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November 2007 Issue
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Grainger book hits the right note


A book co-authored by Elder Conservatorium of Music lecturer Dr Mark Carroll on Australia's most prolific composer, Percy Grainger, has won a prestigious prize from the American Society of Authors, Composers and Performers (ASCAP).

Self-Portrait of Percy Grainger has been awarded the Deems Taylor Award for Excellence in Books on Music.

Dr Carroll penned the award-winning book with Professor Malcolm Gillies, a former Pro Vice-Chancellor of the University of Adelaide, and Dr David Pear, formerly a senior lecturer at Monash University. It was published in 2006 by Oxford University Press.

The ASCAP Deems Taylor Awards recognise excellence in books, articles, broadcasts and websites on the subject of music.

Dr Carroll described the Deems Taylor Award as "the icing on the cake" after Oxford University Press agreed to publish the manuscript.

"The book is quite unique in the sense that we have fashioned Grainger's own words into the autobiography that he, himself, wanted to write but was unable to do so," Dr Carroll said.

"Nevertheless, he left clues and we like to think we have balanced his wishes with those of a contemporary readership eager to learn more about the enigmatic Australian/American musician, his life and times."

Percy Grainger is considered Australia's most prolific composer, writing more than 200 works, including his signature piece Country Gardens, as well as promoting medieval European music and English folk music.

"We trawled and transcribed Grainger's voluminous hand-written essays and fashioned them into a warts-and-all account of the man - his thoughts on his art, mother, sex, political views and so on," Dr Carroll said.

"The challenge was to do justice to Grainger's legacy by striking a balance between his eccentricities and his genuine contributions to 20th century music. We like to think we got that balance just right."

Self-Portrait of Percy Grainger has been described by conductor and musicologist Paul Kildea as "a compelling, unsanitised portrait of a brilliant artist and a vital epoch. A great read".

Dr Mark Carroll is an Associate Professor at the Elder Conservatorium, from which he holds his doctoral degree. For several decades he has worked as a professional classical and popular musician.

His recent publications include Music and Ideology in Cold War Europe (2003), and a co-edited volume of Grainger essays.

Carroll is also Chief Investigator for a large ARC-funded Ballets Russes research project, bringing together the University of Adelaide, the Australian Ballet and the National Library of Australia.

The ASCAP award will be presented at the Lincoln Center in New York on 13 December.

Story by Candy Gibson

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Dr Mark Carroll with a copy of his book <i>Self-Portrait of Percy Grainger</i>
Photo by Candy Gibson

Dr Mark Carroll with a copy of his book Self-Portrait of Percy Grainger
Photo by Candy Gibson

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