtime, particularly associated with the "King of Ragtime" Scott Joplin (composer of the "Maple Leaf Rag," among many other pieces), was the first African-American music to have an impact on the wider American and European public. It was popularized in polite mainstream culture by its playing by "society" dance bands. Ragtime even influenced such classical composers as Erik Satie, Claude Debussy, and Igor Stravinsky. Percy Grainger's first exposure to jazz was the ragtime that he heard in the music halls of London.

    Spanish, Afro-Cuban, and Creole influences also made their way into the development of African American music.

    The "Swing Era" and the big band sound

    If the 1920's were the Jazz Era, the 1930's the Swing Era. Jazz became more orchestral, with the addition of stringed instruments. Swing, with its swinging danceable beat, kept the percussive rhythms of the African heritage, along with the call-and-response concept of alternating melodic statement of a theme with solo riffs and variations, sometimes keeping only the chord structure of the original melody. They also introduced new instruments, such as the saxophone, an instrument scorned by classical musicians. Jazz also incorporated the use of glissandos and glides, often featuring "blue notes," or the "notes between the notes," often flatted thirds, fifths, and sevenths, and sometimes microtonal notes that were not part of the usual well-tempered scale. (Percy Grainger would later relate these microtones to his concept of Free Music.)

    As Blacks migrated north to various northern cities out of the Deep South during the Great Migration, different styles of jazz developed, such as St. Louis Jazz, Kansas City Jazz, and Chicago Jazz. Many Black musicians from New Orleans, including Louis Armstrong and his mentor, "King" Oliver, who had played in Storyville, went to Chicago. Some popular band leaders were Black, like Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington, but many were white, like Paul Whiteman, styled the "King of Jazz" and Benny Goodman, the "King of Swing," who led one of the first integrated jazz groups.

    Modern developments

    In the era following the years we are discussing, the jazz heritage has influenced many forms of popular music, including soul, disco, and rock and roll, moving ever farther from its origins. Interestingly, Black musical forms have arisen that return to the rebellious roots of those original chants, namely rap and the associated hiphop culture. These compositions, like their forbears, depend not on melody but on a rhythmic patter and on trenchant commentary on events in the life of the singer and his audience. First associated with gangs in the form of "gangsta rap," these compositions also grew out of "the dozens," a game in which contestants try to outdo each other in trading insults, often involving the contestants' mothers. These could take the form of rhyming verses or single lines. (Example: "Yo momma so stupid it takes her an hour to cook Minute Rice".) Boxer Muhammad Ali frequently used such playful versified insults when speaking to reporters, simply leaving them confused. Rap, like jazz before it, has also been taken up by white musicians, with performers like white rapper Eminem, and has gone mainstream, as with popular female rapper Cardi B. Rap has also traveled abroad, to countries like South Korea, where it appears as K Pop.

  • Tue, September 15, 2020 9:41 AM | Anne Ocone (Administrator)

    Etude Magazine and "The Jazz Problem"

    In the 1920's, the editors of the music periodical Etude Magazine were scandalized by jazz. In their August, 1924 edition, whose cover is pictured here, the editors assembled a panel of thirteen musical experts, composers, conductors, and writers, each described as "distinguished," "well-known," "eminent," etc., to give their opinions on the merits (or lack thereof) of the musical craze sweeping America and Europe. The topic was continued in the following month, September, with another nine panelists. All were white men, with the exception of one woman, Amy Beach (identified as "Mrs. H.H.A. Beach, Renowned American Composer-Pianist").

    The September, 1924 issue of Etude also contained an extended piece, based on an interview, by Percy Grainger (described as "Distinguished Pianist, Composer and Teacher"). Grainger had a long connection with Etude, as described in another blog, "Grainger's Contributions to The Etude Magazine 1915-1943" by Barry Ould.

    The Etude editors made no secret of where they stood. In an opening editorial, "Where the Etude Stands on Jazz," they made it clear that they did "not endorse Jazz, merely by discussing it." They say that: "In its original form, it has no place in musical education and deserves none. It will have to be transmogrified many times before it can present its credentials for the Walhalla of music. . . In musical education Jazz has been an accursed annoyance to teachers for years. Possibly the teachers are, themselves, somewhat to blame for this. Young people demand interesting, inspiriting music. Many of the Jazz pieces they have played are infinitely more difficult to execute than the sober music their teachers have given them. If the teacher had recognized the wholesome appetite of youth for fun and had given interesting, sprightly music instead of preaching against the evils of Jazz, the nuisance might have been averted."

