Thursday, October 29, 2009

Percy Grainger (Thanks FG Marshall-Stacks)

I'm afraid Percy Grainger might be a music person. I say that because FG Marshall-Stacks seems to be a music fan. I could be wrong though. I mean I'm not wrong about Marshal-Stacks being a music fan. That's pretty obvious. But maybe she suggested someone not in music.

I've been pretty much anything-goes when it comes to suggestions for this blog. But maybe I should limit that. I think I'll say anything-goes...EXCEPT for music and sport people. There's exceptions, of course. I'm glad I wrote about Bradman. It seems crazy to have this blog, and not write about him.

Anyway, let me go see who Percy Grainger might be.

Oh! This might not be too bad. He's a music person, but not a rock star. Grainger is a pianist and composer. That's pretty cool. I mean not to say that rock stars aren't totally cool. I just personally find them to be boring. I know. I'm very weird.

Lord Wiki says that baby George Percy was born on 8 July 1882. That means he was around nineteen when Australia became a Federation.

My favorite Wiki guy is a bit weird about Mommy Grainger. He gives all this genealogy information. It seems a bit...excessive and trivial.

Well, I guess we could say that Grainger had eight aunts and uncles from his mother's side. Maybe that IS important, and I just don't know why yet. Lord Wiki even provides all their names.

Here's some trivia that's a bit more interesting. Daddy Grainger was best friends with the father of the opera singer Nellie Melba. Melba's Daddy was against his daughter becoming a singer. Daddy Grainger is given the credit for encouraging her to sing.

Grainger was born in Brighton...a suburb in Melbourne. I think I've heard of that before. Lord Wiki says it has some rich people living there.

I see it on Google Maps now (it took a bit of time for it to load). It looks like it's near the coast. I did the Street View thing, and got some very modest houses. But I'm betting it's the type of area where even modest houses are very expensive.

Daddy Grainger was an architect who had grown up in France. He emigrated to Australia from England in 1876. Mommy Grainger was from Adelaide, and had British origins like her husband.

Oh. This is so sad. Mommy Grainger got Syphilis. She refused to touch her baby (Percy) until he was five, because she was scared of giving it to him. I wonder how she got Syphilis. Is there any way to get it besides sex? Did she get it from her husband? Did she have a love outside the marriage?

Well, the CDC website says it pretty much happens only through sexual relations....or a mother can pass it to her baby through pregnancy. You can't get it through average common human contact. I'm guessing Grainger was ignorant about that. Otherwise, she would have felt okay touching her child. I'm not sure if the medical community even knew that then though.

I wonder if the Syphilis had come about from adultery, and Grainger's guilt prevented her from touching the child.

Another possibility might have been rape.

When Grainger was eleven, his father went to London. He and his mother went to Adelaide to live with his maternal grandparents. Was this a marriage seperation? I guess it was. Lord Wiki says that when Daddy Grainger returned to Adelaide, he didn't move in with the family.

Okay. Here we go.

Daddy Grainger DID have Syphilis.

I'm trying to figure out this story that Lord Wiki provides. I think what happened is Grainger didn't see his father for a long time. Then while Grainger was touring New Zealand, his mother warned him that his father was heading to that same country to get Syphilis treatment. She told Grainger that if he saw his dad, he shouldn't touch him. So she had a lot of paranoia about her son getting sick too. Although it was pretty much medically impossible, I can't blame her for feeling scared like that.

Grainger did see his father. I guess they had a good chat. They became friendly with each other, and exchanged the occasional correspondence.

Now Lord Wiki jumps back before all that. He says at one point the family lived in Hawthorn Victoria...specifically on 36 Oxley Road. I'm guessing this was before Adelaide.

Mommy Grainger was a bit different...unusual. When she was pregnant, she took time to stare at a Greek God statue. She thought doing that would pass on some of its traits to her unborn child.

Well, that's probably not much weirder than any other religious ritual that people participate in.

Grainger did his first public performance at age twelve. People said he was a prodigy.

