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  • Fri, May 21, 2021 3:58 PM | Anne Ocone (Administrator)
    • By Bill Garlette

    • The Global pandemic of 2019-2021 created a unique situation for musicians and music educators. Because of the highly contagious nature of the SARS-CoV-2/COVID 19, what is called ‘social distancing’ was enacted as one of the preventative measures. This, in essence, dictated that people should be separated by at least six feet (ten feet for performing musicians) from each other. Subsequently, rehearsal and performance space that had been adequate for 50, 60, 100 musicians were now reduced to half that number or less. No longer could instrument sections of 10-16 members be allowed. In some instances ensembles were reduced to one per section and many times mixed ensembles with some instrument types being absent altogether.

    • This led composers to start writing for what is now call ‘Flex-Bands’ or ‘Flex-Ensembles.’ The interesting thing is a prominent, 20th century composer, Percy Grainger, had already employed this technique over 100 years ago – Elastic Scoring is what he called it. This was all part of Grainger’s philosophy of Democracy in Music. Providing music in such a manner that all different types of ensembles from a few players to 100s could perform the same work with success. What better way to tell the story than through Grainger’s own words:

      My “elastic scoring” grows naturally out of two roots:
      1. That my music tells its story mainly by means of intervals and the liveliness of the part-writing, rather than by means of tone-color, and is therefore well fitted to be played by almost any small, large or medium-sized combination of instruments, provided a proper balance of tone is kept.
      2. That I wish to play my part in the radical experimentation with orchestral and chamber-music blends that seems bound to happen as a result of the ever wider spreading democratization of all forms of music.
      As long as a really satisfactory balance of tone is preserved (so that the voices that make up the musical texture are clearly heard, one against the other, in the intended proportions) I do not care whether one of my “elastically scored” pieces is played by 4 or 40 or 400 players, or any number in between; whether trumpet parts are played on trumpets or soprano saxophones, French horn parts played on French horns or E flat altos or alto saxophones, trombone parts played on trombones or tenor saxophones or C Melody saxophones; whether string parts are played by the instrument prescribed or by mandolins, mandolas, ukuleles, guitars, banjos, balalaikas, etc.; whether harmonium parts are played on harmoniums (reed-organs) or pipe-organs; whether wood-wind instruments take part or whether a harmonium (reed-organ) or 2nd piano part is substituted for them. I do not even care whether the players are skillful or unskillful, as long as they play well enough to sound the right intervals and keep the afore-said tonal balance – and as long as they play badly enough to still enjoy playing (“Where no pleasure is, there is no profit taken” – Shakespeare). 
      This “elastic scoring” is naturally fitted to musical conditions in small and out-of-the-way communities and to the needs of amateur orchestras and school, high school, college and music school orchestras everywhere, in that it can accommodate almost any combination of players on almost any instruments. It is intended to encourage music-loves of all kinds to play together in groups, large or small, and to promote a more hospitable attitude towards inexperienced music-makers. It is intended to play its part in weaning music students away from too much useless, goalless, soulless, selfish, inartistic soloistic technical study, intended to coax them into happier, richer musical fields – for music should be essentially an art of self-forgetful, soul-expanding communistic cooperation in harmony and many-voicedness. (1)

      Elastic Scoring was a natural result of Grainger’s life-long philosophy of Democracy in Music (1931)

      “A chance for all to shine in a starry whole.’ Some such thought as this underlies, I suppose, our working conception of democracy. Democracy seems to our mind’s eye not merely a comfortable system of ensuring personal independence & safety to each man, but also an adventure in which the oneness & harmonious togetherness of all human souls is lovingly celebrated – for it is obvious that democracies are just as patriotic & humanitarian as they are freedom-loving.”

      “Such a banner seems fair enough for any upward-yearning soul. And, in fact, this ideal, as applied to life, art & thought, has spurred on many a genius, such as Walt Whitman, Tennyson, Martin Luther, Bach, Grieg, Edgar Lee Masters, etc.”