    The editors go on, in a more benign spirit, to say that certain aspects of jazz, at least in its more domesticated versions, as composed by mostly white composers and played under mostly white conductors, were praiseworthy and could be tolerated: "... On the other hand, the melodic and rhythmic inventive skill of many of the composers of Jazz, such men as Berlin, Confrey, Gershwin and Cohan, is extraordinary. Passing through the skilled hands of such orchestral leaders of high-class Jazz orchestras conducted by Paul Whiteman, Isham Jones, Waring and others, the effects have been such that serious musicians as John Alden Carpenter, Percy Grainger and Leopold Stokowski, have predicted that Jazz will have an immense influence upon musical composition, not only of America, but also of the world."

    A range of opinions on Jazz from "experts"

    The actual opinions of the distinguished pundits varied a good deal, from scandalization to a view that jazz, at least in its Europeanized versions, was a harmless form of popular entertainment and even an important expression of the American spirit. Here is a selection:

    George Ade ("American Humorist and Satirist")

    Humorist George Ade said "The cruder form of "jazz," a collection of squeals and wails against a concealed back-structure of melody, became unbearable to me soon after I began to hear it." But he concedes, saying "It can be a dreadful disturbance to the atmosphere when perpetrated by a cluster of small-town blacksmiths and sheet metal workers but it becomes inspiriting and almost uplifting under the magical treatment of Paul Whiteman and some of his confreres."

    Mrs. H.H.A.(Amy)Beach ("Renowned American Composer Pianist")

    Composer Amy Beach's objections were less to the music itself than to the dances that went with it: "If it is merely a question of interesting new rhythms, accompanied by weird harmonics and suggested by lilting melodies, no one could appreciate the charm of such combinations more fully than I, provided that the work is good throughout. Taken, however, in association with some of the modern dancing and the sentiment of the verses on which many of the 'jazz' songs are founded, it would be difficult to find a combination more vulgar or debasing."

    John Alden Carpenter ("Distinguished American Composer")

    Composer John Alden Carpenter was more accepting, "deprecating the tendency to drag social problems into a discussion of contemporary American music." In his opinion, "I am convinced that our contemporary popular music (please note that I avoid labeling it 'jazz') is by far the most spontaneous, the most personal, the most characteristic, and, by virtue of these qualities, the most important musical expression that America has achieved. I am strongly inclined to believe that the musical historian of the year two thousand will find the birthday of American music and that of Irving Berlin to have been the same."

    John Philip Sousa ("Famous Composer-Conductor")

    John Philip Sousa was one of the most benign. He begins with a quip: I heard a gentleman remark, "Jazz is an excellent tonic but a poor dominant." He blames poor performances for the lack of acceptance of jazz, concluding, "There is no reason, with its exhilarating rhythm, its melodic ingenuities, why it should not become one of the accepted forms of composition. It lends itself to as many melodic changes as any other musical form. Forms go by cycles. There was a time when the saraband and the minuet occupied the center of the stage, and to-day the fox trot, alias jazz, does, and like the little maiden:—

    "When she was good, she was very, very good
    And when she was bad she was horrid."

    Leopold Stokowski ("Distinguished Orchestral Conductor")

    The September, 1924 issue of Etude continued with more critiques. Leopold Stokowski (quoted from "an address before the Forum in Philadelphia") also offered complimentary remarks:

    "'Jazz' has come to stay. It is an expression of the times, the breathless, energetic, super-active times in which we are living, and it is useless to fight against it. Already its vigor, its new vitality, is beginning to manifest itself. The Negro musicians of America are playing a great part in this change. They have an open mind, and unbiased outlook. They are not hampered by traditions or conventions."

    The last remark is of course not true. Stokowski ignores the rich traditions that lay behind the origins of jazz

    Clay Smith ("Well-Known Chautauqua Performer and Composer of Many Successful Songs")

    Musician Clay Smith, speaking of the supposed scandalous origins of the word "jazz," brought to the discussion a different perspective, emphasizing the role played by the playing of jazz in the dance halls and honky-tonks of western mining towns, where the writer had played trombone as a youth. In fact, he considered these the true birthplace of jazz (together with its "vulgarity"): "The primitive music that went with the 'Jazz' of those mining-town dance halls is unquestionably the lineal ancestry of much of the Jazz music of today. The highly vulgar dances that accompany some of the modern Jazz are sometimes far too suggestive of the ugly origins of the word."

    Smith ends by grudgingly approving some of the more "cosmopolitan" forms of popular jazz, and concludes, with a nod to Stravinsky and Grainger: "But, even the best of this entertaining and popular music has no place with the great classics or even with fine concert numbers, except perhaps in a few cases where musicians of the highest standing, such as Stravinsky, Carpenter, Cadman, Guion, Grainger, Huerter and others with real musical training, have playfully taken 'Jazz' idioms and made them into modernistic pieces of the super-jazz type."

