Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute/Volume 25/Article 75
Art. LXXV.—National Melodies.
By Miss Morrison.
[Read before the Hawke's Bay Philosophical Institute, 28th November, 1892.]
Music is poetry in sounds; melody, sounds arranged rhythmical order. With the sounds natural to New Zealand, and the songs of different nations in New Zealand, of what character are the national melodies likely to be? To the musical artist sounds and notes for melody are to be found everywhere, as the sighing of the wind, the dash of the waves on the shore. Mendelssohn found music in the dropping of water in Fingal's Cave, and has portrayed it in his "Overture to the Hebrides." Birds have their distinct notes; but only those that have been trained by man can sing a melody. In our adopted country—New Zealand—it has seemed to me that the original melodies of the Maoris are like chants or dirges, on four or five notes in a minor key.
The affixed manuscript (Pl. LV.) is a short air in C minor, which I have written on the idea of Maori melody. The key of C minor is acknowledged to express earnestness, and also to lend itself to the portraiture of the supernatural.
Earnestness is characteristic of the Maori, who is known to possess deep religious feeling. As the Maoris have their martial music and dance-forms, solos, recitatives, and choruses, it cannot be said that colonists are the founders of national dance and song; they have only introduced higher forms. Indeed, it seems probable that if Maoris had had the advantages of civilisation and culture which Europeans have had they would have equalled them in the developments of music.
All true colonists and Maoris are striving towards what the theosophists profess to possess—a feeling of universal brotherhood. In this country of freedom all nations can enjoy their national songs. The Englishman can sing "Britannia rules the Waves," or "The Red, White, and Blue"; the Scotchman or Irishman can have "Auld Lang Syne" or "St. Patrick's Day"; the French, "La Marseillaise"; the Germans their volkslieder; while the Italians have blue enough skies in New Zealand to call forth the songs of Italy. It has been observed by William Husk, librarian of the Sacred Harmonic Society, that melodies of a similar cast to those of Scotland have been found as wide apart as China and the west coast of Africa. Colonists belonging to these nations have their song in New Zealand, and will have their say in the development of New Zealand melodies. And now, with the wonderful advantages for the artist in this country, the mixture and intermarrying of different nations, the steady progress of science, and the numerous movements on foot towards the advancement of good, may we not look for a high development of national melody? In the future, when the stray traveller from New Zealand, spoken of by Macaulay, takes his stand on a span of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul's, let us hope he will be able to sing melodies which may enlighten the remaining inhabitants of the great metropolis.