Monday, July 06, 2015

Music Monday ~ Percy Grainger - Stranger and Stranger!

The revised edition of John Bird's biography of Percy Grainger gives a circumstantial account of the life and works of one of the strangest figures in 20th-century music. Behind Grainger's highly original compositional achievements, folksong collecting and glittering career as a virtuoso concert pianist lay a tragic and chaotic personal life - long domination by his mother, unorthodox sexual predilections, an eccentric athleticism, a demonic spiritual drive and wildly inconsistent personal philosophy with Anglo-Saxon obsessions such as his famous Blue-Eyed English.
It seems incongruous to me that a guy who was addicted to flagellation and other kinky practices, who was scarcely more than a spit away from being a full-blown nazi-like fascist, would enjoy collecting and re-arranging lovely old-fashioned folk tunes such as:

Country Gardens

or, arranging Bach in a rather different tone

Lots more at YouTube

Percy Grainger, born on 8 July 1882 in Melbourne, Australia. He left the country of his birth at age 13, studied music in Frankfurt, Germany and later in London. In 1914 he moved to the USA and remained there for most of the rest of his life. He married Swedish artist Ella Ström in 1928. He died in New York in 1961.

More on his biography at Wikipedia and at Classic Cat here. On some of his peculiarities: this piece.

It has been said that Grainger was a composer who felt that his most important compositions were neglected and grew to hate his own most popular pieces (such as Country Gardens). He was a brilliant pianist but hated playing the piano, a racist who counted among his friends many of different races. He was a vegetarian who didn't much enjoy vegetables. He was dominated by his mother until the age of forty, wanted to have his skeleton displayed in a casement on public display, and left documents on his sado-masochistic sexual preferences to be scientifically studied.

From a 2011 piece at The Australian website: Understanding Percy's Progress, by Stephen Downes :

...pianist and composer Percy Grainger (1882-1961) personifies mercurial. Eccentric is too easy a description. .................He wore towelling suits he ran up himself, he at times hiked from one concert to the next and skipped modernism altogether to be sometimes more postmodern than most of the free-form artists of today. No wonder some contemporaries thought he was odd.

He was a loveable larrikin, played footy with the children of his Aussie relatives on visits and once delighted in galloping to the piano and rattling out Yes, We Have No Bananas after a cousin requested it. His self-flagellation is well known, but most music lovers would be less familiar with the torment he suffered trying to convince the world it needed his "free music". He loved jazz, ragtime, Duke Ellington, and wondered why other musicians from the classical tradition didn't share his tastes..............

A mixed bag indeed. Will his natal chart reflect that?

Chart set for 12 noon (birth time unknown) on 8 July 1882 in Melbourne, Australia

Natal Sun closely sextiles Uranus and Uranus is the classic culprit involved in eccentricities. On the other side natal Sun sextiles Neptune, known for creative imaginings and addictions. Those two sextiles alone say quite a lot!

The cluster of slow-moving planets in Taurus (Neptune, Saturn and Pluto) are in the general area of fixed star Algol, in fact Saturn would have been only around a degree away from Algol when Grainger came into the world. Perhaps here was the reflection of his unconventional sexual cravings?
From Skyscript HERE
"This star [Algol] seems to contain immense female passion and power" wrote Bernadette Brady. She added:
"Algol represents a strong consuming passion that may devour you with anger and rage. If one can contain an unconscious compulsion to take revenge, and from that passion return a more productive outcome, Algol is one of the most powerful stars in the sky. Whatever planet it affects in your chart will be charged with strong, intense sexual energy that has the potential to be wonderful, of if repressed, to lead to rage or violence."

Jupiter (planet of excess, expansion, publication) in versatile Gemini is his only Air planet, it shines clearly through his multi-talented, multi-faceted nature - his innate urge to communicate.

His natal Moon would have been somewhere in Aries, and possibly in trine to Venus in Leo, but we cannot be certain of that without a time of birth. Aries Moon, in any case, reflects the boundless energy mentioned often in biographical pieces - his running or hiking from one venue to another, for example.


mike said...

He's a strange one! A good case of natal astrology plus the environmental factors: nature and nurture. You mention the two sextiles to the Sun, but another way of saying the same is Uranus and Neptune are trine, with Sun at the midpoint. His bio wreaks of this three-planet aspect. His Saturn-Neptune-Pluto-S Node in Taurus serve as a wide-spanse conjunction, because Saturn is at the midpoint of Neptune-Pluto; Saturn is square Venus, Pluto is square Mars...these aspects probably drove his deviations. The final dispositors for all of his planets are Mercury in Cancer (ruled by the Moon), Moon in Aries (ruled by Mars), and Mars in Virgo (ruled by Mercury. Most individuals subdue their weird-bizarre thoughts, but this fellow couldn't, as his mental and emotional selves were intrinsic, and expressed via Mars. It may seem that he wore his thoughts-emotions on his sleeve, but I bet his private thoughts were very extreme!

I can't decide if I would have liked him as a neighbor...LOL...he seemed over-the-top, inconsiderate, and unaware of boundaries.

Twilight said...

mike ~ Thanks for these additional astro-observations - agreed!

Reading the post again today I thought: the fellow had a case of late-onset! He was certainly hyper-active on all fronts, like a human live-wire. I definitely would not have wanted to live next door to him! His musical talents were much admired in his day though, and his arrangements of old folk songs are still pleasant to listen to - the Irish one, known to most as "Danny Boy" is really beautiful. I do find his being drawn to such musical styles as inconsistent with his nature - but then he IS inconsistency personified - his attempt to bring his probably dissonant "Free Music" to a wider audience is proof.
:-/ Stranger and stranger!