Polynesian Mythology and Ancient Traditional History of the New Zealand Race
First, that an enharmonic modulation might exist is admitted by many modern writers. Mr. Donkin, for instance, author of the able article on Ancient Music in Dr. W. Smith's “Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities,” observes (under the title of “Music”) of the different genera less frequently named,* “that it would be wrong to conclude hastily that the others would be impossible in practice, or necessarily unpleasing;” and of the enharmonic he says, “but it is impossible to form a judgment of its merits without a much greater knowledge of the rules of composition than seems now attainable.”
* As the soft diatonic, the hemiolion chromatic, the soft chromatic.
“The reason of this defect seems to have been that the intervals of the Indian music did not agree with those of Europe.”*
Mr. Tradescant might have added, that there will always be some difference in an air played on the guitar and on the violin, though the intervals used are esteemed the same; and, again, perhaps the learned traveller did not take care to divide the scale of his violin mathematically, like that of the kin, before he tried the effect; he might also not have noted the right interval. He concludes: “There is, however, a connection between the Chinese and old Scotch music, so that when any highly-admired airs of Scotland happen to fall within the compass of the kin, they seem at home when played upon this instrument.”
Mr. Lane says the “cannoon” of the Arabians had twenty-four notes. 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 musicians urge against the European systems of music that they are deficient in the number of sounds.
The same remark was made to me by Selim Agar, a Nubian, when singing some Amharic songs: “Your instrument” (piano), said he, “is very much out of tune, and jumps very much.”
Mr. Lane adds: “These small and delicate gradations of sound give a peculiar softness to the performances of the Arab musicians, which are generally of a plaintive character; but they are difficult to discriminate with exactness, and therefore seldom observed in the vocal and instrumental music of those persons who have not made a regular study of the art.”
* Lay Tradescant's “Chinese as they are.”
Had Mr. Lane been describing the character and difficulties of the ancient Greek enharmonic or chromatic, he could not have used other terms; they are almost the words of Aristoxenus, Vitruvius, Plutarch, and other ancient writers on the genera; and yet, he adds, “he took great delight in the more refined kind of music,” and found “the more he became habituated to the style the more he was pleased with it.” He continues: “He was perfeetly charmed with the performance of some female singers, and that the natives are so fascinated as to lavish considerable sums on them.”
Precisely so the Greeks of old.