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The Coming of the Maori


Musical instruments may be broadly grouped under four headings: membranophones (drums with vibrating cover), autophones (direct percussion as wooden gongs), aerophones (wind instruments), and cordophones (string instruments). All four classes were present in Polynesia but they were few in number and varied in distribution. The only membranophone was the shark-skin drum, the principal autophone was the slot gong, the aerophones were represented by shell trumpets and the bamboo nose flute, and the cordophone was a primitive form of bow with one string though in Hawaii, some had three strings.

In New Zealand, the shark-skin drum was curiously absent. The autophones were represented by a wooden war gong and some minor instruments. In wind instruments, however, the Maori developed a variety of forms not present in Polynesia. The presence of a stringed instrument with one string rests on the report of one man. Some of the minor instruments were more in the nature of noise-producing toys than musical instruments.

The matter of the musical notes produced from instruments with stop holes has been capably dealt with by Andersen (2) who tested instruments in various museums. For musical detail, students are referred to his work.