THE "432 HERTZ THING"?
In the West, modern standard concert pitch for the note A has constantly been changing over the centuries and since 1955, it has currently been set by the International Organization for Standardization at 440 Hz - but if anyone dares to Google search "A at 432 Hz", one is drowned in a whole tsunami of gigabytes of 'information' about how 432 Hz is the frequency of the cosmos, that this is a 'spiritual' frequency, that this was the reference pitch used by all ancient civilizations and that the 440 Hz we now use for A, was all a Nazi conspiracy to make mankind become more paranoid !
There is even a surprisingly common New Age assertion that 432 Hz is a "healing frequency" which magically matches the resonant frequency of human DNA - the real irony of the belief in the "healing frequency" stuff to do with 432 Hz, is that this has gotten confused amongst hard-core New Age believers with yet another New Age unproven assertion about primordial "Solfeggio" healing frequencies which are apparently at 528 Hz!
The most bizarre New Age muddled mayhem I have so far come across in my research, is the following allegation that even the pitch of our modern day dialling tone is an evil conspiracy to corrupt humanity with the "evil" sound of A at 440 Hz:
How on Earth did all this ridiculous "virtual intellectual Voodoo" come about, and is there any actual body of truth to be gleaned among the mountain of mumbo jumbo? As the ever skeptical philosopher, in my epistemological efforts to get to grips with what is true and what is not, I still adhere to the correspondence theory of truth, which roughly states that nothing is true, unless it corresponds either to facts, or in the absence of definitive facts, something is only likely to be true if there is an overwhelming body of arguments to support a specific assertion...or I might as well believe that the Oort Cloud is actually comprised of billions of flying tea cups hurtling around at the edge of the Solar System, just because lots of people on the Internet tell me this is so!
If there are 2 or more hypothesis which could be used to account for the same set of facts, then according to the common sense philosophical tool of Occam's Razor, which as very neatly summed up in the following quote from Wikipedia, states that:
"the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. Other, more complicated solutions may ultimately prove correct, but—in the absence of certainty—the fewer assumptions that are made, the better"
Using this "philosophical tool kit" approach to my investigative efforts then, I just really needed now to attempt to actually answer the question, why, from this noble scientific approach to music in the early 18th century, where on Earth did all the New Age nonsense about the vibrating frequency of DNA and the even more ridiculous notion that this was some form of primordial ancient, original tuning, and the Nazi conspiracy theory about Geobbels raising standard pitch to make all of humanity paranoid by infiltrating our telephone dialing tones etc, actually begin?
In order to begin to address these issues with some vestige of reason, I therefore opened a discussion thread on Facebook, to get some more invaluable input on these issues, to try and work out what was fact from fiction! Here is a quote of some of this discussion thread, which contained the most interesting revelations about the actual origin of all these tangled webs of mostly paranoid New Age nonsense:
"The Solfeggio Miracle Hz is 528 Hz, and a completely different movement. In fact, the scumbag Len Horowitz is against 432 Hz and slanders it at every opportunity. The 528 Hz scale he speaks of isn't musical. What Horowitz does, is steal other people's works, claims it as his own then exploits people for their cash. When people started pointing out that his scale sounded rubbish and not at all musical, he simply 'adjusted' the bollocks he was selling to then be about 'using frequencies to heal', he just changes his story so that he's never wrong. Obviously I have a very low opinion of the guy. 528 Hz was started by him.
The original frequencies and solfeg' research was done by Joseph Puelio from whom Horowitz stole the work, changed it, then sold it as his own in a bastardized version. Horowitz also tries to sue anyone who he perceives as a threat to his work, details on the times his done this are available on the Internet. He's also associated with Drunvalo Melchizedek who is just as much a 'bad egg'. Don't listen to either of them would be my recommendation. I believe Horowitz probably pulled the DNA theory out of his ass.
As for Joseph Goebels, he was a chief propaganda guy who worked for the Nazis during the ww's. He also at one point recommended 440 Hz as a standard, though this was not the time it became standardized. A more valid complaint about the standardization of 440 Hz is that it was voted upon by American jazz musicians, and many classical music companies/whatever were left out of the process entirely. So people took the 'propaganda' aspect of Joseph, and the 440hz standardization, and concluded 'mind control conspiracy'. " (Tomusan Mitcheru)
A very comprehensive blog on the subject of what is fact and fiction in the whole "432 Hz Saga" can be also be found in an article posted by Roel Hollander, entitled "432 Hz - What is Related and What is Not?". In this very detailed article, Hollander quite rightly states that "The number 432 can be found in a large number of “things”, in music, sacred geometry, astronomy, philosophy, religion, et cetera. But, numbers without units are nothing more than symbols, and symbols don't sound. In order for something to “relate”, there have to be units and characteristics that match."
The only other objective, rational information I have so far found on this whole convoluted issue, is the following passage on Wikipedia on Scientific Tuning - about the efforts in the 18th century to standardize the ever rising pitch. The whole 432 Hz thing was first suggested by Joseph Sauveur, in an effort to maintain rational ratios between the musical intervals:
"Sauveur proposed that all musical pitches should be based on a son fixe (fixed sound), that is, one unspecified note set to 100 Hz, from which all others would be derived. In 1713, Sauveur changed his proposal to one based on C4 set to 256 Hz; this was later called "philosophical pitch" or "Sauveur pitch". Sauveur's push to standardize a concert pitch was strongly resisted by the musicians with whom he was working, and the proposed standard was not adopted. The notion was revived periodically, including by mathematician Sir John Herschel and composer John Pyke Hullah in the mid-19th century, but never established as a standard.
