During World War II, McPhee was a musical adviser to the US Military Information Office; at the request of the United Nations he composed the music for three documentaries in the 1950s. In 1941, with Benjamin Britten at the second piano and Georges Barrère on flute, he recorded his Balinese Ceremonial Music (1938) on Schirmer records (three 78s). Among McPhee's other compositions may be cited Four Iroquois Dances for orchestra (1944), three symphonies (1930, 1957, 1960) for orchestra, Sea Shanty Suite (1929) for baritone, male choir, two pianos, and two sets of timpani. His Concerto for piano and wind octet (1928) was recorded by Grant Johannesen (1956, Col ML-5105/CRI SD-315), and also by members of the CBC Vancouver Chamber Orchestra and Linda Lee Thomas, together with his Nocturne (1958). The Nocturne also was recorded by the Hessian Radio SO under David Van Vactor (ca 1967, CRI USD-219), and the Symphony No. 2 was recorded by the Louisville Orchestra, with Robert Whitney conducting (1958, Louisville 592). The harpsichordist Sylvia Marlowe recorded Lagu Délem for Decca (1959, DL-710001). McPhee also composed the wartime song 'Arm, Canadians' (Whaley Royce 1917). Several of his works were published by Associated Music, Kalmus, Peters, and G. Schirmer, and his early Four Piano Sketches, Opus 1 were published in Toronto by the Empire Music and Travel Club (1916, reproduced in CMH, vol 6).
As a writer, McPhee's publications include three works dealing with his years in Indonesia: A House in Bali (New York 1946, 1981), A Club of Small Men (New York 1947), and Music in Bali (New Haven 1957, New York 1976). He also reviewed compositions 1939-45 for Modern Music, the publication of the US League of Composers. He taught at various institutions including 1960-3 the University of California in Los Angeles. He was an affiliate of BMI. His papers are held at the New York Public Library and the University of California in Los Angeles.
Author Gilles Potvin
Bridle, Augustus. 'Who writes our music? A survey of Canadian composers,' Maclean's, 15 Dec 1929
Brooker, Bertram, ed. Year Book of the Arts in Canada 1928-9 (Toronto 1929)
Riegger, Wallingford. 'Adolf Weiss and Colin McPhee,' American Composers on American Music, ed Henry Cowell (New York 1962)
BMI. 'Colin McPhee,' pamphlet, 1964
Oja, Carol J. 'Colin McPhee - a composer who fell in love with Bali,' New York Times, 7 Nov 1982
Mueller, Richard E. 'Imitation and stylization in the Balinese music of Colin McPhee,' PH D dissertation, U of Chicago 1983
Oja, Carol J. 'Colin McPhee: a composer turned explorer,' Tempo, 148, Mar 1984
- 'Colin McPhee (1900-1964): a composer in two worlds,' PH D dissertation, City U of New York 1985
Young, Douglas. 'Colin McPhee's music: (I) from West to East,' Tempo, 150, Sep 1984- 'Colin McPhee (II): Tabuh Tabuhan,' Tempo, 159, Dec 1986
Oja, Carol J. 'McPhee, Colin,' The New Grove Dictionary of American Music, vol 3, ed H Wiley Hitchcock and Stanley Sadie (London 1986)
- ed, Distant Tones: Excerpts From the Bali Field Notes of Colin McPhee (Toronto 1990)
- Colin McPhee: Composer in Two Worlds (Washington, DC, 1991)
Dictionary of Contemporary Music
The New Grove Dictionary
Colin McPhee: The Lure of Asian Music (Michael Blackwood Productions 1985)
Links to Other Sites
Canadian Music Centre
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A profile and list of compositions of Colin McPhee, distinctive and imaginative composer, ethnomusicologist, pianist, and writer. From the Pytheas Center for Contemporary Music.
A House in Bali
See online excerpts from Colin McPhee's 1940s book on the people and music of Bali. From Google Books.
Shawnadithit grew anxious waiting for her uncle, Longnon, to return to camp at the junction of Badger Brook and the Exploits River, deep in the wilds of Newfoundland...