He had a rough time at school because people made fun of his appearance. I guess this was because he had orange hair.

He refused to return to school so his mom homeschooled him.

Besides piano, he also had a talent with foreign languages. He ended up learning eleven of them.

Jack and I had a discussion about his talents last night. It was funny because Jack's perception is VERY different than mine.

I think Jack is a prodigy when it comes to geography. I started teaching him geography when he was two. By the time he was 2.5, he could find almost any country on a globe if asked. This was before he could even talk....well, because he was a late talker. He could say a few words, but that's it.

He doesn't do much geography anymore, but he's still very good at it. He knows much more than the average adult.

I also feel he's very good at writing. I wouldn't classify him as a prodigy in that regards, but I do think he's advanced. At age eight, he writes about as well as I did at age twelve or thirteen.

Okay, but yesterday we were talking about talents, and he said his talents were with drawing and cooking. Cooking! Sorry, but no. Jack is mistaking EATING with cooking. When we try to cook with him, he quickly loses interest. He daydreams, or he runs off (if we allow him) to do something else.

As for drawing, he's VERY imaginative. But I think skill-wise....he's better at writing. He's not at all bad at drawing. I just don't see him having a particular talent with it.

Who knows though. Maybe Jack knows something I don't know. Maybe drawing and cooking are talents he's going to grow into. Maybe one day he'll be a famous chef or artist.

Oh, and then he insulted me by naming my secret special talent. I was hoping for writing and singing. I love both those things, and I thought MAYBE I was good at them.

But no. My secret special talent is cleaning. What the hell?

I really hope it's Jack who has it wrong about our talents, and not me.

Ah. I better get back to our Grainger. I keep thinking about Hermione. Did she spell her name the same way?

Nope. I just googled. She's Hermione Granger. I sometimes wonder about her dentist parents. What did they think about all that magic stuff?

At the age of thirteen, Grainger and his mom went to Europe so Grainger could study at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfort. This led to him belonging to a circle of composers called The Frankfort group. They were all English-speaking. I guess that's what gave them their bond...maybe.

Grainger didn't believe that people are born with musical talent. He didn't believe in that concept. He credited his mother for his talent. Maybe it was all that staring at the Greek Statue.

I definitely disagree with Grainger. I'm a believer in nature AND nurture. I think we're born with special talents, and these can be either nurtured by our parents...or ignored.

At school, Grainger lost a piece of his finger while fixing a bike. He actually hoped that this would prevent him from performing. He preferred composing. But it ended up that the lost finger tip wasn't enough of a handicap. Poor guy. I guess he felt he couldn't just quit.

From 1901 to 1914, he lived in London. Oh. He missed the Federation of Australia's whole childhood! During this time, Grainger developed a love for folks songs of rural england.

I like folk music.

In London, he was known as the jogging pianist. Grainer preferred playing while exhausted. It didn't work for him to sit, wait, and then play. He liked to run into the performance, and then start playing. I can imagine how that would work better. It would give you a fun level of energy.

Once his performed on a ship. In his spare time, he did coal shoveling in the boiler room.

You far I like this Grainger guy. He's quite a character.

His other talent besides piano and jogging was clothes designing. That's cool.

For World War I, he avoided the military by moving to the United States. I'm not sure how that worked. I was going to say that they were in the war too. But they entered AFTER England. When the United States joined the war, Grainer finally gave in and enlisted. But he joined the army band. Instead of shooting a gun, he played music.

In 1918, Grainger became a citizen of the United States.

Ah. So he's an Australian-American. Sometimes I think Marshall-Stacks loves America as much as I love Australia. I'm not surprised that she'd give me someone American.

Grainger's mom moved to America with her son. Sadly, she had a difficult time with life. She committed suicide by jumping off a building in 1922. Grainger would have been about forty then.

There were rumors that Grainger's relationship with his mother was incestuous. Lord Wiki says it's not true. I don't know who to believe. I think only two people know the REAL answer, and they're both dead.

