The Roscigno Project
On a dark day in December 2017, Dr. John Roscigno visited the Percy Grainger House. There was no heat, little light, and a whole lot of mysterious, unidentified stacks of paper. But even with the cold, he noted, "Percy Grainger and I had strong musical interests in common. He was a fascinating character, a unique genius, really.”
This simpatico blossomed into a 1999 doctoral dissertation centered on Grainger’s writing for percussion in the 1913 composition The Warriors: An Imaginary Ballet, an 18-minute suite that mixes elements of notable Grainger works with references to musicians Arnold Bax, Arnold Schönberg and Richard Strauss. Performance requires a huge orchestral ensemble, large tuneful percussion section including four octaves of chromatic suspended handbells and at least three pianos. In one performance, Grainger used nineteen pianos with thirty pianists, and Grainger insisted that the musicians be "exceptionally strong vigorous players" reflecting his own interest in physical strength and fitness. Roscigno’s dissertation focused on that fact that Grainger was far ahead of his time in writing for melodic percussion and was keenly aware of the colors one could achieve on these instruments through various mallet selections.
Dr. Roscigno is Professor of Music and Director of Orchestral Studies at California State University, Northridge, as well as Music Director, Thousand Oaks Philharmonic and the CSUN Youth Orchestras. He spent some time in the summer of 2019, as well as 2020, in residence at the Grainger House completing a music cataloging project giving him access to Grainger music and memorabilia.
"The goal was to carefully organize Grainger’s music and the music of Grainger’s composer friends and to help create a study library in the house for future scholars and musicians to view the vast collection." Roscigno explains.
The benefits of this project to the musical community will be enormous. Future generations will have more accurate information as to Grainger’s entire output and any new findings may be brought to light. “This is a truly unique opportunity for any conductor or musicologist,“ Roscigno noted, “I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to help preserve Grainger’s work.”