Tuesday, March 23, 2010

It rises.

Aside from my dips into the early music world, where an A of 415 or 466 Hz is common (and, conveniently, about a half-step down or up from 440), my A of reference has always been 440. But now, with instrumentalists-in-training in the household, we can put off no longer raising the living room piano to the 443 which is now basically standard for strings and winds in much of Europe  That's a bit less than 12 cents, but still a noticeable difference.  In general, I dislike pitch inflation of this sort, which is generally promoted as being done in the name of increased "brilliance,"  an effect I find slight and even then not in balance with the cost of extra strain in upper registers for singers or brass, but if the rest of the band or orchestra is tuning up to 443, you're more or less stuck with the increase.

One great additional practical disadvantage of this comes, of course, with existing works involving combinations of instruments and electronics or using tuned percussion.  When electronic patches can be reset for live electronics or if works made in recorded media can be recreated at the higher standard without altering tempi, okay, a lot of work, but it can be done; but other classics of electronics may not be retunable and may instead require that instrumentalists tune down to the older standard.  As for mallet percussion, the tradition was to tune the bars slightly high to the standard (say 442), which tend to float down under the heat of stage lighting), and now, I suppose, it can require an even higher tuning.  A lot of unecessary bother, AFAIC.


Office of the Cultural Liaisons said...

Something is wrong here. Heat will lower a bar not raise it. Cold will raise a bar as it contracts the distance between the molecules increasing stiffness. One must always be careful when tuning for this reason. the heat of working on it lowers it that when cool ends up higher.

jon brenner said...

every group i am currently playing in requires A=415. i cannot even use my recorders in these groups. hooray for acrophobia!