      “Yet, in spite of the master-minds that have championed democracy, & in spite of the fact that the measure of a country’s democraticness is almost exactly the measure of its prominence in freedom, science, power & prosperity, we hardly ever meet an individual (even in those lands most nearly democratic)who whole-heartedly believes in the practical wisdom of democracy; nearly always the individual is held back from a happy embrace of democratic doctrine by the sway exerted over his nature by old-time influences that make for superstition, personal greed, leisure-worship, celebrity-hunting, slavishness & lack of selfhood. As a result, so many of those who would give lip-service to democracy where the large issues of world affairs are at stake are unwilling to practice democracy in the small & immediate affairs of their everyday life. As a result of this weakness & blindness in so many individuals we may truly say that democracy (like Christianity, like socialism like many another noble idea) has never yet been given ‘a fair chance.’ Yet its cause goes marching on.”

               “It is not the same as the cause of the best, the deepest, the grandest, the loveliest art music? Its cause, also, goes marching on with quiet but steady invincibility, although retarded by the blindness & smallmindedness of some many individuals – amongst whom, it always seems to me, there is too large a percentage of highly-trained professional musicians. These individuals seem to forget that art music is an essentially democratic art, an art that mingles souls while it mingles sounds, an art in its self-forgetful collectivism transcends individualism, an art of fusion and cooperation, an art that feeds on soul-ecstasy but starves on mere cerebral cleverness. In the highest forms of art music, as in democracy, ‘the starry whole’ (the radiant glory of art itself, of collective humanity itself) counts for at least as much as ‘the chance for all to shine.’ Technically, this means that the various melodic lines, that make up the harmonic texture, must enjoy, at various moments, equal opportunities to be independent, prominent & volitional; but that the splendor & beauty of the composite whole is the goal that none may lose from mind.” (2) 

    1.    Percy Grainger, December 2, 1929 (from the Preface to Spoon River, AFMS2, 1930) Found in The New Percy Grainger Companion, ed. Penelope Thwaites (The Boydell Press, Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK), 2010, Appendix I.

    2. Malcolm Gillies and Bruce Clunies Ross, Grainger on Music, Oxford University Press, 1999, p 217 - 222.

  • Mon, March 15, 2021 9:26 AM | Anne Ocone (Administrator)

    Photo of Grainger, Program booklet for the 1916 Worcester Music Festival.

    Percy Grainger appeared eight times in Worcester, Massachusetts. His first performance, to great reviews and media attention, was as soloist in the Grieg Piano Concerto at the 59th Worcester Music Festival in 1916; he also performed four original solo arrangements as part of the formal program. He returned in 1917 (the 60th Festival) armed with a World Premiere.  His appearance here in 1919 was outside the Festival on tour with the New York Philharmonic under Joseph Stransky in the Steinert concert series, but still at the acoustically remarkable Mechanics Hall; he played the Tchaikovsky Concerto.

    On October 25, 1929, just days before the stock market crash, he played a solo recital at Clark University’s Clark Auditorium; he quickly returned in the Festivals of 1930 (71st,) 1931 (72nd,) and 1942 (83rd.) His eighth and final appearance was in a joint recital with violinist Leona Flood and her accompanist Pablo Miquel in Clark University’s Fine Arts concert series in 1945.

    Two major Grainger works were given their world-premiere at the Festival: “Marching Song of Democracy” (60th Festival, 1917) and “Tribute to Foster” (72nd Festival, 1930.)

    As the popularity of the Festival grew exponentially, Mechanics Hall’s 1,600 seats could not accommodate the crowds. Built in 1857 (the Worcester Chorus and the annual Festival were established in 1858) it was a popular and much-used jewel in the civic crown of a city that was a major economic powerhouse. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, it was and is acoustically favorable to speakers and musicians alike. It had also become a little care-worn over the years, mentioned in some of Grainger’s later press, and the Festival moved to the new War Memorial Auditorium in 1933, only returning to a beautifully restored and modernized Mechanics Hall after 1977.

    I have included these early Worcester Daily Telegram articles to give a sense of the reception he was receiving as a fresh face on the concert scene, not only musically but personally. These took the form not only of concert reviews but Festival interviews and previews, “Women’s Interest” and “Entertainment News” articles, breathless information on arrivals and departures, hotels, extra-musical activities and what Grainger and his mother Rose wore at various events.

    Not surprisingly tickets to the open morning rehearsals, where audience and performers were more casual, were as in demand as the concerts, especially among younger members of the audience, many of them aspiring musicians. The press saw the rehearsals as an opportunity for personal insight, as fascinating for review as the more formal events. The performers, of course, were in performance.

    Please click here for the continuation of Percy Grainger in Worcester: Two World-Premières.

