Oceania Arts and Music

Oceania Fine Art

Oceania’s traditional art that has been described since the late 1700’s, exhibits great stylistic variations between the localities. Brightly colored surfaces and exaggeration of natural shapes are stylistic elements in many places in Melanesia, while Polynesian art is especially known for surfaces covered with chiseled geometric patterns and Micronesia’s more sparse art for an elegant, undecorated simplicity of form.

Art was an integral part of society’s continuation as a spiritual kinship, and it was central to interaction and competition with other groups through trade, marriage, celebration, and war. Beauty, rarity or strangeness were parts of an object’s function as means to amaze and dazzle the viewer. This applied both to cult objects that were hidden away or destroyed after use, such as masks and sculptures of wood from ancestral cults such as Malanggan in New Ireland and male companies in Sepik, Maprik and Vanuatu, as well as weapons and tools such as shields from the asthma people and the Solomon Islands. clubs from Fiji, Tonga and the Marquesas Islands.

  • Countryaah is a website offering country profiles and lists of of countries in the continent of Oceania.

The human body was everywhere the object of decoration, and also the decoration of the body was to dazzle, thereby giving the warrior invulnerability and the dancer seductive charm. In Papua New Guinea, body painting and decoration are still used in the grand festivities held as part of the clans’ political competition. In Polynesia, tattooing was widespread, for example in the Marquesas Islands, Hawaii and among the Maori, and it was from here that the technique and name came to Europe. Tattoo and bast cloth (tapa) were treasures of the powerful Polynesian royal and chieftain families and were understood as a kind of wrapping of people who were tapu, i.e. possessed divine power. Today, tattooing has had a renaissance among Samoan immigrants and Maori in New Zealand, for example in youth gangs and among neo-traditionalists.

Souvenirs have been made for sale to Europeans since around 1800, and tourism is the main reason why many items are made today, both traditional types such as canoe decorations in the Solomon Islands and new things such as storyboards in Papua New Guinea and Palau. Lots of new art, painting, is also produced for local churches, public buildings and museums and often combines local and western motifs and techniques. The National Museum’s collections from Oceania come from from the two Galathea expeditions. See also sections on art under the individual place names.

Oceania Fine Arts

Australian Folk music

The Australian urinals’ music shows a wide variety of types and styles. However, only a minor part of the many ethnic groups’ music has been documented and studied by Westerners. Some common features appear to be in the diversity. The music is closely intertwined with dance, drama and visual arts in ritual and other contexts. It is mostly vocal with intricate metrics and rhythm.

Most ethnic groups divide music into three categories: music belonging to the whole group, music belonging to a family within the group, and music belonging to a particular individual. The first category includes songs about the group’s common history, hunting methods, etc., songs for magical purposes (eg rain ceremonies) or to cure the sick, and in southern Australia songs for different age groups. The second category includes songs about companies that have passed away deceased family members as well as songs about family secrets. The last category is songs that come to a person in the dream and which he then remembers when he wakes up. These songs can have widely different content. All categories can contain humorous, entertaining songs.

Melody, vocal tone and performance varies widely between groups. In northern Australia, a phrase often starts on a high note and then falls at small intervals about one octave. The next phrase starts again on the high tone. In southern Australia, small-scale melodies filled with micro-ranges are common.

The boundary between speech and song in ritual contexts is very fluid. The song is accompanied by many groups of strokes on different body parts and percussion instruments, especially wooden blocks or boomerangs against each other. Wines are also used throughout the continent. In central and western Australia, ulbura is played , a wooden trumpet approximately 60 cm long. In Northern Australia, rassel, a drum with skins (on the Cape York Peninsula) and didjeridu, a cone- shaped piece of a tree trunk eaten by termites, 60–240 cm long, 5–25 cm in diameter are used. Didjeridu has rich sound and is played both as a trumpet instrument and as a rhythm instrument; it is also used to enhance vocal sounds.

Australian Classical music

During the 19th century military and salon music dominated. From the middle of the century opera companies and symphony orchestras were also formed. Radio with its various ensembles has been an important music institution, college education in music has been expanded, and regional symphony orchestras have been established.

In the 1970s, a major project for the construction of music venues was started with the Sydney Opera House as the flagship. Australian music personalities include composers Percy Grainger, Malcolm Williamson, Nigel Butterley (born 1935), Peter Sculthorpe (1929–2014), Ross Edwards (born 1943), Brett Dean and Elena Kats-Chernin (born 1957), and vocalists Nellie Melba and Joan Sutherland.

Tongiving for the country’s art music life is the unique Musica Viva Australia (founded in 1945), the world’s largest chamber music organization, with annual international concert series and extensive educational programs for school children.

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