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With the announcement of the death of the longtime political conspiracy theorist, sometime U.S. presidential candidate, and convicted fraudster Lyndon LaRouche today at the age of 96, I learned upon reading up on his biography that in the 1990s, among his varied initiatives was an advocacy for alternate tuning: he argued (and got a bunch of notable classical music figures to sign on to his organization's statement) that the A above middle C should be pitched not at 440, as is the standard these days, but at 432, a frequency that LaRouche called the "Verdi pitch", because that 19th century composer had once identified it as the optimal tuning for A4.

(LaRouche, as it happens, had a number of curious musical opinions. His distaste for popular music, combined with his penchant for conspiracies, led him to say, "Rock was not an accidental thing. This was done by people who set out in a deliberate way to subvert the United States. It was done by British intelligence.")

Of course, as the Wikipedia article on concert pitch reminds us, A has often been set at frequencies well above and below 440 Hz --by as much as a minor third-- and while that has been the standard for much of the 20th Century, even today there are minor variations in some major orchestras, and a different standard entirely for period ensembles.

That got me to wondering: what is the standard in drum corps? And have there been corps who deviate from the standard?

 

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19 minutes ago, N.E. Brigand said:

... A has often been set at frequencies well above and below 440 Hz --by as much as a minor third-- and while that has been the standard for much of the 20th Century, even today there are minor variations in some major orchestras, and a different standard entirely for period ensembles.

That got me to wondering: what is the standard in drum corps? And have there been corps who deviate from the standard?

 

IMO, the above edit was all that was needed. Anyway, whatever the choice of tuning frequency of A, the marimbas and other mallets used matters. Some are pitched at 440, some 443, some even 445. They cannot change pitch frequency. However, like brass instruments, tempature will impact the frequency produced.

Edited by Stu
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29 minutes ago, Stu said:

IMO, the above edit was all that was needed. Anyway, whatever the choice of tuning frequency of A, the marimbas and other mallets used matters. Some are pitched at 440, some 443, some even 445. They cannot change pitch frequency. However, like brass instruments, tempature will impact the frequency produced.

Ah, good point! So before there was a pit, was it the tuning of the bells that set the pitch for the rest of the corps?

(As for first half of my post, it seemed appropriate to note the inspiration for the question. He even got Pavarotti to sign his A432 statement!)

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34 minutes ago, Stu said:

IMO, the above edit was all that was needed. Anyway, whatever the choice of tuning frequency of A, the marimbas and other mallets used matters. Some are pitched at 440, some 443, some even 445. They cannot change pitch frequency. However, like brass instruments, temperature will impact the frequency produced.

anyone ever doing band Championships in Scranton in November will agree!

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22 minutes ago, N.E. Brigand said:

Ah, good point! So before there was a pit, was it the tuning of the bells that set the pitch for the rest of the corps?

(As for first half of my post, it seemed appropriate to note the inspiration for the question. He even got Pavarotti to sign his A432 statement!)

Just a quick note to say that the info on LaRouche was interesting, I just found it sort of like going through a Rube Goldberg machine to get to your inquiry. 😛

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Yes, I can be overfond of long convoluted sentences.

Just for fun, here's the famous first sentence of William Faulkner's Absalom! Absalom!

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From a little after two oclock until almost sundown of the long still hot weary dead September afternoon they sat in what Miss Coldfield still called the office because her father had called it that—a dim hot airless room with the blinds all closed and fastened for forty-three summers because when she was a girl someone had believed that light and moving air carried heat and that dark was always cooler, and which (as the sun shone fuller and fuller on that side of the house) became latticed with yellow slashes full of dust motes which Quentin thought of as being flecks of the dead old dried paint itself blown inward from the scaling blinds as wind might have blown them.

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An acquaintance of mine who teaches literature and composition likes to have her students compare and contrast that sentence with this one from another book:

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But either in his dreams or out of them, he could not tell which, Frodo heard a sweet singing running in his mind: a song that seemed to come like a pale light behind a grey rain-curtain, and growing stronger to turn the veil all to glass and silver, until at last it was rolled back, and a far green country opened before him under a swift sunrise.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

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So his followers at the airport should have been yelling “do you support bad frequencies” when you passed them without giving them money.... or trying not to look their way😳

Didn’t realize he was still around. Needed popcorn watching his campaign speechs on tv (he paid for air time) as they were.... well out there....

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Older brass instruments are evidently pitched differently. When I get the one restoration finished, I'll need to figure that stuff out. Maybe have a different set of valve crooks/tuning slide made eventually or something. I really don't want to take a saw to it, which I know some cats have to their horns.

And yes, tuning to what can't be tuned is the smart way to go.

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7 hours ago, JimF-LowBari said:

Didn’t realize he was still around. Needed popcorn watching his campaign speechs on tv (he paid for air time) as they were.... well out there....

Didn't he run for office from prison at one point? It seems that I remember something about that, but my memory has a few...holes.

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Regardless you should always tune your mellos a couple cents sharp.

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