    - Eric Culver

    Photo of Mechanics Hall interior, early 20th c., from Raymond Morin, The Worcester Music Festival 1858-1976

  • Thu, February 18, 2021 9:30 AM | Anne Ocone (Administrator)

    By Marissa Kyser, May 2019


    As a man who obsessed over the meticulous documentation of his life, it is strange that little is known about Percy Grainger during the time he spent living in Springfield, Missouri. Though it is acknowledged that the world-famous composer moved to this area around the time of World War II, there is a lack of compiled evidence that detail his whereabouts and residence. Many researchers have contributed to understanding Grainger’s life in New York, Europe, and Australia, but most fail to describe this brief period of his life in Springfield, let alone recognize that he lived there at all. The purpose of this study is to fill this gap in the timeline of Percy Grainger’s life.

    Percy and Ella Grainger moved to Springfield, Missouri in November 1940 and returned to their home in White Plains, New York in October 1943. Percy sought after the safety of his wife and career with the relocation to Springfield out of precaution, rather than cowardice. To display his support during the war, he took part in countless events that would benefit the war effort, such as fundraisers for the Red Cross, War Bond Rallies, and other charity concerts.

    Though Percy frequently spent his time traveling for his performances, the time spent at the Wilshire Apartments can be viewed as entirely positive. As a man entering his sixtieth year of life, Grainger was very keen on taking advantage of the quiet lifestyle that Springfield provided him in comparison to his residence in White Plains. 

    "House at Springfield", photo by Percy Grainger, 1943


    Percy and Ella arrived by train in Springfield in June 1940 and promptly checked into the famous Colonial Hotel, located on Jefferson Avenue.[1] This short trip was planned for them to find for a permanent residence, their preference being an apartment that was “high up” and not on the ground floor. Just a few blocks south from their hotel, they discovered the Wilshire Apartments.[2]

    The Wilshire Apartments, located at 520 South Jefferson Avenue, were built in 1919 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008. The terracotta-red brick building is three stories and contains six units available for rent. When submitted to the register through the National Park Service in 2008, significant detail was provided regarding the physical appearance and historical importance of the building:

    The Wilshire embodies the characterizing features of this property type: a flat parapeted roof, rectangular form, symmetrical fenestration, central main entrance, and Classical Revival styling. The use of contrasting stone and terra cotta detailing, pilasters, arches, keystones, dentils, and ornamental brackets help to establish the Wilshire as a notable example of the Downtown Apartment Building property type.[3]

    The building has undergone renovations since 1919; photos from the 2008 NPS application show the condition of the building prior to its most recent renovation completed in 2009. The photos from 2008 display the unit layout as it would have been in 1940. Recent photos taken ten years later (2018) depict the apartment’s layout post-renovation after being restored to reflect the “level of styling that would have been attractive to upper-middle class renters.” It was just a short walk to the public square and many local performance venues, such as the Landers Theatre, Gillioz Theater, Jewell Theater, and Electric Theater.

    The Wilshire Apartments were owned by Mrs. Carrie Dell Shelpman and managed by her son, Mr. Edward J. Shelpman at this time. Edward Shelpman’s wife, Mattie, spoke with the Graingers when they initially inquired about available space in June 1940.[4]  

     An interview with Mattie Shelpman (recorded by Mary Jacqueline Blanton in 1977) revealed that she was hesitant to rent a room to Percy, whom she described as “odd and poorly dressed,” and presented himself wearing “work clothes, heavy work shoes, knapsack and bushy, long, reddish hair…accompanied by his plainly dressed wife.”[5] Mattie was skeptical the world-famous Percy Grainger was interested in living in Springfield, Missouri and would present himself in such strange attire. To politely mask her uncertainty, she asked the Graingers to return later that afternoon when her husband would be home to assist her. Percy and Ella agreed to the appointment and left. Meanwhile, Mattie contacted the Colonial Hotel, where the Graingers were staying for the short trip, to confirm Percy’s identity with the front desk.

    Mr. and Mrs. Shelpman, reassured that they were not being deceived, met the Graingers for their afternoon appointment. Mattie recalled taking the couple up to the third floor to view Unit 6 where “they ran from room to room like excited children,” exclaiming, “We take it!”[6]

    Grainger penned a handwritten note to personally record the rental agreement (See Figure 1.1):

    Springfield, Missouri

    June 27, 1940, signed contract with E.J. Shelpman, Wilshire Apartment, 520 South Jefferson Ave., Springfield, Mo. for 6 month lease of Apartment No 6, Wilshire Apartment, 520 South Jefferson Ave. Springfield, Mo. from July 1st, 1940., at $35.00 monthly. Contract is in safe (A check for $35.00 should be sent to Mr. Shelpman, as above, to reach him before the 1st of each month).


