Colin McPhee: Composer in Two Worlds

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University of Illinois Press, 2004 - Biography & Autobiography - 353 pages
Colin McPhee was a performer, writer, and pioneer among Western composers in turning to Asia for inspiration. A close friend of Aaron Copland, Carlos Chavez, Henry Cowell, and Virgil Thomson, he played a vital role in new music activities in New York in the 1920s, but his most important accomplishments came from his devotion to the music of Bali. Carol Oja's Colin McPhee: Composer in Two Worlds traces his life, his influences on fellow musicians, and the profound experience of a composer striving to comprehend an entirely new musical language.

After hearing rare recordings of the Balinese gamelan--a percussion orchestra with delicately layered textures and clangorous sounds--McPhee traveled to Bali and worked closely with such Western anthropologists as Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson. The island may also have appealed to him because of its relatively open attitude toward homosexuality.

Gay by inclination, he nevertheless married anthropologist Jane Belo and built a native-style house on the island where they lived for most of the 1930s. During this time, McPhee became a devoted and meticulous chronicler of Balinese musical culture, and his Music of Bali remains a classic in ethnomusicology. Beginning in the mid-1930s, his own compositions became an imaginative hybrid of Balinese and Western music, anticipating the later work of such figures as John Cage, Lou Harrison, and Steve Reich.

Finally back in print, Carol Oja's account of McPhee's unconventional life and work evokes key issues in composition and ethnomusicology, sure to be of interest to scholars, musicians or anyone interested in 20th century American or Balinese music.
 

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Contents

THE EDUCATION OF A PRODIGY 190026
1
A YOUNG PROFESSIONAL IN NEW YORK 192631
25
ASIA BECKONS 192831
55
THE FIRST TRIPS TO BALI 193134
65
A WESTERN INTERLUDE 193536
93
THE LAST YEARS IN BALI 193738
121
HARD TIMES IN NEW YORK 193952
149
CHANGING FORTUNES 195259
185
THE YEARS IN CALIFORNIA 196064
249
CATALOGUE OF THE MUSIC OF COLIN McPHEE
259
PRELIMINARY CATALOGUE OF COLIN McPHEES GAMELAN TRANSCRIPTIONS FOR WESTERN INSTRUMENTS
273
WRITINGS OF COLIN McPHEE
281
GLOSSARY OF BALINESE TERMS
285
NOTES
287
BIBLIOGRAPHY
337
INDEX
345

COMPOSITIONS AFTER 1940
205

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About the author (2004)

Carol Oja is the author of Making Music Modern: New York in the 1920s and is president of the Society for American Music.

Bibliographic information