    Grainger's answer to the critics

    Percy Grainger's rebuttal to the critics appeared in the same September, 1924 issue of Etude. The article was the result of an exclusive interview "secured expressly for The Etude." Grainger was enthusiastic about jazz as a new form of popular music. He is frank about the fact that he is speaking of the highly modernized form of jazz that was currently being played. As would be expected of Grainger being Grainger, he saw jazz in the light of his own obsessions, especially his infatuation with all that he saw or imagined as "Nordic." He saw no reason to get upset over jazz. "What is this bug-a-boo about Jazz" he says. "Jazz differs not essentially or sociologically from the dance music all over the world, at all periods, in that its office is to provide excitement, relaxation and sentimental appeal. In this respect it differs not from the Chinese or native American Indian music or from the Halling of Norway, the Tarantella of Italy, Viennese Waltzes, Spanish Dances or the Hungarian Czardas. The trouble is that too much fuss is made about Jazz. Much of it is splendid music. Its melodic characteristics are chiefly Anglo-Saxon—closely akin to British and American (white) folk-music."

    Jazz as "Nordic" music

    He renders the opinion of jazz that "Its excellence rests on its combination of Nordic melodiousness with Negro tribal, rhythmic polyphony plus the great musical refinement and sophistication that has come through the vast army of highly trained cosmopolitan musicians who ply in Jazz. There never was popular music so classical." He enlarges on the theme of Nordic heritage, which he saw as related to living in large, open spaces: "The music of all free peoples has a wide melodic sweep. By free I mean those people with strong pioneer elements--people who live alone in isolated situations. This accounts for the great melodic fecundity of the Nordic race. folk who live in congested districts cannot be expected to write melodies with wide melodic range..."On the other hand, the Scandinavian, the Englishman, the Scotchman, the Irishman, whether he be in his native land, an American cowboy or an Australian boundary rider, is often solitary in his music-making; and his melodies have, therefore, wider range of melodic line, as in such a tune as Sally in Our Alley or the Norwegian Varmlandsvisa."

    He goes on: "This strong Anglo-Saxon element preserved in America was musically mixed with the equally virile rhythmic tendencies of the Negro. The Negro is not natively melodic, in the bigger sense. His melodies are largely the evolution of tunes he as absorbed from his white surroundings. His musical instinct is rhythmic first of all. (Note the Negro folksongs collected in Africa by Natalie Curtis.) [Not quite so: Curtis' African folksongs, while authentic, were collected from Africans actually living in America, at the Hampton School in Virginia.] Grainger recognized some non-"Nordic" influences: "To this came, doubtless, via San Francisco, about ten years ago, some Asiatic influences which in turn were to make some of the other elements of Jazz." He mentions the use of notes that are sometimes a quarter-tone or so "off key," apparently in reference to the "blue notes" common in jazz.

    Grainger was enthusiastic about the introduction of new instruments in jazz, especially in percussion, including the xylophone and bells, and about the use of the saxophone. Grainger himself played the saxophone, and wrote many pieces for band, featuring every type of saxophone.

    Relationship of jazz to classical music

    Grainger was less sanguine in this article about the long-term prospects of an influence of jazz on classical music. "Apart from its influence upon orchestration, Jazz will not form any basis for classical music of the future, to my mind. . . On the other hand, it has borrowed (or shall we say 'purloined'?) liberally from the classical. The public likes Jazz because of the shortness of its forms and its slender mental demands upon the listener. . . On the other hand, length and the ability to handle complicated music are invariable characteristics of really great genius. We realize this if we compare the music of Bach, Beethoven, Wagner, Delius and Tchaikovsky with the music of such fine but smaller musical talents as Scarlatti, Jensen, Roger Quilter, Reynaldo Hahn and others."

    In education, Grainger advocated relieving the student's musical diet with classical training: "In the education of the child, Jazz ought to prove an excellent ingredient. But he also needs to drink the pure water of the classical and romantic springs." However, Grainger's views on the relationship between Delius and at least some kinds of jazz would change in a few years, especially after reading an article on Duke Ellington and Delius by R.D.Darrell.

    R.D. Darrell's comparison of Ellington to Delius, and its effect on Grainger

    In the periodical Disques for June, 1932, the critic R.D. Darrell wrote a critical appreciation of the music of Duke Elllington called "Black Beauty," after one of Ellington's compositions. It was the first in-depth study of Ellington's music. Darrell saw a similarity between Ellington and Delius, whom he also praises lavishly: "The Teutonically romantic-minded find an experience in Bruckner and Mahler that is shoddy and over-blown to those who find their rarest musical revelation in the pure serenity and under-statement of Delius." He saw in Ellington's music a similar "fluidity and rhapsodic freedom." He also saw a unity of composition that, in his view, could not be created by improvisations by a group of musicians, saying "And where the music of his race has heretofore been a communal, anonymous creation, he breaks the way to the individuals who are coming to sum it up in one voice, creating personally and consciously out of the measureless store of racial urge for expression." Darrell proceeds to quote another critic who says of Ellington's music "So homogeneous he is that it is sometimes hard to tell where folk song ends and Delius begins."

