George Percy Grainger was born on 8 July 1882 at Brighton, Victoria. His father, John H. Grainger, was a well-known architect whose designs included the Princes Bridge in Melbourne. Quite precocious, Percy made his first concert tour when he was twelve. Soon afterwards, he went to Germany with his mother Rose to further his training as a pianist and composer. Between 1901 and 1914, Percy and his mother lived in London where his talents flourished. During this time, Colonial Song and Mock Morris were published.
In these years he befriended the Norwegian composer, Edvard Grieg, whose love of national music inspired Percy to look closely at English folk music. With the aid of a phonograph, Percy collected songs from folk-singers and made many famous arrangements from these. His friendships with Scandinavian and English musical figures (Herman Sandby, Delius, Cyril Scott, Balfour Gardiner) developed during this period.
In 1914, Grainger moved to America, where he lived for the rest of his life. He became an American citizen (although he always described himself as Australian) and during a brief spell in the U.S. Army Bands, he "dished-up" (as he put it) Country Gardens, the piece which many people now equate with his name.
After the war, Grainger continued his hectic life of concert tours and lectures, including tours to Australia (during which, in the 1930s, he set up the Grainger Museum). In 1928, he married the Swedish artist, Ella StrÃ¶m.
A somewhat original music thinker for his time, he did much to publicise medieval European music, and the music of other cultures. Towards the end of his life he worked on means for producing Free Music; music not limited by time or pitch intervals. The Free Music machines he created in association with the scientist Burnett Cross may be regarded as the crude forerunners of the modern electronic synthesisers. On 20th February 1961, he died in New York, and is now buried in the family grave at Adelaide, South Australia.
Given his extraordinarily busy and hectic life, it is indeed amazing that Grainger was so prolific a composer, producing well over 1200 works and arrangements in all. A comprehensive works' list can be found on the Bardic music web site.