10. June 2015 · Comments Off on 440 … are we Nazi sympathizers? · Categories: Read Online

Musicians don’t agree on much, but they tend to concur that the note A in the middle of the treble staff should be tuned to 440 Hz. The International Standards Organization even issued guidelines to this effect back in the ’50s. But the conspiracy theorists will tell you that this pernicious tuning was promoted by the Nazis—Joseph Goebbels, chief propagandist for the Third Reich, imposed the 440 Hz tuning as part of a heinous plan to warp the consciousness of the masses.

I read it here.

A conspiracy theorists.

What the article doesn’t let you know is that 440 is NOT what a lot of orchestras use these days. But perhaps the author, who is a jazz person I think, wasn’t talking about classical music.

Still, he wrote:

The decision to standardize A at 440 Hz gained momentum in the U.S. during the early 20th century. No, you can’t blame Joseph Goebbels for this. Most of the U.S. music industry had switched to 440 Hz by the mid-’20s, and in 1936 the American Standards Association made the change official. A few holdouts refused to budge: the New York Philharmonic and some other orchestras relied on their own preferred tunings—invariably sharper than the standard. And I’ve encountered a few jazz saxophonists who play sharp as well, probably with the misguided intention of adding some bite to their horn lines. But most of the world has come to embrace the Yankee 440.

That’s not quite right. Europe using the “Yankee 440”? Really?

I read a small news item in Time Magazine years ago from either the 1920s or 30s that was all about France being annoyed with America because we played too sharp, and they wanted an International Standard of A-440. I should go hunt down that article … I saved it here somewhere. (This was back in the day when a magazine like Time actually had articles and news items about classical music in every publication. How about that?!)