    Figure 1.1
    Percy Grainger Personal Note, Wilshire Apartments, June 27, 1940.
    Grainger Museum Archives, Melbourne, Australia.


    Though Grainger mentions a written contract, Mattie Shelpman stated that there was no record of a signed physical document from this agreement. The Graingers paid $35.00 a month in the 1940s to rent this two-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1400 square foot apartment. For reference, the current price in 2019 to rent Apartment 6 unit is $1,345.00 a month.[7] They would not move to Springfield and into the apartment until several months later in November.

    The Wilshire Apartments
    520 South Jefferson Street
    Springfield, MO

    Photo Taken: Marissa Kyser, 2019



    Whilst in Springfield, Percy composed and edited multiple works of significance including his Youthful Suite, The Power of Rome and the Christian Heart, settings from his Kipling Jungle Book cycle, The Immovable Do, and several others. He maintained his professional and personal connections via letter correspondence and continued to develop the Grainger Museum in Melbourne, Australia. His standard for performance and composition did not suffer during this time, but rather flourished.

                The Springfield years yielded four formal concerts featuring Percy Grainger on June 1, 1941, January 13, September 13, and November 12, 1942. These concerts were of high interest to the public and had consistently high attendance. Performance venues included Southwest Missouri State Teachers College (now Missouri State University), Senior High School (now Central High School), and the Shrine Mosque Theater. He performed several times with the Springfield Civic Symphony under the direction of James Robertson.

                In terms of leisure and entertainment, Percy was a frequent patron of the Springfield movie theaters. During weeks when he wasn’t away for a concert tour, he records attending multiple film showings in the same week. He would often partake in eateries located within walking distance of the apartment such as Davidson’s Cafeteria and Donovan’s Café.

    Based on multiple instances observed in their correspondence records, it can be interpreted that Percy and Ella lived happily in Springfield and only moved back to White Plains for practical reasons. As a growing city located in the Midwest, Springfield maintained average temperatures and featured beautiful Ozarks scenery, which was plausibly attractive to an older couple. Percy makes references to Springfield in letters to Ella: “How I love Springfield & our Missouri home! It smells sweet of my angel. It is a rare love-&-art nest.” [8]

     In another letter, he writes:

    What a lovely state this is! So full of half-wild, half-filled, well-bread, well-watered ample … land, & full of happy comfy farms & brawny farmers. It looked its best today. Yet I slept nearly all day. I must have been all worn out![9]


    However, as all good things must come to an end, the Graingers decided to return to their home in White Plains near the end of 1943. On September 28, 1943, Percy sent a letter written in Swedish to Ella’s mother. A translated version of this letter, explaining their seemingly sudden departure, reads as follows:   

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            28 Sept, 1943

    Dear Mamma,

    Ella and I have now lived in the state of Missouri (right in the middle of the United States) for 3 years. I thought that this would be safer for Ella, during the war, to live here in Springfield, Missouri, and that is why we moved here. But now we think an air attack on the American Coast is quite unlikely and that is why we, in a couple of days, move back to White Plains, where our address always is: Percy Grainger, 7 Cromwell Place, White Plains, NY.

    It really is unfortunate that we must move from here, as we have been so happy here. But for practical reasons it seems better for us to live in White Plains.

    It is pleasant to look back over the last 3 years and on all the artistic work we have both produced during this time period. Ella has completed a bunch of beautiful portraits—one of herself, a wonderful picture, and also about 6 others of different others of different people. Ella has also (while we lived here in Springfield) finalized her second book of Poems (“A Wayward Girl”)–which has been printed here in Springfield itself—and this book as “won” itself quite a few friends.

    The war is quite far from being over. But it seems like we can assume the end is closing in, and that makes us both so happy.

    Soon comes the day when Ella and I will once again travel to Sweden and visit Mamma.

    That happy event we long for.

    We are always talking about Mamma and hope that Mamma is well and has it as well as can be under the circumstances. Both Ella and I have been wonderfully healthy this summer.

