The Campaign To Lower the Tuning Pitch
On April 9, 1988 at a conference on "Music and Classical Aesthetics" sponsored by the Schiller Institute at the Casa Verdi in Milan, Italy, a worldwide campaign was launched to restore the lower tuning pitch of the classical composers from Bach through Verdi, a pitch based on a Middle C of 256 Hz, which in turn is grounded in the physical laws of our universe.
This campaign had been originally inspired by Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr., whose collaborators uncovered the historical evidence that Giuseppe Verdi, Italy's great composer and nation-builder, had successfully battled to impose a diapason of A=432, based on Middle C=256, as the official tuning of the Italian armed forces in 1884.
The Milan conference heard presentations, among others, from Prof. Bruno Barosi of the Cremona International Institute of Violinmaking, Dr. Jonathan Tennenbaum on the astrophysical basis of the C = 256 tuning, and soprano Renata Tebaldi on the absolute necessity to reverse the tendency toward raising the pitch in performance, in order to save the voices of today's and tomorrow's singers. World-famous Verdi baritone Piero Cappuccilli demonstrated the difference between the Verdi tuning and today's higher pitch by singing two Verdi arias in the two tunings.
In the months following the conference, the movement to return to "Verdi's A" has rapidly gained momentum, and in July, at a press conference in Rome, Senators of the Republic Boggio and Mezzapesa announced they were introducing a law into the Italian Senate to make A=432 the mandatory pitch for all state-subsidized performances and teaching institutions.
On December 12, 1988, Norbert Brainin and Gunter Ludwig performed a concert of works by Bach, Schumann, and Beethoven in the "Verdi Tuning" at the Max-Joseph Saal in the Residenz in Munich, West Germany. This historic concert provided further concrete evidence to back up the campaign for the proposed Italian law.
Petition to Lower the Standard Pitch
This petition was first circulated at the Schiller Institute's Milan conference on April 9, 1988, and has been signed since that time by leading musicians from around the world.
WHEREAS the continual raising of pitch for orchestras provokes serious damage to singers, who are forced to adapt to different tunings from one concert hall or opera to the next, thus altering the original texture and even key of the works they perform;
WHEREAS the high standard pitch is one of the main reasons for the crisis in singing, that has given rise to "hybrid" voices unable to perform the repertoire assigned to them;
WHEREAS in 1884, Giuseppe Verdi had the Italian government issue a decree establishing A = 432 cycles (corresponding to middle C = 256) as the "scientific standard pitch," correctly stating in a letter to the government Music Commission that it was absurd that "the note called A in Paris or Milan should become a B- flat in Rome";
WHEREAS even for many instruments, among them the Cremona violins, ancient organs, and even the piano, modern high tuning is deleterious, in that it does not take physical laws into account;
THE UNDERSIGNED DEMAND THAT the Ministries of Education, Arts and Culture, and Entertainment accept and adopt the normal standard pitch of A=432 for all music institutions and opera houses, such that it become the official Italian standard pitch, and, verysoon, the official standard pitch universally.
The petition has been signed by numerous artists from around the world, including singers Elly Ameling, Fedora Barbieri, Grace Bumbry, Carlo Bergonzi, Piero Gappuccilli, Maria Chiara, Giuseppe Di Stefano, Dietrich FischerDieskan, Mirella Freni, Christa Ludwig, Pilar Lorengar, Leona Mitchell, Birgit Nilsson, Louis Quilico, Ruggero Rainiondi, Bidu Sayao, Peter Schreier, Joan Sutherland, and Renata Tebaldi conductors Richard Bonynge,Luciano Chailly, Gianandrea Gavazzeni, Rafael Kubelik, Reinhard Peters and Klaus Weise, and instrumentalists Norbert Brainin(violin). Frans Bruggen (flute), Helmut Hucke (oboe), GunterLudwig (piano), Siegfried Palm (violoncello), and Norman Shetler (piano).
A Unique Experiment
November 6, 1988 will undoubtedly go down in musical history since, on this day, in an internationally famous musical Institute, the scientific proof was given that music sounds more beautiful in the "Verdi tuning" of C=256 Hz (corresponds to A=432 Hz) than in the higher tuning commonly used today.
In a simple but extraordinarily conclusive experiment, it was demonstrated that the sounds produced in the low tuning have a greater abundance of overtones. The result: The sounds have more color, and their volume and carrying capacity are greater.
Prof. Bruno Barosi, director of the Physical Acoustics Laboratory at the International Institute for Violinmaking in Cremona, and Prof Norbert Brainin, first violin of the unforgettable Amadeus Quartet, carried out the experiment together at the institute's headquarters in historic Palazzo Raimondi. Brainin played the Omobono Stradivarius of 1736.
In carrying out the experiment, Brainin played on the four open strings G, D, A, and E, as well as the corresponding octaves, first in the low tuning and then in the high. Brainin's precision in intonation astonished the Cremonese experts, who have had many great violinists as guests at their institute.
