Colin Mcphee

Top Songs & Albums Colin McPhee


... read moreOnly the scantest trace remains of the compositions of important Canadian-born American composer Colin McPhee (1901-1964); as he discarded his First Piano Concerto (1924), only the second, his Concerto for Piano with Eight Winds (1928) survives. Married to anthropologist Jane Belo, McPhee moved with...

Key songs

Colin McPhee
Colin McPhee
Concerto For Piano With Wind Octet Accompaniment: Iii. Coda
Colin McPhee
Concerto For Piano With Wind Octet Accompaniment: Ii. Chorale
Colin McPhee
Concerto For Piano With Wind Octet Accompaniment: I. Allegretto
Colin McPhee
Mcphee - Symphony No. 2 - Pastoral - I. Moderato Misterioso


Active: 1930s-1950s
Country Of origin: Canada

A century after his birth, Colin McPhee (1900-1964) remains one of Canada's most influential native composers. Inspired by the gamelan music of Bali and Indonesia, McPhee composed world music decades before the concept was conceived. More than three decades since his passing in 1964, McPhee's compositions remain powerful. A recording of his compositions, Symphony 2: Concerto for Wind Orchestra, Transitions, Tabuh-Tabuhan, Nocturne Espirit, conducted by Carl Bauman, received a Juno award (Canada's equivalent to the Grammy) as "best classical composition" of 1999. In a review of the album, Newsday wrote that it "does not surge, twist, or develop in the romantic tradition; instead, the energy level and tempo jump between plateaus of ostinatos in a style familiar from the minimalists McPhee influenced."

A native of Montreal, McPhee was raised in Toronto. Moving to New York in the mid '20s, he studied with impressionistic composer Edgard Varese. McPhee's interests veered to another direction after marrying Jane Belo, a graduate student of anthropologist Margaret Meade, in 1931. Accompanying Belo to Bali, where she began her career as an anthropologist, McPhee became fascinated by gamelan music. For the next five years, he turned his attention to building and playing gamelan instruments, researching and writing about the musical genre. One of his books is used as a textbook at the Conservatory of Music and Dance in Bali.

McPhee increasingly incorporated gamelan music into his compositions. In 1936, his composition, "Tabuh-Tabuhan," was performed in Mexico City. His most ambitious composition, "Concerto for Two Pianos and Large Orchestra Using Bali, Jazz and McPhee Elements," was broadcast over the radio in the United States in 1949. Resurrected four years later, when it was conducted by Leopold Stokowski, it was recorded in 1956 by Howard Hanson. McPhee was commissioned to compose "The Nocturne" for Stokowski in 1958. ~ Craig Harris~ Rovi