In the 19th century, Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi tried to stop the increase in pitch to which orchestras were tuned. In 1874 he wrote his Requiem using the official French standard diapason normal pitch of A4 tuned to 435 Hz. Later, he indicated that 432 Hz would be slightly better for orchestras"
If anyone out there would like to please enlighten me further on the actual origins of the 432 Hz thing, please do leave your comments at the bottom of this blog!
OBJECTIVELY TESTING THE CLAIMS OF THE EFFECTS OF MUSIC AT 432 Hz
In order to objectively test the 432 Hertz thing, in 2014, I recorded a CD album, "The Lyre of Apollo: The Chelys Lyre of Ancient Greece"
My objective observations? Yes, the resulting music does sound calmer, but the skeptical philosopher in me still assumes that it is by far a simpler explanation (and therefore, by Occam's Razor, a much more likely explanation!), that rather than this calming effect results from the 'fact' that 432 Hz is the frequency of the cosmos with which my lyre playing is somehow magically resonating with etc, exactly the same calming effect would happen at 431 or 421 or whatever slightly lower Hz vibration, due to the decrease in excitement induced to the listener by the slightly lower pitch - it is the subtly lower pitch which has the calming effect, not some specific slightly lower pitch at 432 Hz - a completely arbitrary frequency, which simply happens to be at a very slightly lower pitch, in my opinion, given the lack of any other definitive evidence to the contrary. I have and always will be, a great advocate of Occam's Razor...I'm sure original Baroque music sounded even more "at one with the Universe", due to the even lower reference pitch of 415 Hz!
Indeed, back in 1998, I was lucky enough to acquire from a second hand music store, a Baroque fiddle made by Remerus Liessem in 1753, still with it's original shallower angled fingerboard and thinner bass bar, both setup to the lower Baroque pitch. When I played this violin at the lower Baroque pitch, it sounded far more calming to the ear than the same music played at modern concert pitch. Increasing concert pitch increases the feeling of tension, brilliance and excitement in the listener - which was precisely the reason why there was a tendency to increase concert pitch over the centuries in the first place!
Another important issue: the whole notion of 432 Hz was certainly used to provide rational number ratios as it was originally intended to do in the early 18th century when this tuning reference system was first proposed - but it does not follow from this, that ancient civilizations used 432 Hz as a reference pitch!
Ancient civilizations did not fully even understand the concept of what sound waves actually were, let alone did they own an oscilloscope to measure the precise number of Hertz vibrations per second - unless these were provided by extra-terrestrial beings, which I'm sure most of the "hard core" New Age 432 Hz obsessives also believe built the pyramids in Egypt...
WHAT WAS THE REAL MAGIC OF THE MUSIC OF ANTIQUITY?
The main irony of anyone who adheres to the 432 Hz thing, is that even in my own lyre improvisation with A at 432 Hz, it was physically impossible even during the course of the length of my improvisation, even for my modern nylon lyre strings to maintain the exact, precise pitch reference of 432 Hz due to the gradual slackening in tension of the strings, the slight imperfections in the uniformity of the stings gauges, the subtle changes in humidity affecting the wood of my lyre etc - it would have been even more impossible for the lyres and harps of antiquity with temperamental & non-uniform gauge strings made of natural fibres such as unpolished wound gut, hessian or silk to maintain their precise pitch for a performance of more than a minute or so, as I have discovered in my own experiments at using wound silk strings on my lyre. This can clearly be heard in my extended length single, "Ancient Lyre Strings", which featured my lyre strung with 100% pure wound silk strings tuned in the wonderfully pure just intonation of antiquity:
The most intriguing observation I made, through, during the course of this performance, was that even with the close approximation to just intonation which can be achieved with natural fibre strings, it was the wonderful purity of the sound of the intervals in just intonation which provided the magic, not the actual reference pitch of the musical mode I was attempting to tune to!
No matter what the starting note of the mode I play in, it is the wonderfully pure ratio of musical intervals in just intonation which makes the difference - just intonation creates intervals which sound almost three dimensional in quality, with an almost tangible intensity, in contrast to the impure compromise of intervals in modern equal temperament, which sound "muddy" in comparison. Compared to just intonation, equal temperament is like a rose without its scent!
Music in just intonation has the effect on the listener, of sounding simultaneously more calming, yet almost magically, at the same time, inspiring - just intonation was the real magic of the music of antiquity, not some arbitrary frequency measured at either 432 Hz or 528 Hz for that matter (which the ancients, with no understanding of the physics of what sound was, could not have ever precisely measured in the first place!).
HOW DOES MUSIC ACTUALLY HEAL?
Music certainly does have a healing quality, as so well told in the Biblical story of how David's lyre soothed the troubled mind of King Saul, but in my opinion, this healing quality was almost certainly not imparted at the level of DNA, as the "hard core" New Agers would have us believe!
Music can literally heal the Soul, because due to our truly archaic, pre-linguistic ability to express emotion through specific sounds, it follows that music is the only artistic medium which communicates the beauty of aesthetic emotion, directly to our higher cognitive faculties - in this way, like a magic carpet, music can transport us from our own inner sufferings and take us on a fantastic journey of inspiration and imagination whilst simultaneously instilling in us, an appreciation of the timeless geometrical symmetry of harmonious musical intervals and in doing so, music can in time, like it once soothed the troubles and tribulations of King Saul, restore the inner harmony of our very own Souls once more...
In closing this blog, I wish to emphasize that despite my often cynical sense of humour, it was not actually my intention to actively offend anybody during the course of my research - I merely wish to extract a few grains of truth from the jumble of unverifiable assertions which presently clutter the actual facts surrounding the 432 Hz thing! I openly welcome any constructively critical comments to this blog, in my effort to get even closer to what new truths can be found...many thanks!