The Percy Grainger Museum
Universities play an important part in sharing the history of the city and hidden amongst those academic walls of Melbourne University, are a host of smaller attractions, open to the general public. One of them is the Percy Grainger Museum, arguably Melbourne’s most underrated cultural attraction.
Percy Grainger, born in Brighton 1882, was a composer of classical music, particularly famous for the translation and interpretation of folk songs that had yet to be transcribed. The most famous of these ‘Country Gardens’ and ‘Irish Tune from County Derry’ are two tunes that everyone knows, even if they don’t know that they knows.
Percy had a rather high opinion of himself, however compared to today, it was a hard time for a narcissist. With no social media, it wasn’t easy to engage people in the wonders of your life. You could write to them or knock on their door but that was rather time-consuming. What Percy did instead was set up a museum as a testament to his life.
You heard right, The Percy Grainger Museum, was set up by none other than Percy Grainger.
The Life of Percy
In fairness to Percy, as opposed to most prolific users of social media, it was a fairly interesting life and one worth documenting. As well as being a champion composer he was an established concert pianist, experimental musical instrument designer, teacher, folk music researcher and cataloguer, racist, advocate for non-western music, as well as having some rather unusual habits .
 For more on these strange habits visit Strange Flowers – Its a great site!
Australia’s only purpose-built autobiographical museum
All these facets of his unique life story are told through letters, monuments, costumes, bondage whips, records, music and anecdotes. Much of it donated by Percy himself, others coming from his mother’s collection after she tragically committed suicide following (incorrect) rumours that she was sexually involved with her son and bits and pieces that have been donated to the museum from external sources.
The most fascinating part of the museums collection is the 250-odd musical instruments. This includes conventional classical instruments, a collection of non-western instruments, modified instruments and best of all, the Experimental Free Music Machines. If you want to know what an Experimental Free Music Machine looks like, you are going to have to see for yourself, because I wouldn’t know where to start in describing them, other than to say they look more like a computer from an old sci-fi flick than anything found in a music store.
The museum does have limited opening hours so if you are going on the weekend, it has to be a Sunday and between 1pm to 4:30pm. Entry is free, plan to spend about an hour or so and be prepared to leave in a state of bewilderment as to why more people don’t know about this little gem.
Make it the perfect Sunday
With the museum opening at 1pm, why not kick the day off with brunch on Berkeley St, only a 10-15 minute walk away.
Coffee devotees, will recognise Berkeley Street as the home of Seven Seeds and I myself have enjoyed a fine cuppa on many an occasion at that old industrial warehouse. However for something a little bit different, head (literally) next door to Middle Fish.
Middle Fish is a Thai café open for breakfast and lunch which is slightly unusually in itself. While we have all embraced multiculturalism, particularly in what we eat, we have remained particularly Euro-centric in our choice of breakfast. At Middle Fish you have a mix of (what I assume) are traditional Thai breakfast foods such as Tom Yum and other broth based dishes as well as fusion dishes such as Thai style omelette or roti served with maple syrup.
All matched with coffee that is as good as your local breakfast café