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CHAT: concert pitch

From:John Cowan <jcowan@...>
Date:Wednesday, October 8, 2003, 20:16
Christophe Grandsire scripsit:

> Really?! I've always been taught (including by music teachers) that the > "la" (as we call it, in a much nicer way than simple letters :)) ) was > 440Hz, and that it was such everywhere, by international agreement (I > wonder if it's not part of the SI specifications...).
It is not SI, but it is an ISO standard (ISO 16:1975), first established by an international convention in London in 1939. It's nice to know that with the world on the brink of the largest war ever fought, people were still taking the time to agree on an international standard concert pitch. Before that, there were various national standards: the French established A=435 in 1859 by law, and the (British) Royal Philharmonic Society set A=439 in 1896. It is known that Mozart favored A=422 and Handel A=423. Generally speaking, higher pitches (as high as A=567 in the case of some pipe organs) produced a more brilliant tone, but were murderous on the human voice with its fixed tessitura; the A=440 standard is a compromise. BTW, in Britain the note in question is notated "a'", and in the U.S. it is notated "A4", based on the number of octaves on a standard piano. -- "Clear? Huh! Why a four-year-old child John Cowan could understand this report. Run out and find me a four-year-old child. I can't make head or tail out of it." --Rufus T. Firefly on government reports