THE “SCIENTIFIC PITCH” (C4=256Hz)
WHAT IS THE “SCIENTIFIC PITCH”?
Scientific pitch, also known as philosophical pitch, Sauveur pitch or Verdi tuning, is an absolute pitch standard that sets middle C (or C4) to 256 Hz. All the octaves of C are an exact round number in the binary system. For example, this frequency for middle C, 256 Hz, can be represented by (100000000)two. More usefully, the octaves of C remain a whole number all the way down to 1 Hz (in either counting system).
C4=256Hz was first proposed in 1713 by French physicist Joseph Sauveur, promoted briefly by Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi in the 19th century, then advocated by the Schiller Institute beginning in the 1980s.
Some sources claim the Scientific Pitch concept was based on the Schumann Resonance Frequency fundamental at 8Hz. This though does not appear to be a valid claim. After all, 256Hz as Concert Pitch was first proposed in 1713, but it wasn’t till 1893 that Professor George Francis FitzGerald speculated about these Resonance Frequencies and it wasn’t till 1952–1954 when the first attempts to measure the frequencies were done by Winfried Otto Schumann and H. L. König. However, in between 1960–1963 the first proper measures took place (by Balser and Wagner) when adequate analysis techniques became available. Until 1960/63 the exact frequencies were not known, about 250 years after 256Hz was proposed for the first time.
C=256 – AS “KEPLERIAN INTERVAL”
According to the Schiller Institute C=256 has a uniquely defined astronomical value, as a Keplerian interval (named after Johannes Kepler) in the solar system. The period of one cycle of C=256 ( 1/256 of a second) can be constructed as follows:
“Take the period of one rotation of the Earth. Divide this period by 24 (=2×3×4), to get one hour. Divide this by 60 (=3×4×5) to get a minute, and again by 60 to obtain one second. Finally, divide that second by 256 (=2×2×2×2×2×2×2×2). These divisions are all Keplerian divisions derived by circular action alone. It is easy to verify, by following through the indicated series of divisions, that the rotation of the Earth is a “G,” twenty-four octaves lower than C=256. Similarly, C=256 has a determinate value in terms of the complete system of planetary motions.”
HISTORICAL FACTS ABOUT THE SCIENTIFIC PITCH C4=256Hz?
In the list below, I have listed references about A4 = 430Hz / 431Hz. As noted above, A4=430.5Hz (aprox.) if C4=256Hz when using 12-Tone Equal Temperament.
- Between 1690’s and the early 1700’s, French acoustic physicist Joseph Sauveur first researched then proposed the “philosophical pitch” or “scientific pitch” (C4=256Hz) standard.
- Ernst Chladni (1756-1827), the leading acoustician in his time, defined C=256hZ as the scientific tuning in his textbook on the theory of music.
- c.1810 A=430.0, Paris. Tuning fork belonging to M. Lemoine, a “celebrated amateur.”
- In 1885 Giuseppe Verdi proposes the use of the Scientific Pitch (C4=256Hz) as new standard at an conference in Vienna without success.
- In 1988 the Schiller Institute initiated a campaign to make the “scientific pitch” (C4=256Hz) the new Standard Concert Pitch.
More information: Wikipedia | Schiller Institute
- Alexander J. Ellis. “On the History of Musical Pitch,” Journal of the Society of Arts, (March 5, 1880). Reprinted in Studies in the History of Music Pitch, Amsterdam: Frits Knuf, 1968.