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Notions of the universal and spiritual in Percy Graingerís early British folk-song settings


Forbes, AM, Notions of the universal and spiritual in Percy Grainger's early British folk-song settings, Nineteenth Century Music Review pp. 1-20. ISSN 1479-4098 (2018) [Refereed Article]

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© Cambridge University Press 2018

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DOI: doi:10.1017/S1479409817000581


Between 1905 and 1908 Percy Grainger made a major contribution to the corpus of British folk-song, collecting melodies and words of ballads, shanties and work songs, and devoting himself not just to the faithful capture of pitch and rhythm, but also the nuances of performance, with his pioneering use of the phonograph. These folk-songs became for Grainger a wellspring of compositional inspiration to which he returned time and time again. Yet while he was still a student in Frankfurt, Grainger had been making settings of British traditional tunes sourced from published collections. This article contends that these early arrangements hold the key to a deeper understanding of his later persistence in folk-song arranging and collecting, and that they prefigure the recurrent textual themes in the songs he later chose to arrange. It is argued that Graingerís attraction to folk-song was textual and musical, tied to notions of purity, freedom and an unorthodox spirituality inspired by nature and shaped by the writings of Whitman, whereby Grainger perceived folk-song as a universal utterance. For Grainger, British folk-song was not simply a source of profound melody for appropriation; the window into a nationís soul became a door into the souls of all humanity.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Grainger, folk-song, spirituality, Whitman, universality
Research Division:Creative Arts and Writing
Research Group:Music
Research Field:Musicology and ethnomusicology
Objective Division:Culture and Society
Objective Group:Arts
Objective Field:The performing arts
UTAS Author:Forbes, AM (Associate Professor Anne-Marie Forbes)
ID Code:126829
Year Published:2018
Deposited By:Office of the School of Creative Arts and Media
Deposited On:2018-06-26
Last Modified:2018-12-07

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