Woof! Percussion Ensemble

Percy Grainger: Tuneful Percussion

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"By the end of the twentieth century," Australian composer Percy Grainger is quoted as saying on the back cover of the booklet of this delightful release, "people will be listening to African music ... they'll be dancing to African music ... the Asian gamelan." Pretty prescient! The young Australian group Woof! here presents music from a neglected aspect of Grainger's output: his music for "tuned percussion," which he defined as glockenspiels, xylophones, and bells, augmented by such related instruments as the celeste, piano, and the instruments of the Javanese and Balinese gamelan orchestras. It was Indonesian music, which Grainger heard in Paris in 1900, that apparently first inspired his interest in tuned percussion, and he continued to explore it over the years in the U.S., Europe, and his native country. He performed and lectured on this music but never published it. The mixture of pieces will generally be familiar to Grainger fans: there are arrangements of folk songs and original pieces that draw on Anglo folk idioms in the composer's unique way. Grainger also arranged classical compositions by Bach, Ravel, and Debussy for percussion ensemble, and these are very interesting: they are not simply novelty arrangements but abstractions of the percussive aspect of the pieces involved. Also intriguing are a couple of arrangements of Indonesian pieces, using gamelan instruments, and one odd work of indeterminate ethnic origin entitled Bahariyale V. Palaniyandi (track 10). These were notated by Grainger from recordings, not directly from performances, and in the Indonesian cases something gets lost in translation, but the enterprise was pioneering for its time. The uses of all this music for student percussion groups would seem to be endless, and it seems a shame that it has remained buried for so long. It's also a great deal of fun. Kudos to Woof! for exploring it.

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