    As we see below, there was actually a good deal of collaboration and improvisation in the works of Ellington, but it was behind the scenes, codified by the time the public heard them. Darrell's piece was to have a great influence on Grainger's views, connecting Ellington to Delius, which would lead to Ellington being invited by Grainger to New York University.

    Delius in Florida

    The reference to Delius was not far-fetched. Frederick Delius was the son of a prosperous British wool merchant of German origin, and was expected to follow in his father's business. In 1884-1885 he escaped this life by having his father send him to Florida to run an orange plantation on the St. John's River (pictured in an 1886 engraving). There he heard the songs of the Black laborers, as well as the songs of crew members on passing ships. In 1886, his father relented, and allowed him to go to study music in Leipzig. But he never forgot the influence of songs he heard in Florida. His Florida Suite alternates between dreamy, impressionistic movements evoking the Florida landscape from dawn to sunset and sprightly dances. The first movement, "Daybreak," ends with a version of the dance "La Calinda."

    Delius was a friend of Percy Grainger, and he once proposed, as reported in John Bird's biography of Grainger, that they work together on a collection of "negro folk-songs" in America.

    Percy Grainger at New York University - a short-lived career

    In 1932-33 Percy Grainger was appointed Associate Professor of Music at New York University. There, he gave a lecture series called "A General Study of the Manifold Nature of Music." It was to be a short-lived career. Grainger and the formal academic life were not a good fit. His lectures were not well-attended. However, the session at which Ellington and his orchestra performed was packed to overflowing. He prepared his students by leading a discussion of Darrell's article in Disques. Ellington's participation was probably arranged by Ellington's manager Irving Mills, who wanted to establish Ellington's reputation as a "legitimate" composer, respected by classical musicians.

    Grainger's lecture notes for the the class survive at the Grainger Museum in Melbourne. Some of them are reproduced in Laura Rexroth, "Duke Ellington and Percy Grainger: Black, Brown, and 'Blue-Eyed English'" in Frank J. Cipolla and Donald Hunsberger (eds.) The Wind Band in and Around New York ca. 1830-1950 (publ. 2005). A photo of Mills, Grainger and Ellington, who is playing the piano, (also reprinted in the article) is at the Museum in Melbourne.

    Grainger is said to have opened the class by announcing, "The three greatest composers who ever lived are Bach, Delius and Duke Ellington. Unfortunately Bach is dead, Delius is very ill but we are happy to have with us today The Duke."

    After the lecture and discussion, the Ellington Band played several selections, including Creole Love CallCreole Rhapsody, and Tiger Rag. Grainger had the band improvise upon some tunes, whose identity is not preserved, then he himself sat down at the harmonium and piano and played selections by Ole Bull and Grieg. It is not known whether Ellington stayed around for this part of the class.

    Nordic strains and Free Music machines

    Grainger by now had added another element to his identification of jazz with "Nordic" music. By now he was developing his ideas of "Free Music," music unconstrained by pitch or tempo, like the sounds of nature in the waves and wind. This interest would culminate in his Free Music Machines, proto-synthesizers that he would develop with science teacher Burnett Cross. In the gliding glissandos and "blue notes" of jazz, Grainger saw a precursor of Free Music. In his class notes we find the note "The gliding and off-pitch sounds in jazz considered an important step to the free music of the future." (A discussion of Grainger's Free Music Experiments by Paul Jackson and Susan Colson is available on YouTube.)

    Ellington's Creole Love Call and his artistic borrowings

    Creole Love Call (with its name evoking the then popular Indian Love Call of Rudolf Friml), was an interesting choice. First performed at the Cotton Club in Harlem, a nightclub where black entertainers (the women were always light-skinned) performed for white audiences, it was the piece that first made the reputations of Ellington and vocalist Adelaide Hall. They recorded this hit in 1927. (You can hear Adelaide Hall's performance on YouTube.) Hall sings in wordless song, in imitation of the instruments, reversing the usual practice of jazz, where instruments echo the human voice.

    Although Grainger and other critics saw Ellington's music as representing the inventiveness of a single genius, his pieces were always collaborative. During rehearsals, individual members of the group improvised, and variations that Ellington liked were incorporated by Ellington into a final, unified composition. One of the most important members of his group was pianist and lyricist Billy Strayhorn, who was the actual composer of one of Ellington's most famous songs, "Take the A Train." In the case of Creole Love Call, the melody actually originated with New Orleans jazz great "King" Oliver, who recorded it in 1923 as "Camp Meeting Blues" with his Creole Jazz Band. The melody was brought to Ellington by reedman Rudy Jackson, who claimed it as his own composition. Oliver sued Ellington, but Oliver, a better musician than he was a businessman, had never properly copyrighted the song, and Ellington, even after he learned his error (and fired Rudy Jackson) had no qualms about copywriting the composition as his own. Adelaide Hall, too, played a part in the creation of Creole Love Call. She told how she came to sing the vocal version with Ellington:

    "I was standing in the wings behind the piano when Duke first played it. I started humming along with the band. Afterwards he came over to me and said, 'That's just what I was looking for. Can you do it again?' I said, 'I can't, because I don't know what I was doing.' He begged me to try. Anyway I did, and sang this counter melody, and he was delighted and said 'Addie, you're going to record this with the band.' A couple of days later I did."

