Percy Grainger was one of the most colourful of this century's cultural figures. As a pianist and largely self-taught composer he was feted in the 1910s and 1920s, and is probably still best known for the work he `dished up' in many different guises, Country Gardens. But Grainger aspired to the role of `the all-round man' and nourished ideas, some brilliant, others ludicrous, across the full range of human endeavour: race, nationality, sex, language,
life-style, food, clothes, technology, ecology. The All-Round Man depicts that scrambling diversity through seventy-six uninhibited letters from Grainger's `American' years, 1914-61. These letters are fascinating to read: they are cultivated `rambles' (as Grainger actually called
several of his compositions), not dissimilar to today's telephone conversations. Often written in Grainger's crunchy `Blue-eyed English', they explore uninhibitedly every corner of his public and private life. They reflect the magnificent attempts of a great but flawed mind to encompass the world. From the letters: `Personally I do not feel like a modern person at all. I feel quite at home in South Sea Island music, in Maori legends, in
the Icelandic Sagas, in the Anglo-Saxon `Battle of Brunnanburh', feel very close to Negroes in various countries, but hardly understand modern folk at all.' `Music seems almost to have a "surface", a smooth surface, a grained surface, a prickly surface to the ear. All these
distinguishing characteristics (roughly hinted at in the above silly similes) are to me the "body of music" are to music what "looks", skin, hair are in a person, the actual stuff and manifestation whereby we know it and recognize it' `You said that too much such treatment annoyed, nerveteased you. Then let me thus tease you while you punish me for the annoyance I give you: Let me lay my weight upon,
momi-ing at yr heavenbringing uma, while you thrash my bottom, back & legs in rising annoyance'
`The autobiography is admirably annotated by the editors.'
`invaluable as a reference work'
`the editors have handled a tricky task efficaciously. ... Heavy pruning must have been essential to make this book reader-worthy, and Malcolm Gillies and David Pear have wielded the shears with respectful ruthlessness. ... the production, as one would expect of Clarendon Press, is handsome ... The illustrations are plentiful, cunningly chosen, and clearly produced.
`There is a great deal of racial murk in this volume, but this very properly reflects one of Grainger's great obsessions ... for readers focused on Grainger or music; they will find it impeccably footnoted.'
Jim Davidson, The Age (MELB), March 1995
`the selection and the presentation have...been managed well...For all his idiosyncracies Grainger was such a marvellous letter-writer that there is interest in almost every page...Behind the pages of these letters there is a touching humanity that can often be too easily obscured by the public's perception of the man. This new volume certainly helps to fill the gap felt when one has turned the last page of The Farthest North of Humanness.'
The Delius Society Journal 117
`Gillies and Pear have assembled not a chronicle but rather a series of snapshots of Grainger at important points along his life's journey ... they have been remarkably successful in distilling the essence of this most colourful and complicated of the twentieth century's musical personalities ... The appearance of this well-researched, skilfully compiled and handsomely presented collection marks a further step along the road to the recognition which
Grainger so earnestly believed was his due.'
Christopher Grogan, Music and Letters, Vol. 77, No.2, May '96