A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels, Volume 17 eBook

Robert Kerr (writer)
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 661 pages of information about A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels, Volume 17.
of voice, but fell on concords, such as were not disagreeable to the ear.
Now, to overturn this fact, by the reasoning of persons who did not hear these performances, is rather an arduous task.  And yet there is great improbability, that any uncivilized people should, by accident, arrive at this degree of perfection in the art of music, which, we imagine, can only be attained by dint of study, and knowledge of the system and theory upon which musical composition is founded.  Such miserable jargon as our country psalm-singers practise, which may be justly deemed the lowest class of counterpoint, or singing in several parts, cannot be acquired, in the coarse manner in which it is performed in the churches, without considerable time and practice.  It is therefore scarcely credible, that a people, semi-barbarous, should naturally arrive at any perfection in that art, which it is much doubted, whether the Greeks and Romans, with all their refinements in music, ever attained, and which the Chinese, who have been longer civilized than any people on the globe, have not yet found out.
If Captain Burney (who, by the testimony of his father, perhaps the greatest musical theorist of this or any other age, was able to have done it) had written down, in European notes, the concords that these people sing; and if these concords had been such as European ears could tolerate, there would have been no longer doubt of the fact; but, as it is, it would, in my opinion, be a rash judgment to venture to affirm, that they did or did not understand counterpoint; and therefore I fear that this curious matter must be considered as still remaining undecided.

[11] An amusement somewhat similar to this, at Otaheite, has been elsewhere
    described.

SECTION VIII.

General Account of the Sandwich Islands, continued.—­Government.—­People divided into three Classes,—­Power of Erreetaboo.—­Genealogy of the Kings of Owhyhee and Mowee.—­Power of the Chiefs.—­State of the inferior Class.  —­Punishment of Crimes.—­Religion.—­Society of Priests.—­The Orono.—­Their Idols.—­Songs chanted by the Chiefs, before they drink Ava.—­Human Sacrifices.—­Custom of knocking out the fore Teeth.—­Notions with regard to a future State.—­Marriages.—­Remarkable Instance of Jealousy.—­Funeral Rites.

The people of these islands are manifestly divided into three classes.  The first are the Erees, or chiefs, of each district, one of which is superior to the rest, and is called at Owhyhee Eree-taboo, and Eree-moee.  By the first of these words they express his absolute authority; and by the latter, that all are obliged to prostrate themselves (or put themselves to sleep, as the word signifies) in his presence.  The second class are those who appear to enjoy a right of property without authority.  The third are the towtows, or servants, who have neither rank nor property.

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