    Creole Love Call made Ellington and Hall a big hit at the Cotton Club and eventually worldwide. The picture at right shows Adelaide Hall in Blackbirds of 1928.

    Ellington on Delius and on Porgy and Bess

    Ellington did not really see any resemblance between his music and Delius', but the experience at NYU led him to find out more about Delius. He liked the music, and his favorite work by that composer was In a Summer Garden. He listed his other favorite classical pieces as Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe, Debussy's La Mer and Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, and Holst's The Planets.

    Ellington had a similar appreciative but critical attitude toward the supposed "Negro" melodies of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess. In an interview quoted in The Duke Ellington Reader (ed. Mark Tucker), he gave his opinion: "Grand music and a swell play, I guess, but the two don't go together. . . The first thing that gives it away is that it does not use the Negro musical idiom. . . It was not the music of Catfish Row or any other kind of Negroes."

    Ellington always saw his music as solidly within the African-American tradition. It was not Nordic or European or anything else. He did not like to call his music "jazz," but in Rhythm, March, 1931 (quoted in Darrell, "Black Beauty") he said: "The music of my race is something more than the 'American idiom.' It is the result of our transplantation to American soil, and was our reaction in the plantation days to the tyranny we endured. What we could not say openly we expressed in music, and what we know as 'Jazz' is something more than just dance music . . . There is no necessity to apologize for attributing aims other than terpsichorean to our music, and for showing how the characteristic, melancholy music of my race has been forged from the very white heat of our sorrows, and from our gropings after something tangible in the primitiveness of our lives in the early days of our American occupation. . . I think that the music of my race is something which is going to live, something which posterity will honor in a higher sense than merely that of the music of the ball-room of today."

    Ellington and Grainger: Two worlds touching but not quite communicating

    Ellington and Grainger seem never to have met again, but both men, we hope, got something from the encounter. Ellington got the respect he needed for his career from the musical establishment, and perhaps an opportunity to increase his pleasure in classical music. Grainger could point to additional "proof" of his musical theories.

  • Wed, August 05, 2020 4:48 PM | Anne Ocone (Administrator)

    By Barry Peter Ould

    The Etude Magazine was an American print magazine dedicated to music founded by Theodore Presser (1848–1925) at Lynchburg, Virginia, and first published in October 1883. Presser, who had also founded the Music Teachers National Association, moved his publishing headquarters to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1884, and his Theodore Presser Company continued the magazine until 1957. It was a staple for music teachers throughout the country, providing articles related to music history, new developments in music, and practical teaching techniques, as well as musical scores from the classics and new pieces for beginning to advanced students. Begun as an aid for piano teachers, the magazine grew to include information and literature for vocal and instrumental enthusiasts as well. Not only is the series important to the musician, but it provides an insight into the culture itself, including the impact of the development of the car, radio, and television, and expands to world music and the influence of world wars on that culture.

    Aimed at all musicians, from the novice through the serious student to the professional, The Etude printed articles about both basic (or “popular”) and more-involved musical subjects (including history, literature, gossip, and politics), contained write-in advice columns about musical pedagogy, and piano sheet music, of all performer ability levels, totaling over 10,000 works. James Francis Cooke, editor-in-chief from 1909 to 1949, added the phrase "Music Exalts Life!" to the magazine's masthead, and The Etude became a platform for Cooke's somewhat polemical and militantly optimistic editorials. The sometimes conservative outlook and contents of the magazine may have contributed to a decline in circulation in the 1930s and 1940s, but in many respects it moved with the times, unequivocally supporting the phonograph, radio, and eventually television, and, by the late 1930s, fully embracing jazz. By the end, George Rochberg was an editor of The Etude under Guy McCoy, who had succeeded Cooke as editor-in-chief after over two decades as an assistant, and the magazine's musical content had come more closely in-step with the contemporary world.

    Grainger’s association with this magazine spanned a total of 28 years. His first contribution appeared in September 1915 and his last in September 1943.  Below, I have compiled a list of these articles together with the Volume No. and issue No. followed by the page numbers where they appeared.  Copies of all the magazines can now be found at:


    where they can be downloaded as PDFs.  Grainger’s name as a pianist par excellance also appears in various issues, either in articles by others or referenced in quotes.

