How a centuries-old debate about musical tuning turned into a Nazi conspiracy theory

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Damn, can’t even listen to music anymore without those cultural Marxists interfering!


The only onscreen text in that video that didn’t have a misspelled word was the single word “Why?” I found that harder to deal with than 8Khz of pitch.


Older pianos are tuned at 432 mostly because can’t keep the tuning at the correct frequency, especially if left out of tune for a long time. And in related news acoustic pianos have a stretched tuning so the lower octave are tuned low and the high octave are tuned in a bit higher pitch than the lower one.


Oh gawd.

I’ve been over this with a pianist friend of mine who falls for every ridiculous theory that comes along.

When I pointed out that the difference between 432Hz and 440Hz is like the difference between two similar shades of red he got that weird quizzical faraway look, then countered with “it has to do with the resonance of the atmosphere of the planet.”

“Well” I replied, “first of all, atmospheric conditions change with altitude and the weather-- go look at a barometer-- and secondly Hertz is based on time, it’s cycles per second, and the idea of time is a human construct: plants and animal don’t know what a minute is.”

He has also tried to convince me of the validity of horoscopes and the zodiac. Tedious bullshit.

I saw a casual test someone did, playing a piece of recorded music pitched up and down for several listeners, there was no consensus that the version where middle A was 432 sounded any better than the others.


That’s some quality crackpottery.

Also, I couldn’t detect any difference between the 432 and 440 versions in that video. But then again, I’m far from a musical person!


Yes, the spelling was dire. Clearly a musician. (Ducks and runs for cover.) :wink:

And I wonder if the contrast between 432 and 440 would have sounded different if 440 had been first.
440 sounded slightly jarring coming after the 432 but now I’ve heard it I’m not sure I can unhear it even if I watch the second half of the video before the first half.


I think that’s the Cultured Marxists messing with your music.

I was confused by the video claiming that the Nazis opted for 440hz. Aren’t the Nazis all about 88hz? Although, if you divide 440 by 88, you get 5; which is number of letters in the name, “Adolf”! Blimey, maybe the conspirators are on to something after all!??


Between World Wars I and II, accelerating during the 1930s, scientific studies in musical frequencies best suited for war-making were funded by the Rothschild-Rockefeller alliance, represented by the Rockefeller Foundation and U.S. Navy.
A major objective of this war, and profitable population control, research was to determine the musical factors capable of producing psychopathology, emotional distress, and “mass hysteria.”

So wait…does this mean the years the Beatles spent in Hamburg was Cold War psy-ops training?




Those aren’t real cultural marxists…

That’s not even new!


This is hearsay, but my high school band director told me that professional orchestras tuned slightly higher (442Hz IIRC) because it made them sound “brighter”.


Google confirms that this does happen, which is neat. I had no idea this was a thing.


So the crazy is fun, but the real story is nearly as interesting. Behold the sharpness wars:


There is something to that, and that’s the thing that strikes me as funny; pitch is only quasi-standardized even now. The “official” A of orchestras varies from 440 to 442 or even higher in Germany (I’ve heard of 445. Ouch!). But I also have rarely been in an orchestra where pitch didn’t creep up slightly over the course of things. They might say they tune to 440 or 441, but if you actually tune there half way through rehearsal you’ll feel flat, so people tune ever so slightly higher, pushing the pitch up. Enough years go by and depending on how people react to that (i.e. give in or fight it) that’s how you end up with one country many Hz higher than another.

We’re having a good laugh about the idea, but it’s not far off from the long held notion (parodied effectively by Nigel Tufnel) that certain keys necessarily evoke certain emotions.


Could we somehow make this the main focus of QAnon? Let IHeartRadio have a headache and leave the rest of us alone.


I’m mildly familiar with where-is-middle-A from discussions of original-instrument/perfomance of early music, explanations of why Bach wrote the Well-Tempered Clavier, and why lutes have moveable frets. Which leads me to think that the more interesting question is the origin of the various pre-modern standardization of middle-A. Was there something about the construction and physics of older instruments that made, say, 442 Hz a starting point? And why would there be regional variations? A musical scale is, after all, a human-made schema applied to raw physical phenomena.


A lot of the 432 Hz proponents also co-mingle that idea in a confusing way with various tuning alternatives to equal temperament – i.e., it isn’t just the frequency of A but the ratios to other frequencies which does have an impact on sound, but then they ascribe the difference back to the frequency of A rather than the relationships of the other notes.

Simply pitch bending down by a couple percent will be noticeably different in an A/B test but hard for most people to recognize when standing alone. That is why we use tuning forks! This is also why you get effects like the pitch wars and pitch drift – moving to slightly higher or slightly lower frequency will make your sound relatively brighter and more energetic or more somber and serious, but once that is normalized you have to go even higher or lower.


I don’t know about political implications of tuning and temperment, but I do have 2 strong opinions:

  1. Twelve-tone equal temperment is shite. If you insist on equal temperment, base it on 53 tones (as in Turkish music theory), which can be much closer to just intonation.

  2. Either our standardized AC frequency should be changed to harmonize with A440, or A should be changed to a frequency that harmonizes with our AC frequency, because AC buzzing is omnipresent and even when you don’t notice it, causes a constant, subtle dissonance when listening to music. Problematic to fix of course, since different countries have different standards.

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