432Hz – The eternal debate
For a few years now we’ve assisted to a debate on the “correct” frequency to be used in tuning. Historical facts seem to be pretty shady on the subject but here’s what I have found doing some research. The 432Hz frequency comes from a natural resonance with the base frequencies of both the universe and our organism. Music played at 432Hz has a warmer tone and propagates in the body giving a sense of peace and energy.
432Hz resonates with the frequency of 8Hz: in a scale where the A is at 440Hz, the C is at 261Hz; but if we take the 8Hz and move five octaves up we reach a C at 256Hz, which consequently makes the A at 432Hz. Following the principles of harmonics by which any produced sound automatically resonates all the other multiples of that frequency, higher and lower, a C at 256 Hz propagates vibrations to all the C in other octaves, making the 8hz frequency naturally resonate.
Why is 8hz important?
8 HZ is common to quite a few things around us:
- 8Hz is the pulse of planet earth, aka “Schumann resonance” ;
- 8 Hz is the working frequency of the DMT molecule, a substance produced by our pineal gland;
- 8 Hz is the replication frequency of human DNA;
- 8 Hz is the working rhythm of the alpha waves of our brain to which the two hemispheres of our brain work together.
360Hz ~ 415Hz ~ 432Hz ~ 440Hz ~ 460Hz
Plenty of researchers, scientists and musicians experimented with different frequencies, A=432Hz being of course one of them. This tuning has allegedly been used for ages, since the ancient Greek and Egyptians: to my knowledge though, there is no historical evidence of it. Before the 20th century a whole lot of ranges where used between 360Hz and 460Hz. It is only assumed that 432Hz was the most commonly used. The concert pitch was changed to the 440Hz only in 1953, in London, though other attempts to change to a higher tuning were made way before that.
Fact of the matter is that the first pitch fork was invented in 1711, which means that before that people were tuning by ear to whatever A was there. I can imagine, for instance, that a portative organ wouldn’t exactly be able to hold the same exact frequency all the time. Thus, a violin tuning to it would tune higher or lower.
Let’s go back a bit and look at some dates with the following 440Hz infographic
One in particular, the 1939 London conference, has caught everyone’s attention because the biggest fan of the 440Hz tuning was no other than Joseph Goebbels. Now, the question is:
why one of the highest ranking Nazi officers would be bothered with such matters on the verge of WWII?
The impact of 440Hz on human behaviour
Between the two world wars quite a few researches were financed to study the positive or negative influence of different frequencies on humans. The pioneers of such researches in the USA were the Muzak Corporation (with researchers Burris and Meyer) and the Princeton Radio (which by the way involved also Albert Einstein in it) at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS). It turned out that the 440 frequency had more than a negative impact, but, generally, people subjected to these frequencies were more aggressive and belligerent. So here’s an answer:
why not turn this into an advantage to train more aggressive soldiers?
Frequency of words and sounds: Masaru Emoto
It could be quite convenient when one’s about to go to war. All in all, it can be explained quite easily: as Dr. Masaru Emoto demonstrated, words and sounds have the power to change the structure of water: when exposed to positive words, water answers with beautiful and organized crystals, while it appears deformed when exposed to negative words.
So, where does this leave us?
It’s not quite clear why 440Hz has been favored. Conspiracy theories aside, I think one question can be asked: if 432Hz is, in fact, a better option, what’s preventing us from going back to it or at least try it out on a larger scale?
I’m quite sure that, if anything else, more than one singer would rejoice for it…
If you’re curious to hear the difference here’s an app that will play your music at 432Hz.
If you understand Italian, the video on the left shows a conference on the subject by Edoardo Casini. The short documentary on the right, by the same author, is in English.
Resources and links:
“The Sensations of Tone as a Physiological Basis for the Theory of Music” by Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz
The ‘Back to 432 Hz’ committee
Timeline used in the infographic – Special thanks to Roel Hollander for his comments and data
“Intervals, scales, tones and the concert pitch C=128hz” by Maria Renold
 the Schuman resonance is not exactly set at 8Hz: the fundamental can sometimes be at 8Hz, but also higher and lower, like 7.3Hz or 8.4Hz for example. It is generally said to be on an average of 7.8Hz; 8Hz is a common roundup
A video series with an analysis of structure, phrasing, and, of course, conducting tips of repertoire works: from Mozart to Brahms, from Beethoven to Debussy. A new episode every week!