    In his first appearance in this magazine he was interviewed on the subject of ‘Modernism in Pianoforte Study’ (Volume 33/9; September 1915 pp. 631-632) with a second section of the interview appearing in the next issue (Volume 33/10; October, 1915 pp. 709-710) entitled ‘A Blossom Time in Pianoforte Literature’.

    This was followed by ‘Modern and Universal Impulses in Music’ which appeared in (Volume 34/5; May 1916 pp. 343-344) with another phase of this subject appearing in the subsequent edition (Volume 34/6; June 1916 p. 412) ‘The World Music of Tomorrow’.

    Grainger’s next major contribution ‘A Master Lesson on Grieg’s “Norwegian Bridal Procession” op. 19 No. 2’ appeared in the November 1920 edition (Volume 38/11 pp. 741-745) along with Grainger’s analysis and a printed edition of the piece for study or concert performance.  This was also made available as a separate score with the parallel text of Grieg’s original by Theodore Presser (No. 17035) and copies of this can be obtained from the Grainger Societies music archive.

    Another interview with Grainger appeared in the October 1921 issue (Vol. 39/10 pp. 631-632) with the conclusion appearing in the next issue (Volume 39/11 pp. 707-708).  This was entitled ‘Glimpses of Genius’ and included Grainger’s writings about Ferruccio Busoni, Frederick Delius, Edvard Grieg, Cyril Scott and Richard Strauss.

    For the September 1924 issue (Volume 42/9 pp. 592-594) Grainger writes about Jazz in his essay ‘What Effect is Jazz Likely to Have upon the Music of the Future.  This was followed by ‘New Ideas on Study and Practice’ in the December 1925 issue (Volume43/12 pp. 845-846) and concluded in the next issue January 1926 (Volume 44/1 pp. 23-24).

    It was another 15 years before Grainger wrote again for The Etude and his next contribution labelled a conference was called ‘Reaching Your Goal at the Keyboard’ (Volume 59/2; February 1941 pp. 79-80, 134).  This so-called conference was expressly secured for The Etude by Myles Fellowes.

    Grainger’s final contribution was his 4-part essay on Edvard Grieg ‘Grieg – Nationalist and Cosmopolitan’ which appeared in the June to September 1943 issues (Volumes 61/6; 61/7; 61/8 and 61/9, pp. 386, 416-418; 428, 472; pp.492, 535 and 543 and pp. 569 and 616 respectively).

  • Wed, July 15, 2020 6:21 PM | Susan Colson (Administrator)

    By Dr. Paul Cohen

    Percy Grainger’s relationship with the saxophone was both joyous and far-reaching. He included the saxophone — sometimes singly, other times within a complete family — in many of his orchestral, chamber, band and solo works. Grainger was convinced of the ideal musical qualities of the saxophone from his very first encounter with the instrument. In a 1943 round letter to his friends, he reminisced:

    Around 1904, Balfour Gardiner & I heard our first sax-reed (a tenor) near Frome, Somerset. A man in a country band played one to us. And I knew then & there that I was hearing the world’s finest wind-tone-tool — the most voice-like, the most mankind-typed.

    His enthusiasm was such that he owned both a soprano and baritone, and he enlisted in a World War I armed forces band playing the soprano saxophone! His extensive public writing about the saxophone was effusive in praise, extolling its virtues to the highest degree. A typical example comes from the preface to Lincolnshire Posy, in which Grainger asserts: ...to my ears the saxophone is the most expressive of all wind instruments — the one closest to the human voice. And surely all musical instruments should be rated according to their tonal closeness to man’s own voice!...

    Grainger was especially interested in the sonority of instrumental families, and his particular favorite was the family of saxophones. For many years he wanted to write for saxophone ensemble, but was unable to find an appropriate group to try out his works. In the summer of 1943 Grainger had a particularly strong and interested group with which to work, and he enthusiastically wrote out saxophone ensemble parts to many of his own arrangements and original settings.

    This version of Lisbon, (better known as the first movement of Lincolnshire Posy) was written by Grainger on August 2, 1943 while on the summer faculty of Interlochen. He experimented with three different versions; low key of AAATB, high key of SAATB and low key of SATTB. The high key version of SAATB was the most satisfactory and is the one heard here and published.

    The above copy (in the video) is an unedited edition. All of Grainger’s markings and indications as originally found in the parts and the score have been retained. Nothing has been added or deleted. The scoring - simple and imaginative - is remarkable for it's color and variety. Grainger heard his music in a very special way and knew how to let it be heard.

  • Wed, May 20, 2020 12:30 PM | Susan Colson (Administrator)

    [This post is excerpted from an article written by Dr. Paul Cohen.  The complete article is here.  Enjoy this recording of Molly on the Shore from Dr. Cohen's CD American Landscapes, his solo CD of American music for soprano and alto saxophone.   Molly on the Shore is an original setting by Grainger and not an arrangement.  Dr. Cohen’s restoration is drawn from the manuscripts of Cecil Lesson and Percy Grainger.]

