The Percy Grainger Museum

Hidden amongst the 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 also had a rather high opinion of himself.  These days being a narcissist is easy, particularly with all the various mediums of social media around, however back then it was quite a task. However Percy found a way and founded a museum in his own honour and as a testament to his own  lie. Yep,  The Percy Grainger Museum was set up by none other than Percy Grainger.

Percy Granger Museum, The University of Melbourne

The Life of Percy

percy grainger

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, creator of musical instruments, teacher, folk music researcher and cataloguer, a racist, an advocate for multicultural music and a man with some rather unusual habits [1].

[1] 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 collection is the 250-odd musical instruments. This includes conventional classical instruments, a collection of non-western instruments, modified instruments and a series of 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 frankly 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.

Some of the stranger instruments on display

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 like a Thai style omelette or roti served with maple syrup.

All matched with coffee that is as good as your local breakfast café

Middle Fish, 122-128 Berkeley St Carlton
Middle Fish, 122-128 Berkeley St Carlton

Middle Fish on Urbanspoon

Country Gardens, written by Percy Grainger, performed by the Muppets


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