Postcolonial Song (Homage to Percy Grainger) (2008)

dished up for string quartet and piano (2010)

Dedicated to Barry Peter Ould; for the Fitzwilliam String Quartet to play

Commissioned by CoMA (Contemporary Music for All)

Publisher: Bardic Edition

Score and Parts BDE 1020

Duration: 5 minutes, 15 seconds

Programme note

A personal favourite, Percy Grainger is certainly one of the most colourful figures in early 20th century music. He comments on Colonial Song, one of his most beautiful pieces, thus: “No traditional tunes of any kind are made use of in this piece, in which I have wished to express my personal feelings about my own country (Australia) and people, and also to voice a certain kind of emotion that seems to me not untypical of native-born Colonials in general.” ¹ When Darragh Morgan asked to write an ‘African’ piece for CoMA, I reflected on the many individual compositions that made up African Journal (1976-2002) and distilled my ideas in Postcolonial Song, appropriate perhaps to the postcolony in which South Africans now live. I have not quoted any specific traditional African musics, though I have drawn on some of my own earlier ‘African’ pieces which reimagine a number of Sub-Saharan musical traditions. Grainger of course reinvented the notion of ‘elastic’ or ‘flexible’ scoring in the 20th century, which is central to this and the many other pieces written for CoMA, and his biographer John Bird’s vivid description of his adventures in South Africa on a concert tour in the early years of the 20th century ² provides another serendipitous link in this chain of happy compositional inspirations. Postcolonial Song was commissioned by CoMA (Contemporary Music for Amateurs) with funds from the Performing Rights Society Foundation, the Arts Council of England London and subscribers to CoMA’s Commissioning Scheme. It is dedicated to Barry Peter Ould – friend, Graingerphile and dedicated music publisher. It lasts just over 5 minutes.

  • ¹ Grainger, Percy. 1913. Sentimentals Nr 1. Colonial Song. London: Schott & Co, 3.
  • ² Bird, John. 1976[1982]. Percy Grainger. London: Faber & Faber, 88


Chamber music