The average concertgoer knows Grainger as the arranger of nice folk songs like Irish Tune from County Derry and Lincolnshire Posy. In reality he was one of the most individualistic figures in music. One of the oddest pieces he composed was this 19-minute ballet score from the years just before World War I.
Now, the warriors in this ballet do no fighting. Grainger himself described the story of the ballet best: "Ghosts of male and female warrior types of all times and places" have gathered "for an orgy of war-like dances, processions, and merry-makings broken, or accompanied, by amorous interludes."
The Warriors is a mad, almost stream-of-consciousness composition that sounds as though it were an improvisation begun with no idea where it was destined to go. Its textures range from popular song to intense, complex independent streams of music that no one - except, of course, Charles Ives - had dreamt of. It takes three conductors, at times, to lead the offstage ensembles, which oftentimes proceed at independent meters and harmonies. In addition, the percussion section, which seems constantly to be standing aside from the music and commenting on it, is virtually a separate orchestra.
There's nothing much like it; it definitely does not "make sense" in any formal way. At any given moment it is impossible to know how the music got there. But its unceasing good spirits and sheer flamboyance, finally, carry the day.