Oh. I just read the information again. His mother wrote Grainger a letter before she died explaining why she was so upset. The reason WAS the accusations of incest. These accusations greatly wounded her. I can imagine.

My feeling is she was innocent. I think she was an eccentric woman who had a close relationship to her son. And in certain situations, people make sick accusations.

Grainger took the letter from his mom, put it in a cylinder, and wore it around his neck. Wouldn't that be a big cylinder, or did he chop the letter into tiny pieces or something?

In 1925, Grainger had a love-at-first-site incident. He ended up marrying the object of his affection. This was a Swedish artist and poet. How romantic.

In 1932, Grainger became the dean of music at New York University. In this role, he added Jazz to the music program's syllabus.

Now here is something to note. He didn't marry until AFTER his mother had died. Now I can believe there was no sexual incest. But was there perhaps some emotional incest? Did his mother prevent him from getting married? Did Grainger need her to die before he could love someone else?


Or maybe not.

Maybe Mommy Grainger gave her son the freedom he needed, but he just happened to not find the love-of-his-life until later.

In 1940, the Grainger and his wife moved to Springfield Missouri. I lived in Missouri...twice, actually. But we lived in St. Louis.

The reason they moved was they feared NYC might be vulnerable in a war attack. Well, that paranoia was probably rooted in some truth.

Oh...some of Grainger's story makes me so sad. I don't know why. His story hits me harder than others I've read.

After the war, his popularity decreased. This was very hard on him. He started offering to play for free.

It's hard to be desperate. I know that personally. I feel that way about my novel. I don't care about publishing it. I don't want to be super rich and successful. I just want someone to read it. I was talking to Tim the other day, and he suggested I offer to pay people to read it. Yeah. I don't think I'm going to go that far. I think I'm just going to let go of it all. It's out there. If it's mean to be read, it will be read. If not...well, I know from my Statcounter that this blog gets a pretty good amount of love and attention. If I give too much attention to my novel, this blog might get jealous and divorce me or something. I can't have THAT happening. This blog is my therapist.

Grainger lost a lot of money...well, because he was giving the goods away for free.

The thing is though. I think when you're an artist (of whatever kind), a lot of times you don't care about the money. You just want to be seen or heard. I think the internet proves that. There's so many people with novels online, music, videos, blogs, artwork, etc. And most of it is being freely shared.

Some Republicans believe that if we become less capitalist, people will have no incentive to work. I think that's so not true. Some people WORK simply because they love what they do.

Grainger died in the 1960's of cancer.

Oh wait. There's more. Lord Wiki sure has a lot to say about this guy.

Grainger was responsible for the invention of something called Free Music.

I read. I tried to understand. I failed. I'm not going to strain myself here. Sorry.

Grainger was a vegetarian, but he didn't like vegetables. That might sound ironic, but us vegetarians eat much more than just vegetables. Lord Wiki says Grainger's diet consisted mostly of rice, nuts, cakes, bread, jam, and ice-cream. Yum. It might not be the healthiest, but neither is a diet of red meat and cheeses.

Grainger was a sado-masochist. He was into flaggelation. Too bad he wasn't a convict in early Australia. Those guys were blessed with a lot of flogging. I can't imagine enjoying something like that...but as a Facebook friend recently reminded me in one of her posts....It takes different strokes to move the world.

Grainger did meticulous documentation of this kinky hobby he shared with his wife. In the 1930's, he donated money to the University of Melbourne so they'd develop a museum about him. Wow. That is....uh, strange.

Oh. And the museum is still there. Here's the website. I'll look at it later. It seems to be more than just his whipping stuff....fortunately. The museum is closed for renovations currently, so don't be running over there to check it out.

Grainger believed in blond hair/blue-eyed superiority. He was a bit of a racist. But he had friends who were not blond and blue, and he even donated money to African-American charities. So it's not like he was a Nazi.

He never ironed his shirts.

