Author Topic: Semi-Colin McPhee  (Read 2505 times)

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Offline jowcol

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Semi-Colin McPhee
« on: September 02, 2010, 04:42:56 PM »
I don't think this guy's had is own thread, and I've really been enjoying him lately. 

A quick summary- he's best know for soaking up Gamelan influences in Bali and writing some of the first "minimal"and "world influence" music.  He best known composition is a gamelan inspired Tabuh-Tabuhan, which Howard Hanson bravely recorded in mono in the 50s.  Its a great work, and got me curious about the rest of his output.  Bali was clearly the highlight of his life, he met his wife ther, The convention story of his life had him descending in alcoholism and depression after returning from Bali and divorcing  and not making much of a splash after that.

I recently took a gamble and picked up this collection of his better orchestral works:

http://www.amazon.com/Colin-McPhee-Tabuh-Tabuhan/dp/B0000067U3

and I'm glad I did!   This is a very solid album-- the only tune that I have not fallen  completely in love with is the concerto, and I'll just need to give it more time. 

The Symphony 2 is not just a Tabuh-Tabuhan redux-- it mixes some of those elements with more tradition symphonic fare, and Nocturne is delicious.  I am just nuts about "Transitions for Orchestra"-- the most western of his works, which he named after his struggles to adjust to life in the west after his time in Bali. There are few balinese hints at the end, but this is just really great mid-20th century tonal symphonic writing loaded with:

VANDERMOLEN ALERT
hopeless defiance, elegiac despair, impending catastrophe and a valedictory quality
END VANDERMOLEN ALERT

How does this version of Tabuh-Tabuhan stack up with the Hanson?  I give Hanson much more credit for guts in releasing his recording, and Hanson's since of color is stronger.   But this version just kills me. The stereo separation contributes more than I'd like to give credit for, and this ensemble has a very taught sense of rhythm.  This reminds me a bit of Reich's best work in the 70s and 80s, but is also much richer melodically. I spent most of an afternoon listing to the last five minutes over and over.


So-- are any of you McPhee fans?  Is there any other material of his out there? (Even OOP?)



"If it sounds good, it is good."
Duke Ellington

snyprrr

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Re: Semi-Colin McPhee
« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2010, 06:20:10 PM »
What about his wife's and his sex life? ::)



...uh, just askin' ;D


Offline lescamil

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Re: Semi-Colin McPhee
« Reply #2 on: September 02, 2010, 06:22:20 PM »
Tabuh Tabuhan is a work that definitely sounds better in the hands of Alex Pauk and the Esprit Orchestra, which has a more "contemporary" sound to it (not considering the time difference in the recordings), and has a bit more articulation to it. Like any work of minimalism, a great sense of rhythm and articulation are essential. For my money, I wouldn't go back to Hanson after this one.

There is another great McPhee disk out there, which is unfortunately out of print now:



The works featured are the Symphony No. 2, the Concerto for Piano and Wind Octet, Nocturne, and Balinese Ceremonial Music for two pianos. The Concerto and Balinese Ceremonial Music are the two best works on the disk, but they are the hardest to find also. The Concerto is the lone work on the disk that doesn't feature any gamelan/Indonesian influences, but it is still a great work that shows his skills as a Western composer. The Balinese Ceremonial Music is another work, much like Tabuh Tabuhan, that shows minimal and gamelan techniques. It's definitely a work to lose yourself in. If you ever see this disk lying around in the second hand bin anywhere, don't hesitate to get it!
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snyprrr

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Re: Semi-Colin McPhee
« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2010, 06:52:41 PM »
Tabuh Tabuhan is a work that definitely sounds better in the hands of Alex Pauk and the Esprit Orchestra, which has a more "contemporary" sound to it (not considering the time difference in the recordings), and has a bit more articulation to it. Like any work of minimalism, a great sense of rhythm and articulation are essential. For my money, I wouldn't go back to Hanson after this one.

There is another great McPhee disk out there, which is unfortunately out of print now:



The works featured are the Symphony No. 2, the Concerto for Piano and Wind Octet, Nocturne, and Balinese Ceremonial Music for two pianos. The Concerto and Balinese Ceremonial Music are the two best works on the disk, but they are the hardest to find also. The Concerto is the lone work on the disk that doesn't feature any gamelan/Indonesian influences, but it is still a great work that shows his skills as a Western composer. The Balinese Ceremonial Music is another work, much like Tabuh Tabuhan, that shows minimal and gamelan techniques. It's definitely a work to lose yourself in. If you ever see this disk lying around in the second hand bin anywhere, don't hesitate to get it!

I've got that Pauk disc. Soooooooo relaxing and Pacific sounding!

snyprrr

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Re: Semi-Colin McPhee
« Reply #4 on: June 09, 2016, 04:21:38 PM »
I've got that Pauk disc. Soooooooo relaxing and Pacific sounding!

Six years later and I'm not so convinced. Xenakis has used the Pelog scale too, so now I can't help but hear McPhee as just transcribing Primitive Musics, with a bent towards organizing them in sections; but, I wonder about "Composer". Sorry, I'm being harsh, but he himself died thinking he was a failure.

Everything on that Alex Pauk CBC CD sounds so much alike that it becomes redundant I could've done with some experimenting, but, I guess McPhee was a different kind of... man, baby!

(I seriously hope I didn't start this Thread,... oh, that Title

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Semi-Colin McPhee
« Reply #5 on: June 09, 2016, 09:34:44 PM »


(I seriously hope I didn't start this Thread,... oh, that Title

It's a clever play on words for those quick enough to spot it.  8)
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline listener

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Re: Semi-Colin McPhee
« Reply #6 on: June 09, 2016, 09:51:57 PM »
more 2-piano music can be found in a 5-cd Brilliant collection of minimalist music, and there was a LP recording of the concerto on Columbia
Brilliant   9171/5   1      Balinese Ceremonial Music = 3 pieces   Bergmann, Marcel   Bergmann, Elizabeth   
Columbia   ML 5106   1      Concerto for Piano and Wind Octette   Johannesen, Grant      Surinach, Carlos
Brilliant   9171/5   1      Gabor Gong   Bergmann, Marcel   Bergmann, Elizabeth   
Brilliant   9171/5   1      Lagoe Tjongdong   Bergmann, Marcel   Bergmann, Elizabeth   
Brilliant   9171/5   1      Rebong   Bergmann, Marcel   Bergmann, Elizabeth   
"Keep your hand on the throttle and your eye on the rail as you walk through life's pathway."

Offline The new erato

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Re: Semi-Colin McPhee
« Reply #7 on: June 09, 2016, 10:12:20 PM »
It's a clever play on words for those quick enough to spot it.  8)
Melan-Colin would have been just as good.

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Semi-Colin McPhee
« Reply #8 on: June 10, 2016, 09:28:15 PM »
Melan-Colin would have been just as good.
Very true.  :)
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).