Chapter 7 Songs and Songmakers

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Transcription - Page 8

Music of the Australian Aboriginals.

By Rev. G. W. Torrance, M.A., Mus. D.

(An appendix to Mr. A. W. Howitt's "Notes on Songs and Song-
makers of some Australian Tribes.")

The following brief description of the music of the Australian
aboriginals, with specimens of their songs from an authentic
source, is offered as a contribution to Mr. Howitt's paper on
"Songs and Song Makers." Being the result of but a single
interview with a native bard, the particulars here noted are of
necessity imperfect and superficial. Such as they are, however,
it is hoped that they may prove of some little historic value,
and lead to further enquiry into a subject which cannot fail to
be one of interest to the anthropological student.

Generally speaking, the rude attempts at melody exhibited by
those untaught natives may be described as a kind of nasal mono-
tone, or chaunt, usually preceded by a downward progression some-
what resembling the "intonation" in Gregorian music. The songs
are marked throughout by sudden, frequent and ever varying inflec-
tions of voice, in compass rarely exceeding the distance of a
third, and minor intervals predominating.

Much of the character of the music depends upon the rhythm which
while very strongly marked, is also most irregular, changing sud-
denly, and alternating frequently between duple and triple; the
changes, moreover, being sometimes introduced by a slackening of
the time, and a curious sliding of one sound into another, not
unlike the slow tuning of a violin string.

In the "Corroboree" the rhythmic measures are emphasized by clap
-ping of hands and stamping of feet. When one singer or set of
singers is exhausted, others in turn take up and continue the
chaunt ad lib., till the wild dance is concluded.

The native bard alluded to above [William Berak, from whom the- crossed out]
[illustrations were obtained- crossed out], is an intelligent representative.

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Document Details

Letter From
Letter To
Author Howitt, Mr Alfred William
Country Australia
Holding Institution Museums Victoria
Collection Name Alfred W. Howitt Collection
Registration Number XM 461
Medium Notes
Summary "Draft for A.W. Howitt's Chapter 7 of ""Native Tribes of South East Australia"" 1904. Content relating to the use of song and ceremony."
Physical Description Draft notes, typed and handwritten, undated. Twelve sheets, thirteen pages. Cover sheet. Annotations throughout. Condition: tattered edges; foxing.