He wore the same clothes for many days. I wear the same clothes for many years. I mean not all at once. I take them off and wash them. But I still wear shirts that I got over fifteen years ago.

See. That's why I like Grainger. I'm eccentric too.

Well, I'm done with Lord Wiki.

I'm going to take a little break, and then I'll move onto other stuff.

I think I'm going to skip the Biographical Dictionary. Lord Wiki was pretty detailed. Or maybe I should read it? Maybe I'll just skim it to see if there's anything Lord Wiki missed.

Daddy Grainer designed this court building in Western Australia. He's also partly responsible for the Western Australian Museum. It seems most of his success occurred in Western Australia. I guess maybe he lived there at some point? Oh okay. From 1897 until 1905, he was chief architect in the Western Australian Department of Public Works. Was that before or after he went off to London?

Well, I'm doing the math. He would have gone to London around I guess he was there a few years. Then he returned, and eventually went to Western Australia. I wonder how his Syphilis was at that point.

Grainger's first known composition was something he made for his mother's birthday. That was done in 1893. He'd be about eleven, and this was around the time his father left them.

This website stresses what Lord Wiki had said. The death of Grainger's mother was very hard on him. Despite her strangeness, he loved her a lot.

He didn't drink or smoke. I can relate to people like that. And we're both vegetarians. But I don't have an eccentric mother. Although I'd say Jack has one. I don't believe in blond hair/blue-eyed superiority though.   Those people get sunburned too easily.

There's an International Percy Grainger Society.

They have a picture of his house in New York. It's in White Plains. I think that's part of Long Island? Yeah. Lord Wiki says it is. You'd think I'd know that since we lived in New York. But we didn't really venture out of the city...well, at least not to explore the rest of that state. We did go to Connecticut once.

The website has a lot of photos of Grainger. He looks like someone who is talented, weird, nice, and smart. In other words, he fits how I'd imagine someone like him might look.

I wonder if my looks fit my personality. Maybe. Although in college, this guy had a crush on me. He got mad at me once, and said I wasn't what he thought I'd be. I was too WEIRD..... I mean that's not why he was mad at me. It was about something else, but that's the insult he used to try to wound me. I think I kind of took it as a compliment though.

Now that I think of it though....I did have a few mainstream jocks interested in me. What was the deal with that? Was I giving off the wrong vibe, or was it an opposites attract kind of thing?

The website has some of Grainger's music. That's good. It would probably make sense to listen to some of his stuff.

Oy. It's not working for me.

Well, YouTube seems to have a lot of stuff. I'll look at that in a minute.

First, I want to get a closer look at the Melbourne Museum.

Their website says Grainger was an auto-archivist. I've never heard of this term before, but I think it describes me. I have boxes of old letters, diaries, old invitations, etc. I have kept meticulous journals of Jack from when he was a year old to...well, I have been less detailed lately. I haven't been writing in his homeschooling blog so much. But I had this calender from when he was ages 1-2. It's one of those day calenders, so there's a pretty big space for each day. I wrote in great detail about his daily life. Then from ages 2-3, I had another notebook where I kept track of all his activities. I wrote down every single place we ever went.

The videos are where it gets really crazy. I took hours and hours of video when he was a baby. Partly, because I was madly in love with him. But also I think I was bored. Videotaping gave me something to do. Anyway, this past weekend I went to my parent's house, and we watched one of the videos. It was about an hour of Jack doing absolutely nothing. My parents and I found it to be quite hilarious.

Oh, and some of you guys know the detailed reports I did for our last Australia trip.

I think out of my family, I have the worst case of this auto-archival affliction. My dad might be close behind. Or maybe we're equal. His thing is pretty much just photography though. He's obsessed with archiving our lives with photography. He has albums and albums and albums....and more albums. He takes hundreds of digital photos, but unlike most people, I don't think he deletes any of them. Not only that, but I think he might buy prints of ALL the photos.

I'm not seeing anything about the flogging. Maybe I misread Lord Wiki? Or maybe Grainer wanted THAT stuff in the museum, and the University didn't oblige. Or maybe it's just not on the website.