    With the dearest of greetings.

    Mamma’s respectfully,          



    After Percy Grainger returned home to White Plains, he lived there until his battle with prostate cancer caused his death on February 20, 1961. He was buried in Adelaide in March 2, 1961. It was his wish that his skeleton be preserved in the Grainger Museum for display, but this wish was not granted. At the age of 83, Ella Grainger was remarried to a gentleman named Stewart Manville in 1972. She lived in their home at 7 Cromwell Place until her death on July 17, 1979.

    Photo from Newspaper Article

    Docia Karell, “Composer Grainger And Artist Wife Come to Make Home in Springfield,” Springfield News and Leader, (Springfield, Missouri), November 10, 1940, 16.


    To read the complete contents of this research paper, please contact Marissa Kyser via email at mkbleu15@yahoo.com. Resources and documents used with permission from the Percy Grainger Museum, Melbourne, Australia.


    Blanton, Mary Jacqueline. Interviewed by Marissa Kyser. Personal Interview. Columbia, Missouri. May 1, 2019.

    Blanton, Mary Jaqueline. Percy Grainger in Missouri. Thesis. University of Missouri-Columbia. 1978.

    Emrie, Gail, and Debbie Shields. Wilshire Apartments. United States Department of the Interior National Park Service: National Register of Historic Places. 2007.

    [1] Located at 205 South Jefferson Avenue, the Colonial Hotel was considered to be the grandest hotel in Southwest Missouri at the time. Built in 1907, this hotel had many notable occupants, including Elvis Presley, John F. Kennedy, and of course, Percy Grainger. The official ceremony naming Route 66 was also held at this famous hotel. The building was donated to Missouri State University in 1986 and sat vacant for several years until it was razed in 1997 due to extensive dilapidation that was too expensive to revert. Today, this plot of land is covered with a small university parking lot.

    [2] Mary Jaqueline Blanton, Percy Grainger in Missouri, (University of Missouri-Columbia, 1978), 47.

    [3] Emrie and Shields. Wilshire Apartments.

    [4] Carrie Dell Shelpman (1806-1958) and Edward J. Shelpman (1868-1936) had two children. Their son, Edward J. Shelpman (1898-1999), married Mattie Lee (1902-1987) and their daughter, Isabel Shelpman (1899-1987) married Josiah Elijah Keet (1893-1973) in 1922. The family owned the Wilshire Apartments until 1970.

    [5] Blanton, Missouri, 47.

    [6] Ibid.

    [7] The Wilshire Apartments, Web Page, Wilshire Apartments, accessed May 1, 2018.

    [8] Percy Grainger, “Percy Grainger to Ella Grainger, Sept 13, 1941,” Letter, Percy Grainger to Ella Grainger Correspondence, 2016/10, Box 7, Accessed February 14, 2019.

    [9] Percy Grainger, “Percy Grainger to Ella Grainger, July 3, 1941,” Letter, Percy Grainger to Ella Grainger Correspondence, 2016/10, Box 7, Accessed February 14, 2019.

    [10] Percy Grainger, “Percy Grainger to Ella Grainger’s Mother, September 28, 1943,” Grainger File, Grainger Home, White Plains, New York, Accessed May 11, 2019.

  • Wed, January 06, 2021 4:08 PM | Anne Ocone (Administrator)

    “Art is either plagiarism or revolution.” – Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)

    By Chalon Ragsdale. Percy Grainger’s status as an innovative genius in the area of orchestration is reinforced for me practically with each score of his I have the good fortune to study. His knowledge of the instruments is an important factor, his search for new and unique combinations of instruments is an important factor, but perhaps the most important factor in the brilliance of his orchestration is his democratic respect for each instrument’s worth and ability to contribute positively to the total fabric (Grainger might say the “weft”) of the music. Though I am constantly amazed at Grainger’s use of all the instrumental and choral resources at his disposal at any one time, as a percussionist myself, I am most keenly struck by Grainger’s brilliant use of the mallet-played percussion; what he termed the “tuneful percussion.”

    Grainger’s transformational energy found fruit in a new model of orchestration in the early years of the 20th Century, as expressed most convincingly in his large orchestral works The Warriors and Suite: In a Nutshell. Grainger continued the work of Wagner and Mahler in completing the woodwind and brass families of the orchestra; but he also created a new family of instrumental color by combining the “tuneful” percussion with harp and the various keyboard actuated instruments (piano, celesta, dulcitone, etc.)