    “Around 1904 Balfour Gardiner & I heard our first sax-reed (a tenor) near Frome, Somerset. A man in a country band played one to us. And I knew then & there, that I was hearing the world's finest wind tone-tool —the most voice- like, the most mankind-typed, “ --Percy Grainger

    When Percy Grainger enlisted in the United States Army as musician third class (summer of 1917), he chose to audition on the soprano saxophone! When the time came to join, Grainger apparently bought a soprano, learned the Blue Bells of Scotland (his entire repertoire), walked to Fort Totten (New York), and enlisted as a bandsman. He kept secret his identity as an internationally acclaimed concert pianist for some months, and concentrated his efforts on playing saxophone and oboe, while exploring the instruments and possibilities of the wind-band.

    It was here that he composed his remarkable Children's March: Over the Hills and Far Away which, in the original orchestration, (since revised by the publisher) includes parts for soprano and bass saxophone, and contra-bass sarrusophone! This original version has been republished by Southern Music, and can now be heard as Grainger originally intended.

    His love for the saxophone grew over the years, and he often expressed his unbridled enthusiasm to all who would listen. In a preface to one of his most famous works he wrote:

    ". . . to my ears the saxophone is the most expressive of all wind instruments- the one closest to the human voice. And surely all musical instruments should be rated according to their tonal closeness to man's own voice! . . . "

    Percy Grainger's relationship with the saxophone seems to have been intensely personal, but always joyous and fruitful. His frequent use of the entire family of saxophones, in addition to his numerous and enthusiastic writings about the instrument, speak eloquently of his feelings and thoughts. It is from his informal correspondence and anecdotal references, however, that one begins to appreciate the depth of passion and importance that the saxophone played in his life. This is charmingly illustrated in a letter to his friends in which his compositions for saxophone ensemble are discussed. He once again used his "blue-eyed English."

    "Some folks have hook-worms inside them: & I understand that the hook-worm has to be at-rest-set (satisfied) before the man can come into his own. My hook-worm is tonal fun. No tone- fun, no Percy. And this summer, I got my tone-fun out of the Sax-reed (saxophone) group at Interlochen. Yet it has taken from 1904 to 1943 to have my hopes of sax-reed team-work fulfilled. Every other summer there was some spoke put in the wheel of my sax-reed hopes — either the group was un-whole, or it could not get together to rehearse, or they wanted to rehearse quite othery things from those I wanted to try out on them. But this summer I had my way. As wont-some, I had taken to Interlochen our 2 sax-reeds — the she-high (soprano) & the he-mid-low (baritone). The sax-reed teacher (Rollin Silfies) took the she-high himself (most sax-readers shun the she-high like a pest) & did most sweetly on it (among other things he played the long she-high sax-reed single in Rufford Park Poachers in my Lincolnshire Posy). In his big group we had 1 she-high, 3 or 4 she-lows (altos), 3 he-highs (tenors), 1 he-mid-low (baritone), 1 he-low (bass).This was something to work with! So I wrote out parts. . . (& this was almost the only writing out of parts I did this summer at Interlochen)." --Percy Grainger

    No one could ask for a more committed champion of the saxophone!

  • Wed, April 15, 2020 11:59 AM | Anne Ocone (Administrator)

    Percy Grainger used three harmoniums that we know of, a Mustel Model 4 (left mysteriously at the Sydney Conservatorium in March, 1935 after his concerts there and destined to live in the basement of Verbrugghen Hall for 80 years), an American-built Estey at 7 Cromwell Place, sent to the Grainger Museum in Melbourne after he died, and the restored instrument currently in the house, an Adler (serial #107256, from 1910) built by the Adler Organ Company of Louisville, Kentucky.

    Andrew Robson, in an interesting online article from 2014, describes the intriguing Mustel and Grainger’s 1935 appearances in Sydney during a two-year tour of Australia and New Zealand, also mentioned in Percy Grainger by John Bird (p. 208). 

    In his article, “Delius Hostile to Harmonium Parts in my Chamber Music Scores,” Grainger describes the harmonium as “. . . the most essential of all chamber music instruments.” Gillies/Pear/Carroll, Self-Portrait of Percy Grainger , Oxford U. Press, 2006. (“harmonium, use of” 195-96, 199 (p. 196).

    Certainly the instrument entered the pantheon after being the inspiration for “The Immovable Do”; but Grainger used it as a specific option in The Old Woman at the Christening, Youthful Suite, Youthful Rapture, The Peora Hunt, Mowgli’s Song Against People, Harvest Hymn, The Fall of the Stone, The Beaches of Lukannon, and potentially (wherever there is an organ part) in Danish Folk-Music Suite, the orchestra version of Marching Song of Democracy, Hill Song #1, The Immovable Do, and English Dance. The larger instruments can sound like a pipe organ, and were an attractive alternative to pipe organs in small churches; or, chameleon-like, the harmonium can disappear into the fabric of sound supporting the harmonies.  Click here for a list of Grainger’s works with harmonium compiled by Barry Peter Ould.

