Musical Numerology #1 ~ The Good, the Bad and the Illuminati: 440 Hz vs 432 Hz

The Claim: the official concert pitch standard A4=440 Hz is an EVIL pitch standard. It ruins our classical music. A4=432 Hz is a GOOD pitch standard. The EVIL pitch is a brainchild of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels (Bavarian Illuminati). The GOOD pitch resonates with the cosmos and your chakra's and it sounds better.

The evidence: musical arguments 

Is A4=432 Hz a special case in a musical sense? Hard to say. This particular frequency would appear to be just one of the many standards that have been used in the history of Western music. Here's an incomplete table that lists over 70 historical pitch standards, ranging from A4=376.3 Hz to A4=570.7 Hz. If anything, this table shows that there is no consensus about an 'ideal' pitch standard among classical musicians. Even today, many symphony orchestra's don't use the 440 standard, and for various reasons.

Furthermore, there is hardly any specific '432 Hz vs. 440 Hz' debate among trained classical musicians. There is however a lively general debate about tuning standards. On the whole, professional musicians don't seem to be interested that much in the 432 Hz-meme.

Advocates of the 432 standard often refer to the French musicians who went on strike in 1956 when the 440 Hz-standard was officially declared an ISO-standard. However, this reaction is not so surprising if you think about it in a cultural context: the 440 Hz standard was an English/German invention and French people really love to strike.

Advocates of the 432 standard also claim that this tuning sounds more 'relaxed', but that the effects are 'subtle'. In other words: people with trained ears (think professional classical musicians) are probably best qualified to say something about the specific qualities of this particular tuning standard.

Also, people who have absolute pitch might have something interesting to say. But generally speaking, musical tuning is a relative phenomenon, not an absolute phenomenon. Whether A4 is tuned to 432 Hz or 440 Hz or to any other (sensible) frequency, it's still A4. The absolute effects of a tuning are mostly related to the acoustics of the particular space where the music is performed, and/or the characteristics of a particular musical instrument.

Advocates of the 432 standard often claim that Stradivarius violins are optimized for their 'favorite' tuning. But that merely proves that it's possible for great craftsmen - like the violin makers of Cremona - to build an instrument with such precision that it's optimized for a certain tuning standard.    

The A4=440 Hz standard is mostly relevant for Western classical musicians (but often ignored). Electronic musicians, popular musicians etc. etc. are totally free to use any kind of tuning they like. There is no such thing as a tuning police (unless you'd want to qualify the advocates of the 432 standard as a 'tuning police').

The evidence: numerological arguments
REO Speedwagon's famous phrase "You can tune a piano but you can't tuna fish" pretty much sums up the problem. For 432 Hz-people this statement is not true. They claim that their favorite tuning was used by ancient peoples, because it is the natural tuning of the universe. In other words: if you listen to 432-compliant music you are in tune with the ONE. Ergo: theoretically, even a tunafish can be tuned using this technique, since the 432 Hz claim is pretty much 'universal'. Personal tuning preferences are not considered in this debate: it is assumed that each person's chakra's, DNA etc. respond exactly the same to any given frequency. Sounds kinda absolute and tyrannical.

Numerologically, you'd expect some pretty deep evidence for such far-reaching and universal powers; maybe a juicy coincidence involving a few physical constants or something. But the proof is usually thin and disappointing, it's mainly basic correlative thinking:

  • There are 24 hours in a day (43200 * 2 seconds);
  • The Kali Yuga lasts for 432.000 human years;
  • In the Great Pyramid the number 432 is everywhere;
  • In the 432-standard, C is tuned to 512 Hz, 256 Hz, and all the way down to 128-64-32-16-8-4-2-1 Hz which is considered to be a VERY SPECIAL AND VERY DEEP THING, although in fact the second-based Hertz (Hz) isn't a 'deep' unit of nature at all. It's simply an arbitrary and still evolving measuring device. Bummer..

The verdict
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. There is no extraordinary evidence to support these claims:
  • A4=440 Hz is an EVIL tuning;
  • A4=432 Hz sounds BETTER than other tunings;
  • Music tuned to A4=432 Hz is good for your DNA, chakra's etc.;
  • The Bavarian Illuminati are behind the ISO 440 Hz-tuning.

  1. Determine to enjoy music regardless of the tuning it's in;
  2. Take a course on Xenharmonics to liberate yourself from Western tuning schemes;
  3. Listen to gamelan music to really mess up your chakra's;
  4. Get roaring drunk and pound the table, telling everybody in a loud voice what dumb assholes the Bavarian Illuminati are;
  5. Watch the Vi Hart video below and then choose one of these three exercizes:
    - admit that you are a dumb asshole;
    - make up a conspiracy theory about Wau;
    - make up a conspiracy theory about A4=666 Hz, referring to the Bavarian Illuminati.