McPhee, Colin (Carhart)

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McPhee, Colin (Carhart)

McPhee, Colin (Carhart) , outstanding American composer and ethnomusicologist; b. Montreal, Canada, March 15, 1900; d. Los Angeles, Jan. 7, 1964. He studied piano and composition with Harold Randolph and Gustav Strube at the Peabody Cons. in Baltimore (graduated, 1921), then took piano lessons with Arthur Friedheim in Toronto (1921–24); continued his studies with Le Fiem (composition) and Philipp (piano) in Paris (1924–26). Returning to the U.S. (1926), he joined the modern movement in N.Y. and was briefly a student of Varèse; wrote scores for the experimental films H20 and Mechanical Principles in 1931. He became infatuated with the gamelan music of Java and Bali; moved to Indonesia in 1931 and, except for brief interruptions, remained there until 1939. He then returned to the U.S. and was a consultant to the Office of War Information during World War II; later was active with the Inst. of Ethno-musicology at the Univ. of Calif. at Los Angeles (1958–64). His Tabuh-Tabuhan for 2 Pianos, Orch., and Exotic Percussion, composed and premiered during an interlude in Mexico City (1936), is the quintessential work in his Bali-influenced style. He wrote the books A House in Bali (N.Y, 1946), A Club of Small Men (N.Y, 1948), and Music in Bali (New Haven, 1966).


orch.: 2 piano concertos: No. 1, La Mort d’Arthur (Baltimore, May 26, 1920; not extant) and No. 2 (1923; Toronto, Jan. 15, 1924; not extant); Sarabande (1927); 3 syms.: No. 1 in 1 movement (1930; not extant), No. 2, Pastorale (1957; Louisville, Jan. 15, 1958), and No. 3 (1960–62; incomplete); Tabuh-Tabuhan for 2 Pianos, Orch., and Exotic Percussion (Mexico City, Sept. 4, 1936); 4 Iroauois Dances (1944); Transitions (1954; Vancouver, March 20, 1955); Nocturne for Chamber Orch. (N.Y, Dec. 3, 1958); Concerto for Wind Orch. (1959; Pittsburgh, July 1960). chamber: Pastorale and Rondino for 2 Flutes, Clarinet, Trumpet, and Piano (1925; not extant); Concerto for Piano and Wind Octet (1928; Boston, March 11, 1929). piano: 4 Piano Sketches (1916); Invention (1926); Kinesis (1930); Balinese Ceremonial Music for 2 Pianos (1934–38). vocal:Sea Shanty Suite for Baritone, Men’s Chorus, 2 Pianos, and Timpani (N.Y., March 13, 1929); From the Revelation of St. John the Divine for Men’s Chorus, 3 Trumpets, 2 Pianos, and Timpani (1935; N.Y., March 27, 1936; not extant).


R. Mueller, Imitation and Stylization in the Balinese Music of C. M. (diss., Univ. of Chicago, 1982); C. qa, C. M.:Composer in Two Worlds (Washington, D.C., 1990).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire