Item description for A House in Bali by Colin McPhee...
In the 1930s a young American composer heard some gramophone records of Balinese gamelan music- the clear metallic music of the land that forever changed his life. Writer Colin McPhee lived for the day when he could travel and study the beautiful island, its people, culture, and music. His classic text written in the 1940s remains the only literary narrative of the island by a classically trained musician, and this unique perspective allowed him to immerse himself in the people, and music of his beloved Bali. McPhee's work is a landmark look at Bali's distinctive gamelan tradition, now available again more than 50 years after it was written. Colin McPhee left Bali in 1938 as the threat of World War loomed over the Pacific.
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Studio: Periplus Editions
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 0.75" Width: 5.25" Height: 8" Weight: 0.65 lbs.
Release Date May 15, 2000
Publisher Periplus Editions
ISBN 9625936297 ISBN13 9789625936291
Availability 6 units. Availability accurate as of Oct 21, 2016 12:52.
Usually ships within one to two business days from La Vergne, TN.
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More About Colin McPhee
Colin McPhee left Bali in 1938 as the threat of World War loomed over the Pacific.
Reviews - What do customers think about A House in Bali?
The epitome of following one's dream Nov 27, 2007
Even as the art & tradition of classical gamelan music fades in Java, gamelans are built & organized in America & Europe, the music is studied & taught in universities. This has occurred since the 70's, when recordings of gamelan music became widely available, particularly in a major series on Nonesuch Explorer. For many people, hearing gamelan for the first time is not only a delightfully exotic experience, the music unlike anything one has heard, but there is often also a strange shock of recognition, as if one somehow already knew the music, although where & how remains a mystery. Perhaps this is what happened to Colin McPhee. For McPhee in 1930, as for so many western musicians since, hearing gamelan inspired something like a religious conversion.
I was given an old copy of this book shortly after I heard gamelan for the first time, & so I was able to follow McPhee on his great adventure to find where the music came from. When he arrived in Bali, he discovered that although the culture was vibrantly alive, much of music was in danger of being lost. He met, befriended, & studied with some greatly talented Balinese musicians, old masters & several younger composers & leaders, including Wayan Lotring & Made Lebah. They set about restoring a Semar Pegulingan gamelan. The task of bringing this music back to life is the "plot" of the "A House In Bali." McPhee quickly realized that his western musical training was of limited value, because the "values" of music - technically & culturally - in Bali were so different. Music had popular, ritual, & concert functions, as in the West. But the music was inseparable from the instruments, & each collection of instruments - each gamelan, was unique. Compositions were learned by rote, in phrases, with the gamelan functioning as a kind of all-ages social club for men. McPhee had to become, as best he could, a person of Bali, a villager, someone with a place & a role in the life of the community. He recounts his immersion in Balinese life, As strange as Bali was for McPhee, he was the "stranger," the outsider, & he remained one, oddly indifferent to what the Balinese thought of his lifestyle. Most inexplicably, he seems not to have become a gamelan musician. One wonders not only how he resisted this experience, but also why?
McPhee later attempted to translate Balinese music into a western idiom using pianos & a symphony orchestra, with beautiful results, but losing what he had learned in the process, Sadly, when he returned home, he had left the most important stuff behind.
Good travel read. Jul 7, 2007
I'm heading to Bali this month and this book provided a great intro to the customs and nature of this island. I'm even more excited to get there after reading it.
Music Lover Sep 23, 2004
I first heard Gamelan was coming out of the oldest temple on the Island of Bali, near Ubud, and was reading this book at the time. I purchased the book at the Jakarta airport and was hooked by the first paragraph. I think that this is a wonderful, insight into the island, the music, it's people and culture. If you have a love for exotic music and or artform, this historical work is a captivating read. My only regret is that Colin McPhee never went back to his beloved Bali.
A good read Aug 23, 2003
I am Balinese and live in Ubud, about 10 minutes walk from where Colin McPhee stayed, when he came to Bali in 1931. My aunt worked for him.
He heard a record of gamelan music in New York and couldn't wait to get to Bali to listen to the real thing.
He stayed in Bali for almost 8 years and set about documenting gamelan music. Much of his research was carried out in a village near Ubud where my Villas are. There are still old people in the village who remember him.
His book is beautifully written and tells stories of his adventures and life in the village and his encounters with the local Balinese. It's not necessary to understand technical music matters to enjoy this book - it is totally accessible.
Quite an interesting and well presented account of Bali Aug 9, 2002
It's a very interesting book in regards to what I have actually read. It seems to have accounts on Balinese culture. I found it enjoyable and interesting to read because it not only talks about Balinese culture but about the conflict and clashes within the village like the little dancer named Sampih and his dance teacher Nyoman Kaler.
Colin McPhee conveys many interesting things like when bad luck happened in his home in Sayan and how they had to do a purification ceremony in regards to dispel the demons, witches and evil spirits. His wanderings in Bali to record music and study their music like the rare gamelan angklung and gamelan selonding from Tenganan who were the Bali Aga. Colin McPhee was drawn to the scintallinating sounds and metallic shimmer from the gamelan. At times there are humours accounts of what goes on between him and his friends that happen in the village or when they are touring around Bali. I found it enjoyable because, he seemed to have fitted in well with the Balinese people without too much problems compared with other writers before them spoke of barbarity and the animal like behaviour of the Balinese at certain functions. He writes with passion about what goes on and how things have changed with the colonial rule of the Dutch. The loss of autonomy by the Rajas who were reduced to poverty at times and how their obessions with cockfighting led to their ruin. Yet in times of despair and hardship they are always humble to him.
Overall the book contains a few photographs of his friends and colleagues. I found it wonderful and intriguing and as well as captiviting at times which he covers so many topics like the temple functions like Galungan, Wayang Kulit (Shadow Plays), the music club etc... This book you will grow to love like the book written by Miguel Corrovabias "Island of Bali".