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Percy Grainger made music for synths before they were invented

Percy Grainger was the Australian born composer who was working in the turbulent, avant-garde period of the early 20th century. This was a rich period in experimental composition, featuring the likes of Karlheinz Stockhausen and more.

Aside from making music, he also created devices to facilitate the purity of vision. The Free Music machines that he invented are explored in a fascinating documentary from the ABC.Percy Grainger

Percy Grainger: the polymath Australian composer who went to the extremes to realise his musical vision. One such example is the Free Music machine, as documented by the ABC.

After Grainger’s death in 1961, the Free Music machines were sent to the museum named in his honour at Melbourne University. They were assembled by Burnett Cross – an American physicist and drummer – who worked with Grainger on developing the machines while the composer was living in the States.

Free Music was Grainger’s principle of connecting directly with the audience, free of the burdens of the composer’s hand. His collaboration with Cross yielded machines that would be the forerunner to the synthesizer as we know it today.

In short, he was trying to create the gliding chords that he was hearing in his mind.

Watch the short doco below: