Volunteer Profile July 2019

We would like to introduce you to Samuel, who is a Grainger Museum volunteer. We recently asked Samuel a few questions and we're very glad that he was happy to respond and share with everyone a little bit about himself.

Can you tell us a bit about your background, and why you applied to volunteer at the Grainger Museum?

I began playing the piano at around age 8. I always liked music, especially hitting saucepans and lunchboxes with spoons. As I continued playing the piano I began to encounter some pieces and arrangements by Percy Grainger and I particularly admired his skill with chord voicings, especially when the melody is sounded in the inner voices. His unique performance directions such as “huge,” “clangingly,” “bumpingly” and “chippy” were also quite interesting and amusing.

Eventually I began studying at the Conservatorium of Music next door, so it was not too far to come and have a look at the museum from time to time. I thought it would be a great privilege to volunteer at the museum and continue to learn about the life and work of Percy Grainger, as well as the Australian and Melbourne music scenes and to echo the story to visitors.

What has been the most surprising aspects of volunteering at the Grainger Museum?

The most surprising aspect of volunteering was learning about the sheer multiplicity of Percy’s interests and works, and the care with which he gathered and preserved most aspects of his life. It is evident that he believed it was essential to try to understand the artist’s life and times in order to understand their art.

How the museum weaves seemingly disparate elements of Percy’s life together with other exhibits to create a cohesive yet varied experience is also very admirable. Given that my background is primarily music based and I had only an elementary knowledge of Percy Grainger, the variety within the museum – from architecture, fashion, ethnography, technology to sadomasochism – has been a pleasant and welcome surprise.

I am also very grateful to meet with and learn about the refreshingly diverse backgrounds and interests of staff, fellow volunteers, students and visitors. It is great that Percy can capture and bring together such an array of different people.

Do you have a favourite object that is currently on display at the Grainger Museum?

My favourite objects in the Grainger collection are the free music and music machine related items. It is amazing to learn about Percy’s freethinking attitudes and how they informed his views on music. This was also a welcome surprise, because prior to exploring the museum I knew Percy primarily for his folk-song arrangements – which was just one aspect of his work and I was very happy to be enlightened about the multifaceted nature of his ideas and output.

It is also great to explore the living culture of the museum, and how it has continued throughout its history to be a creative hub in Melbourne, including the Australian Percussion Ensemble, Keith Humble’s work with electronic music and even the soundscapes and interactive features designed by current musicians, such as Kate Tempany’s Deep blue shimmering haze for the How it plays exhibition.

Visitors are encouraged to create and improvise their own music, which contributes to the relevance and cultural resonance of Percy and the museum.

What do you do when you are not volunteering at the Grainger?

I like to play, listen to and attend concerts of many forms of music, such as medieval and renaissance music through to a soon-to-commence Hammond organ jazz group (another instrument that Grainger used).

I also like to watch movies, at the moment I am exploring the movies of Bergman, Bresson and Pasolini. Early poems and novels like The Canterbury Tales and Gargantua and Pantagruel have held my attention lately, and Percy Grainger has inspired me to look further to some of the Nordic sagas.

Many thanks to Samuel for taking the time to provide such fantastic responses to our questions.