    Thus, in The Warriors, Grainger provides a fourth complete family to add to the Woodwinds Brass and Strings.  He used 3 players on the normal orchestral percussion - Side-drum, tambourine, cymbals, bass drum, gong, and the like. But he then added as many as eight players on Xylophone; Wooden Marimba (2 players); Glockenspiel; Steel marimba or bar-piano, or dulcitone; Staff Bells (an instrument of his own invention, consisting of up to 4 octaves of handbells strung in keyboard fashion on a wooden rack and played with various mallets); Tubular Bells; Celesta; Piano(s); and Harp.

    Though The Warriors and Suite: In a Nutshell received mixed and negative reviews (many of which seem now frankly unenlightened), the appeal of Grainger’s use of orchestration was undeniable. Writing for Musical America in August 1917, Charles L. Buchanan said,

    “… Grainger’s contribution to the sheerly instrumental side of his art is obviously far and away the most important development in contemporary symphonic music. An inborn knack, a ceaseless practical intimacy with the orchestra and a utilization of a whole new army of percussion instruments […] lend his orchestra an individual timbre of an exceeding richness of texture […] and a wealth of tone color that appears to mark a new high record in the contemporary concert hall.” (Bird, p. 193; emphasis added)

    Before Grainger, composers had used percussion as “salt and pepper” in their orchestral palate. But Grainger was convinced percussion could be a satisfying “course,” combining on equal footing with the other sections of the orchestra, and Warriors and In a Nutshell proved him right.

    But Grainger also believed that the tuneful percussion and their cousins (piano, harmonium, celesta, etc.) could constitute a complete meal. And he proved his hypothesis with his brilliant setting for tuneful percussion (and their cousins) of Debussy’s Pagodes. Grainger realized that Debussy’s Pagodes was an attempt to render by means of the piano the sounds and textures that Debussy had been exposed to at the Javanese exhibit at the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle (International Exposition).

    In 1934, Grainger published a series of twelve lectures under the collective title A Commonsense View of All Music. In the eleventh lecture, “Tuneful Percussion,” Grainger wrote,

    “Of late years the bell-makers of Europe and America have adapted many Asiatic and other exotic tuneful percussion instruments to our European pitch and scale requirements, with the result that we are able to decipher Oriental music from gramophone records and perform then on the Europeanized Oriental instruments whenever we want to.

    I have tried the experiment of orchestrating Debussy’s Pagodes for a complete tuneful percussion group - thus, as it were, turning back to its Oriental beginnings the Asiatic music Debussy transcribed for a Western instrument (the piano). In so doing I am merely giving it back to the sound-type from which it originally emerged.”

    Most sources point to Edgar Varese’s Ionisation (1929-1931; first performed 1933) as the first percussion ensemble. Might not Grainger’s setting of Pagodes (1928) be worth considering, at least as “among the first?”

    One of the earliest anthologies of writings by and about Grainger was A Musical Genius from Australia, published by the University of Western Australia Department of Music, compiled and with Commentary by Teresa Balough. The word “genius” has an elusive definition. Does “genius” describe a person? Or is it a quality all of us can possess in some measure? If it is a quality, perhaps it is the ability of a singular individual to look at what the rest of us are looking at, but see something different. If we accept that definition, then Percy Grainger certainly had a quality of genius, of seeing things the rest of us missed, and the “tuneful percussion,” and the world of percussion in general, are the beneficiaries of that genius.

    Click here to view a  sample of Grainger's manuscript score for his setting of Debussy’s Pagodes.

    Click here to view printed full score of Grainger's setting of Debussy's Pagodes  as published by Bardic Edition (score and performing material available on rental from Schott Music). 

    To hear a recording of Percy Grainger’s setting of Debussy’s Pagodes.


    To see a performance of “Arrival Platform Humlet,” the opening movement of Suite: In a Nutshell, conducted and with commentary by Michael Tilson-Thomas. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2gMjtlYthk

    Ugo Marcelli’s 1916 caricature of Grainger’s suite In a Nutshell for tuneful percussion and orchestra, featuring (from left to right) Percy Grainger, Aldred Hertz (conductor of the San Francisco S.O.), Louis Persinger (concertmaster) and Redfern Mason, the music critic for the San Francisco Examiner.

  • 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).

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