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Colin McPhee

Colin McPhee

Colin McPhee


Colin McPhee (March 15, 1900, in Montreal – January 7, 1964, in Los Angeles) was a Canadian composer and musicologist. He is primarily known for being the first Western composer to make an ethnomusicological study of Bali, and for the quality of that work. He also composed music influenced by that of Bali and Java decades before such world music–based compositions became widespread. Chronology McPhee studied with the avant-garde composer Edgard Varèse before marrying Jane Belo, a disciple of Margaret Mead, in 1931. Read more on Last.fm
Colin McPhee (March 15, 1900, in Montreal – January 7, 1964, in Los Angeles) was a Canadian composer and musicologist. He is primarily known for being the first Western composer to make an ethnomusicological study of Bali, and for the quality of that work. He also composed music influenced by that of Bali and Java decades before such world music–based compositions became widespread. Chronology McPhee studied with the avant-garde composer Edgard Varèse before marrying Jane Belo, a disciple of Margaret Mead, in 1931. He was involved in the circle of experimental composers known as the "ultra-modernists" and was among those—along with the group's leader, Henry Cowell, John Becker, and Cowell protégé Lou Harrison—particularly interested in what would later become known as "world music." McPhee is said to have first encountered Balinese music while listening to a record in New York City.[1] He and his wife moved to Bali together for Belo's anthropological work.

Once there McPhee became so interested in the music that he studied, built, and wrote extensively about the gamelans. McPhee, who was gay,[2] divorced Belo in 1939. In the early 1940s he lived in a large brownstone in Brooklyn, which he shared with Leonard Bernstein and Benjamin Britten, among others. McPhee was responsible for introducing Britten to the Balinese music that influenced such works by the British composer as The Prince of the Pagodas, Curlew River, and Death in Venice.[3] Later in the decade, McPhee fell into an alcohol-fueled depression, but began to write music again during the 1950s.

He became professor of ethnomusicology at UCLA in 1958 and was also a respected jazz critic. On June 26 and 27, 2009, an opera about McPhee's life by the American composer Evan Ziporyn, entitled A House in Bali, premiered at Puri Saraswati in Ubud, Bali. It received further performances at UC Berkeley on September 26 and 27, 2009. Published works McPhee's A House in Bali, the chronicle of his life there, is still considered a valuable introduction to Balinese culture.[citation needed] His posthumously published Music in Bali was the first comprehensive analysis of Balinese music published in English. His best-known musical work is Tabuh-Tabuhan: Toccata for Orchestra, composed and premiered in Mexico in 1936. Its title translates as "collection of percussion instruments," and it combines Balinese and traditional Western musical elements. It is scored for Western orchestra, but, in McPhee's description, the core of the ensemble is a "'nuclear gamelan' composed of two pianos, celesta, xylophone, marimba, and glockenspiel," giving it a highly percussive balance of sound.

The orchestra is augmented by two Balinese gongs and cymbals. The work is in three movements: "Ostinatos," a flute-inspired "Nocturne," and a syncopated "Finale." Some of the themes in it derive from Balinese folk sources. Angkloeng gamelans in Bali. (1937?) Balinese wajang koelit and its music. (1936?, 1981) ISBN 0404167659 Children and music in Bali.

(1938?) Club of small men : a children’s tale from Bali. (2002) ISBN 0794600743 House in Bali. (1980) ISBN 0404167667 Music in Bali: a study in form and instrumental organization in Balinese orchestral music. (1966, 1976) ISBN 0306707780 Transitions for orchestra.

(1954) Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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