Colin McPhee was born in Montreal, Canada in 1900 and died in Los Angeles, California in 1964, aged 63.
McPhee studied piano and composition at the Peabody Conservatory, then moved to Paris and continued his studies with Paul LeFlem (composition) and Isidor Philipp (piano) from 1924-1928.
Returning to the United States, he studied with Edgar Varèse and wrote the scores for two experimental films H2o and Mechanical Principles in 1931.
He moved to Indonesia after becoming fascinated with Gamelan music and lived there from 1931-1939. He returned to the United States and was a consultant to the Office of War Information during World War II.
From 1958-1954, he worked with the Institute of Latino Musicology at the University of California at Los Angeles.
His major work, Tabuh-Tabuhan for two pianos, orchestra and exotic percussion, was composed and performed in Mexico City in 1930. He composed over 100 works and published three books.