"The Maori has naturally a fine ear for music, far better than can be believed by those who are not themselves highly trained and who have not investigated the subject carefully. The natives had no music of the kind Europeans generally understand as such but they (like all other Polynesians) quickly catch up our tunes and notions of harmony, and their deep mellow voices are well worth training. In regard to their own music it was apparent to anyone that they had one part of the art in perfection; that is the full sense of rhythm and measured time. To watch the synchronous movement and hear the vocal unison of one of their song-dances (haka) was to be persuaded that the regular beat of motion and sound assured the possession of the very spirit of rhythm. There was, however, something more than this. Musicians have sympathetically enquired into the native perception of value tones. It appears probable from their researches, that Maoris appreciate modulations of sound unappreciable by the duller ear of the ordinary European. Their apparently monotonous notes produced both in their songs and by their musical instruments may contain shades of melody that we miss. Few of our instruments, manufactured to express our own scale of notes, would be able to evoke the sounds which are produced by Maori instruments to Maori ears. I am not a musician, and am unable to deal competently with this subject; I can only remark that on the evidence of experts there appears to be or to have been in Maori music some resemblance to the scale found in the music of the Arabs. “Dr. Russell to Burney says that the Arab scale of twenty four notes was equal to one octave. But Mr. Lane adds that ‘ the most remarkable peculiarity in the Arab system of music is the division of tones into thirds’ Hence, from the system of thirds of tones I have heard the Egyptian musician urge against the European systems of music that they are deficient in the number of sounds.” Mr. J.A. Davies, a celebrated musical scholar, has committed to paper some of the airs of New Zealand by aid of a peculiar notation showing quarter-tones, etc., and says that he was approvingly told by the Maoris that they would soon “make a singer of him.” If this be so it is possible that a native boy with a Jew’s harp or an old native crooning song, may be sensitive to melodies which appear to us to be only monotonous repetition of two or three notes. Every Maori song had its air, and if an old native was asked “do you know the song which commences ‘so and so’” – he would answer “ I do not know. What is the air (rangi)? Can you not sing it?”
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