I can't find the references at the moment, but I gave a paper at a long-ago
ARSC about this issue. I'm depending on memory for the dates, but it'll be
The U.S. Navy adopted A-440 in 1916. The National Bureau Standards did so
in or about 1918.
I'm pretty sure that the bands of most or all U.S. Armed Service bands that
were in training and later participated in WW I were equipped with A-440
It is my speculation that many older instruments were given by masters to
servants or found their way into hock shops, which thus made such
instruments available to poorer musicians. I've not seen any writing about
this issue during the formative jazz band years. Those more versed in the
reminiscences of the early layers may have encountered comments about
adjusting or not adjusting tunable instruments and, where impractical,
living with the sound.
In the early 1960s I contacted a piano tuner through Steinway, a fellow
whose responsibilities included the instruments used by Victor during
Caruso's day. He told me that they always tuned tuned to A= 440. I believe
I included this somewhere in one of my American Record Guide columns then as
Each orchestra has a collection of tuning forks, or, at least, used to, and
their period of use is often documented.
As to older situations, read "The Story of A" by - can't recall his name.
It carefully explain s and documents pitch issues over the centuries when a
court in Germany hired an Italian or French court composer who then had
instruments made for use during his tenure. It also talks about the issues
of different pitches for instrumental and instruments with vocal music and
organ keyboards that played in either of two pitches, depending on the type
Pitch is also affected by temperature. The way concert halls are and were
heated had a direct effect as well.
It's really complicated and fascinating.
From: Tom Fine
Sent: Tuesday, April 28, 2015 6:12 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [ARSCLIST] speaking of pitch
This is a good telling of John Marks' tortured journey on discovering a
seemingly small but very
audible pitch error.
I did some further reporting with people I know who are very familiar with
the EMI classical
library. Apparently, the fast-pitched tape from which all digital media have
been mastered came from
Capitol USA, and no one can locate the original 2-track master tape made by
Carson Taylor, from
which the first edition USA albums were mastered.
Now, after all of this consternation, it seems to me that one could do as I
did -- own the HDTracks
96/24 download and then simply apply pitch-correction software to it. I
couldn't hear any audible
degradation after doing that and, in fact, it sounded better because it
turns out that once it's in
A=440 (to which Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra strictly tuned), the music
relaxes and flows
better, just from that very slight slow-down in tempo.
My personal opinion is that John Marks' dream of remastering this recording
from the 4-channel
Dynatrack tapes will never happen, but I do hope that Carson Taylor's
original 2-track master (ie a
second-generation tape, made directly from the Dyntrack session tapes) will
be found and this pitch
error then corrected in all current in-print media.
-- Tom Fine