Without fail, Brainin each time hit the octave, "exactly to the Hertz," and thus twice the frequency of the open string, in each tuning. Using computers, Barosi and his assistants carried out spectroscopic analysis of the recorded sounds that were finally drawn in the form of curves. Comparison of the curves produced an unambiguous picture: The sounds in the deep tuning were distinguished by their abundance of overtones, both with regard to the number of such and to the volume.
In a further experiment, the recording demonstrated the rate at which the Omobono Stradivarius reacted to the entire spectrum of frequencies from 20 to 20,000 Hz, the typical pattern of an "old violin of the Cremona School," and really quite similar to the famous Ii Cremonese Stradivarius of 1715 that is displayed in the Cremona Town Hall. Remarkably, the violin showed its best resonance at 259 Hz, and thus quite close to C=256 Hz.
The Cremona demonstration was recorded for TV, and broadcast on the regional news. On Nov.24, Professor Barosi explained the experiment at a hearing in Rome at the Ministry of Culture.
LaRouche on Classical Aesthetics
The following is excerpted from Lyndon LaRouche's "Tuning and Register as Policy Issues," written in early 1988 as part of the process that led to the Milan conference on tuning.
My specific contributions bearing upon aesthetics have been two. First, out of my work on the intelligible representation of creative mental activity in the physical sciences, I have been enabled to show the nature of that creative mental activity which distinguishes an artistic musical composition, for example, from an imitation of natural beauty I have also been able to demonstrate, that creative mental activity of that sort is associated with a very specific quality of emotion, coincident with the New Testament significance of the Hellenic Agape or Latin Caritas, and more simply identified as the emotion of "tears of joy," as distinct from, and opposite to the "erotic" impulse of unbridled romanticism.
If we employ the mathematical physics of Gauss and Riemann in an appropriate way, we are able to supply a rigorous form of intelligible representation of creative mental activity as this applies to valid fundamental discoveries in the physical sciences, and applies also to creativity in classical musical compositions of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, et al. By examining counterpoint from this vantage-point, we are able to show how creativity is explicitly represented in such compositions, and how the registral characteristics of vocal polyphony function within the well-tempered domain to provide the ground upon which creative activity works.
It happens, that creative mental processes have the same characteristic we associate with the classical harmonics of natural beauty. Thus, beauty, so defined, so superimposed upon natural beauty, is the proper elementary requirement of art.
The qualities of the properly trained singing voice are a form of natural beauty. The classical instruments are properly designed to imitate the quality of beauty of such a singing voice. Interpretation of a classical composition flows from this. One must grasp the way in which the composer's creative faculties have imposed a development upon the composition; that characteristic feature of the unifying developmental process becomes the idea of the composition as a whole.
However, this idea is set within certain conventions. The first set of conventions are those pertaining to natural beauty as the registration and well-tempered ordering of the singing voice defines this. The second set of conventions is associated with the principles of classical poetry, in which the classical composers were steeped.
With insight into the creative conception defining the composition as a whole, and by adherence to those conventions of the classical musical domain, an effective interpretation in performance follows, with lesser or relatively greater degree of perfection.Music is thus enabled to partake of all of the non-plastic arts. It is immediately poetry. Polyphony and poetry embedded naturally in sic the qualities of classical dramatic tragedy.
Since classical musical composition's situating of the creative processes of mind in a context of natural beauty evokes naturally the sense of Agape, the natural emotion of great musical performance is always akin to "tears of joy." Hence, classical musical performance is a sacred, spiritual matter, whether the setting is a religious or secular one. It celebrates and affirms both human creativity and Agape in a unified way. It nourishes the soul, strengthens it, brings moments of beauty into a world filled with uglinesses, and evokes among audiences that emotion best suited for fostering social relationships consistent with agapic love for mankind.
There are few instruments so noble, so effective, to reach into the aching mass of humanity, as to teach children to sing by emphasis on bel canto methods, and by introducing to them as they are able participation in some aspects of the great classical musical repertoire. Great poetry, great classical tragedy, and music, are the great companions of a daily effort to uplift the spirits of men and women, and children most emphatically.
We have seen parents of children from families themselves in most reduced circumstances, watching and listening as their children sing in choruses working in such directions. We have seen often enough the approximations and outright expressions of tears of joy from those parents. Seeing this, we know what a precious thing it is we defend, when we work for the defense of sound principles of bel canto, and for the conditions under which those principles are preserved.
If we situate the requirements of the bel canto singing voice so, the larger importance of the issue, to all people, as well as to singers, is posed to us. The participation in beauty made intelligible to performers and audiences, is one of the means by which our imperiled civilization might be rescued from the doom toward which it seems to be proceeding.
On that account, I propose that while we defend what the empirics of bel canto singing show us must be defended, we also reflect upon the more profound implications of that which we defend. It was the classical movement in painting, architecture, poetry, drama, and music which contributed so much to the best which our civilization achieved in the past; we need those qualities, almost desperately, to preserve that which we appear to be on the verge of losing altogether.