Australian-born US experimental composer and pianist. He is remembered for piano transcriptions, songs, and short instrumental pieces drawing on folk idioms, including Country Gardens (1925), and for his settings of folk songs, such as Molly on the Shore (1921).
Grainger shared his friend Ferruccio Busoni's vision of a free music, devising a synthesizer and composing machine far ahead of its time.
Grainger was a pupil of his mother and of Louis Pabst in Melbourne. He later studied in Frankfurt, Germany, with James Kwast (1852–1949), Iwan Knorr, and Busoni. He lived in London in 1900–14 and became interested in folk music. He toured Scandinavia in 1909, and settled in the USA in 1914, later becoming naturalized. He made a successful New York debut in 1915, and in 1928 married Ella Viola Ström at the Hollywood Bowl, conducting his To a Nordic Princess in honour of the occasion. In 1938 he founded a museum in Melbourne, to house his manuscripts and souvenirs; his request for the museum to display his skeleton after his death was declined.
WorksCompositions for chorus and orchestra, with and without solo voicesMarching Song of Democracy (1901–17), The Bride's Tragedy (Swinburne; 1908), Father and Daughter (Faroe folk song; 1908–09), Sir Eglamore (1904, revised 1912–13), We Have Fed our Seas (Kipling; 1900–04, revised 1911), Tribute to Foster (1913–16, 1931, Bridal Song, and others; part songs including Brigg Fair (1906, revised 1911), Morning Song in the Jungle (Kipling; 1905); pieces for small orchestra: Molly on the Shore (1907), Shepherd's Hey (1908–09), Mock Morris (1910), Irish Tune from County Derry (‘Londonderry Air’, 1913), clog dance Handel in the Strand (1930).
Piano, dances, and songsWalking Tune (c. 1905), suite In a Nutshell for two pianos (1916); four Irish dances on themes by Stanford, and other pieces for piano; songs. He edited and arranged hundreds of British and Scandinavian folk songs.
Grainger, Percy Aldridge