Project description

Intonation and Concert pitch а1 = 432 Hz, Bulgarian and Worldwide Praxis, Variations, effect and results.

Scientific direction:
Cultural-historical heritage and national identity

Ivan K. Yanakiev,
PhD student
Milena Bojikova, Prof. D.Sc., scientific adviser
Research group “Musical modernity”
Institute of art studies, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences

  • Short annotation

The project will document the existence of a1= 432 Hz concert pitch in the contemporary world as a spontaneous harmonic choice in churches, kindergartens and schools; will research the subjective attitude towards the concert pitch with questionnaires of players and listeners after playing of/listening to music; in order to determine the existance or the lack of change in the brain activity during listening to music in the concert pitch, will examine the electrical activity  of the listeners by the means of EEG. The a1=432Hz concert pitch will be presented with a concert of the 432 Chamber Orchestra.

  • Description

Actuality of the theme

The height of the concert pitch defined by the tone ‘a’ from the first octave (a1), varies during the centuries. The first attempts for standardization date from the end of the 19th century. Since 1955 the musicians all around the world tune their instruments according to the ISO 16 standard – a1 = 440 Hz. All the documents from the meeting of the Technical Committee for establishing the ISO 16 standard in 1955 are missing. This is a ground for rising questions about the motivation for changing the standard of 435 Hz (Wien, 1885) to 440 Hz (Frankfurt, 1955).

Standardization of ISO 16 (and the following variations) is often neglected by the orchestra in Europe. They tune their a1 with 441, 442, 443 and even 444 Hz. The so called “baroque” orchestras implement lower values for a1 – 415 Hz, 430 Hz. The neglecting of the standard by the musicians themselves poses the question for the reasons behind that. The consider that the chosen by them height of the a1 possesses certain merits, which is viewed as an argument for a thorough integral study on the subject.

Another aspect of the research is the reign of the equal temperament, tacitly accepted as a standard method for tuning instruments with fixed pitch. In it the advantage is the equal use of the 24 major and minor tonalities on the piano keyboard. The result is that the “synthetic” intervals have equal width but the equality in the sound negates the essence of the modulation and the equal temperament turns the shift of the tonality into mechanic translation of the tonal centre by which all the tonalities differ by their pitch from one another but not by their ethos.

In the countries of Western Europe, North America, in Russia, in the developed Asian countries and Australia for decades there are specialized institutes of neuromusicology (biggest – BRAMS – Canada), which deal with the problems of the musical perception. The lack of such institutes in Bulgaria. The absence of such institutions in the country entrusts this project with responsibility for pioneering ideas and suggestions.

Current state of the research

The project offers a new approach – exploration of the influence of whole systems of elements of the musical perception – the concert pitch and the temperament, i.e. the frequency and the proportion between the sounding frequencies.

  1. In November 2015 Yanakiev made initial experimental psychological study, which results show, that the questioned subjects confirm the change of the feeling of sound by change of the height of the a1 from 440 Hz to 432 Hz, as well as by change in the temperament from equal to temperament with open fifths (“Open fifths temperament”)[1]. This gives ground for further developing of the study.
  2. The experience of the Ph.D. student as a conductor to the established by him chamber orchestra, where he implements the innovative method for tuning – a1 = 432 Hz + open fifths, show that the musicians change their attitude towards the played material with the change of the a1 and the temperament. As a result the musical idea beyond the sounding music comes to foreground as the personality together with the player’s brilliant technique stays in the background.
  3. An initial research of the sound material in the archive of the Institute of Art Studies has been done (recordings 1954-1979 of speech, orthodox chants and street
    shouts). Yanakiev found that the clerics intone the orthodox chants in a1 = 432 Hz concert pitch; the same is in the singsong speech of the children and in some folklore practices. The so far established observations show that there is a connection between the pitch of the intonation in the speech and the intonation by music making.

Goals and tasks

First goal is to determine whether the 432 concert pitch exists naturally in the contemporary sound reality. The following tasks are being set:

  1. Implementation of a series study of field recordings of the speech and singing by priests during offices.
  2. A series of studies with sound recording of children’s speech and singing in schools and kindergartens.

Second goal of the research is to determine whether there is a difference in the subjective perception for music in relation to the height of the concert a1 and the temperament. Tasks for implementing psychological study:

  1. A series of psychological experiments with instrumentalists and singers with the accompaniment, with instruments tuned in different concert pitches for a 1 and temperaments.
  2. A series of psychological experiments with listeners who listen to music examples in different pitches of a1 and the same temperament and different temperaments with the same picht of the concert a1.

The complex results will be based on the subjective rapports from the examined samples and from the objective information gathered by the study of the electric activity of the brain.

Expected resultsи

It is expected that the hypothesis that both on a subjective and on an objective level there is a difference in the perception of of music and a difference in the electric activity of the brain. The recordings in the different concert pitches and temperaments will be unique on a world wide scale document. The field recordings of contemporary Bulgarian clerics during offices and those of speech and singing of children will enrich the Institute of Art Studies’ sound archive.

[1] Renold, M.,Intervals, Scales, Tones and the Concert Pitch c=128 Hz”. East Sussex, 2004