Tongan music notation

Tongan Music Notation

Tongan music notation

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The Tuungafasi or Tongan music notation is a subset of the standard music notation, originally developed by the missionary James Egan Moulton in the 19th century for singing church hymns in Tonga.

The notation

Tongan music from the pre-European times was not really music in the current sense but rather a non tonic recital (like the 'pater noster'), a style still known nowadays as the tau fakaniua. Therefore when the missionaries started to teach singing, they had also to start with music from scratch. They found the doh-ray-mi-fah-sol-la-si-doh scale sufficient for their needs, avoiding the very complex and difficult to learn international music notation. But due to the limited number of consonants in the Tongan language, the note names were localised into to-le-mi… Unfortunately the word 'tole' is a vulgar expression for the vagina, and as such not to be used.

Moulton then developed a system where the main notes were indicated with the numbers 3 to 9, while a strike to the digits was used to sharpen them, for example: <strike>7</strike>, being 7# or 8b. At the end the full 12 notes of the octave became: 3-<strike>3</strike>-4-<strike>4</strike>-5-6-<strike>6</strike>-7-<strike>7</strike>-8-<strike>8</strike>-9, which are pronounced as: to-lu-fa-ma-ni-o-no-tu-fi-va-a-hi, (variants of the Tongan numerals 3 to 9 being tolu, fā, nima, ono, fitu, valu, hiva). To extend the single octave (midi octave...
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