The Curious Story of Low Pitch at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis

Anne Smith


Although it is well-known that pitch was not standardized before the 19th century, in the world of early music A415 Hz ‒ referred to as low pitch and exactly one tempered semitone below the international chamber pitch established in 1939 ‒ came to hold sway. Taking the history of pitch at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis as a case study, this article seeks to illustrate how cultural, pragmatic, and marketing factors from outside of the world of music, apart from actual historical considerations themselves, came to play a significant role in the acceptance of A415 Hz as the standard early music pitch. Since the nature of the decision-making factors does not support the aura of “authenticity” that A415 Hz has enjoyed for many years, an examination of these factors will hopefully lead to a more open attitude to choice of pitch for music of earlier eras, without banning the pragmatic convenience either of A415 or A440 Hz.


Ina Lohr (1903–1983)


Forschungsportal Schola Cantorum Basiliensis