    The harmonium, the instrument itself, also became raw material for Grainger’s experiments in “Free Music” as he used and reused parts to create new instruments.


    “The name “Harmonium” was patented in 1842 by Alexandre François Debain (1809-1877) of Paris. It was for a keyboard instrument which used pressurized air from bellows pumped by two foot pedals to produce sound from free-reeds (the same method of sound production found in the accordion and harmonica) creating an instrument which possessed the tonal qualities of a pipe organ and the expressive control of a string instrument. (full article)

    Walter Piston, in his bible, Orchestration, has only a slight paragraph on the harmonium,  noting its use in small orchestras to make up for deficiencies in wind tone. Very seldom used in orchestras, much less an opera pit, Richard Strauss uses the harmonium in the “Vorspiel” of Ariadne auf Naxos at Reh #4 to blend the sound of the chamber-size ensemble, sustaining the harmonies and freeing the individual winds to more elaborate parts. Then, at Reh #10, it accompanies, in a humorous way, the dialogue between the Music Teacher (sung) and the Landlord (spoken.) The sound of the harmonium, similar to an accordion, was instantly recognizable and familiar as a domestic instrument.(Click here for a very thorough demonstration of a Mason + Hamlin 61-note “Liszt Organ:”)

    Around the turn of the century much more elaborate reed organs were developed. Designated “Kunstharmonium,” (Art Harmonium) the instrument could be registered in sophisticated ways, with a couple of keyboards and the possibility of splitting keyboards from side to side into melodic and accompanying sounds, and with espressivo swell boxes controlled with the knees. Some even incorporated piano or bell sounds. Click here for the  Kunstharmonium performance played by Jan Hennig.

    The blending quality of many of the rich reed registrations were made use of by Arnold Schoenberg and his students for his “Verein für musikalische Privataufführungen” concerts.  These ground-breaking private concerts were critic-free chances to hear new music and recent, even unheard, Bruckner and Mahler symphonies.  Condensed orchestrations by Berg, Webern, and other Schoenberg pupils were made and performed. At a fundraiser, Strauss waltzes were arranged for string quartet, piano and harmonium; Mahler’s Fourth Symphony was arranged by Erwin Stein for Soprano and 12 players: flute (doubling piccolo) Oboe (doubling English Horn) two Clarinets, 4-hand piano, strings, some percussion and harmonium. There are several recordings of this available today.

    Notably, in 1925 (15 years after the premiere of the opera but at the beginning of the all consuming German film industry,) a silent film of Der Rosenkavalier was made, written by von Hoffmanstal and arranged by Strauss with provision for a large, live orchestra accompaniment, without singers.

    All movie theaters had live accompaniments, and large theaters in metropolitan areas  had resident orchestras. The then brand-new Eastman Theater in Rochester had two orchestras: a pit orchestra for accompanying the wildly popular silent films shown many times a day, and a larger one (which later became the Rochester Philharmonic) for entertainment in between films and for the main evening shows. Large production companies would send around the scores and parts to music written for the specific movies, with flexible scoring (“pit arrangements”) which could be adapted for the particular theater (cues written in all parts to make substituting easy.)  

    The “Salon Orchestra Version” authorized by Strauss and published by Fürstner “distilled” the orchestration down from 100 to 13 players: flute, oboe, 2 trumpets, trombone, 2 violins, cello, bass, piano, some percussion, and harmonium.

    Eric Culver, April 14, 2020

  • Thu, March 12, 2020 3:01 PM | Anne Ocone (Administrator)

    by Matthew McGarrell.  As the White Plains, New York home of Percy Aldridge Grainger and Ella Viola Strom is gradually transformed into an accessible landmark, museum, and research facility, treasures emerge to become objects of fascination as well as evidence of the lives of two enigmatic twentieth-century creative artists.  Everything at 7 Cromwell Place—from light fixtures to plumbing, from furniture to wall paper, from pianos to paintings—bears witness to the idiosyncratic lifestyles of Percy and Ella.  For several years, I have been making photographs and videos in the house, sporadically but intently, focusing on details that mostly have changed little since the hands of Ella and Percy were upon them.  The “star” of this video—the medicine cabinet in Percy and Ella’s bathroom—affords opportunities for intimate observation and reveals something of the natural approach to health that the Graingers practiced.  I am indebted to our guide, Barry Peter Ould, for his knowledge of antique apothecaries and the gentle humor with which he displays it.  

    My growing collection of photographs made at 7 Cromwell Place can be seen here:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/willblax/albums/72157708846752652

7 Cromwell Place, White Plains, NY 10601


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The Percy Grainger Society's programs are made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.

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