And I could be simply missing it. Maybe I'm not looking hard enough.

Now I'm going to listen/watch his music.

Here's a video of Grainger himself playing an Irish folks song. He's very graceful with the piano.

Here's a high school playing a song Grainger composed. It's called Children's March.

I've been listening to it while playing on Facebook. Today's highlight there is a quiz telling you what kind of person you were in high school. My result was nerd. Can I argue with that? No. One of my friends was a rebel, and the other was a floater. I can picture them in those roles. My sister is taking the test now. I'm waiting to see her results. I'm not sure what the quiz will call it, but I call it popular bitchy people. She's one of THOSE people. Actually, both of my sisters were that. They were both popular party people. I was the nerd stuck in the middle.

Here's another song composed by Grainger. It's called "Colonial Song". It's very pretty. I like it better than the "Children's March". Actually, I like it a lot. It's very poignant. It would be a good song to use during the eulogy montage at the Academy Awards.

Here's something called "Warriors (Music to an Imaginary Ballet)" The beginning is really cool. It has a Gothic horror feel to it. It kind of reminds me of a Disney horror Watcher in the Woods.

Here's Molly on the Shore. It's lovely. It's a fun song. It makes me think of Sydney Harbour. I don't know why. I guess I picture happily walking around the Opera House...being a tourist. Or it kind of reminds me of the food fair we went to in Hyde Park.

I think I'm going to listen to one more song. Here's Handel in the Strand. I like this song too.

Not only do I find Grainger fascinating as a person, but I love his music too.

This ended up being a good blogging day for me. So I am thankful to FG Marshall-Stacks.


  1. Here's a bit of spooky trivia (maybe):

    the surname Aldrich, which is Percy's mother's maiden name and that Wikipedia says Percy gave himself as a middle name, means "old witch". I used to know an Aldrich in Adelaide when I was at uni there in the 80s and he told me that. Percy and his mother may be related to him as they lived in Adelaide (and Percy is buried there, I think) and it's not a really common name although I don't think he ever told me he was related to Percy Grainger (he may have, though). I just though it was a bit spooky given the staring at statues, syphilis, accusations of incest, flagellation and maybe other things we don't know about. They may have been following the family "witch" business (like Hermione's classmates).

    When you were talking about blogging with and about children it made me want to recommend the blog of a WA couple (both women). Their child (Miss C - the focus of the blog) has just turned 2. You may not be interested as it's not your child but I think it's very cute and well worth visiting as a touching daily homage to an apparently charming child (aren't they all to their parents, I guess?) That child is getting the best life, I think. One of the authors is also a published poet so it's likely to be a generally well written blog, I guess. Here's the address for anyone interested:

  2. Martin,

    Interesting about the witch thing. I wonder if the Graingers knew what the name meant. To many people, the word "Witch" is positive rather than negative. So maybe they embraced that name purposely.

    I look forward to checking out the parenting blog : )

  3. Only from memory, wasn't there a court case or a customs incident when he tried to import some whips or similar? I seem to recall it had a significant impact on his life.

  4. Well I feel pretty uninformed, I had no idea who this guy was and I wish I did! Thank you for the education!

    Hey - have you done Gordon Bennett? Brett Whitely? Do you research artists?

  5. Andrew: There probably was, but I don't remember reading about it. I probably just missed it.

    Amy Michelle: Thank you : ) I've done a few artists. I'd love to learn about more, so I'll add yours to my list.

  6. Oh I love 'auto-archival-affliction'.
    Maybe that's what bloggers have too.

    Percy Grainger was a genius and it is well documented that genius and insanity are close, very close.

    Here's the link to Ann O'Dyne's post on Percy's fashion style statement.

    peace and love to you dear GWWSWA.

  7. BWCABrownie,

    You have so many names!

    Thanks for the link.

    I agree about the insanity-genius link. Or maybe just a weird-genius/smart link ; )