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A House in Bali [Paperback]

Colin McPhee
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: £12.40 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

May 2000
As a young American composer, Colin McPhee quite by accident heard some recordings of Balinese gamelan music. Changed forever by this experience, he "wanted to hear every Gamelan in the countryside." This book recounts the details of his stay in Bali just before World War II. It presents an amusing and sympathetic look at Balinese society and a rare look at the importance of music in Balinese life.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 213 pages
  • Publisher: Tuttle Publishing; New edition edition (May 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9625936297
  • ISBN-13: 978-9625936291
  • Product Dimensions: 20.1 x 13.2 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 776,908 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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THE SHIP HAD SAILED from Surabaya for Bali in the late afternoon. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars House in Bali 16 Sep 2012
For anyone with an interest in music/gamelan and the heavenly island of Bali, here is a true account of life there fifty years ago.
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  16 reviews
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read 23 Aug 2003
By murni@murnis.com - Published on Amazon.com
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.
Highly recommended.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hooked! 20 May 2002
By storygirl - Published on Amazon.com
Ever since I visited Bali in 1997, I've been hooked on anything Bali--gamelan music, the wayang puppets, the masks, the smell of kretek ( I don't smoke) and incense, frangipani flowers,... even the sputtering sound of motorcycles! I got my hands on all the National Geographic issues on Bali I could lay my hands on in second-hand bookshops .
When I found this book, I was almost certain I wasn't going to be disappointed. I was right. Consider, for instance, the blurb at the back of the book: "The graveryard, moreover, was a natural meeeting-place for witches and sorcerers, for every village had its suspects, owneres of books of spells that enabled the reader to change himself into a leyak--a ball of fire, a giant rat, or even a riderless motor cycle that travelled backwards. In this magic state sorcerers were indeed dangerous; they could send a man out of his wits or bring him to a lingering death."
Written by a musician, it doesn't fare so badly as a literary read. It captures the magic, mysticism, and soul of a place. A Bali experience is a sensory overload. Colin McPhee happily immersed himself in it and did a very impressive job.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic account of life and music in Bali in the 1930's. 21 May 1996
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Colin McPhee was a young American composer, just out of college
in the early thirties when he heard a recording of Bali's
unique gamelan music. Having time and (apparently) money,
he traveled to the island, lived there for several years
and studied the music. The book is a warm-hearted account of
the people he knew, their lives and their music. Anyone
thinking of a trip to Bali or just curious about the Balinese
and their music must read this classic.
Unfortunately, it is currently listed as not in stock by the
publisher. If we pester them enough, perhaps they will print
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The epitome of following one's dream 27 Nov 2007
By DJ Rix - Published on Amazon.com
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.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite an interesting and well presented account of Bali 9 Aug 2002
By Kean Chhay Chang - Published on Amazon.com
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".
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