Smelling The Color 9

Smelling The Color 9

In a press release today, the Isaacs announced their upcoming Daywind Records CD which will release in September. The full title is Nature’s Symphony in 432: A Journey From Pain To Praise.

The odd part of the CD title (yes, I mean the number 432) is addressed as follows:
“After much research and prayer, the group chose to record the project in 432 tuning, the frequency which most closely reflects the sounds found in nature…’Nature’s Symphony in 432 is not what we consider a typical Isaacs record,’ the Isaacs share. ‘As the title itself indicates, it was recorded in a different tuning (432hz), one that we feel God led us to use.’ ”

Here is a brief explanation of tuning:
Sound is created when something vibrates. It is perceived when it impacts the eardrum, causing it to vibrate in a similar fashion. The pitch (high or low) is determined by the rate of vibration. Most instruments are tuned so that the A note in a specific octave vibrates precisely 440 times per second. An array of optional tuning methods have been used throughout history, including pitching that same A down to 432 vibrations per second (with all the other notes adjusted as well).

Now, just as gently as I know how, I’d like to respectfully address the statements made by the Isaacs and Daywind in their press release regarding the superiority of 432 tuning:

IT IS UTTER NONSENSE!

Before you stop reading and fly to the comments to blast me, understand that I have no issue with recording using 432 tuning, just-tempered tuning, or any other alternate tuning. Tweaking standard conventions like tuning is actually very interesting to me. I’m also a huge fan of the Isaacs, and I expect I will enjoy hearing this CD as well.

I am only taking exception to the notion that 432 tuning is some sort of spiritual upgrade or, as one proponent has put it, “like hearing God speak” compared to 440 tuning. Saying 432 tuning is more aligned with nature than 440 tuning is like imagining you’re more healthy when you set your thermostat at 71 degrees rather than 72 degrees. You might like it better, but it doesn’t affect your health and well-being beyond that personal preference.

Sure, you can hear a difference if you play the same piece back tuned to 432 rather than 440. It might sound better to you or it might not. If there is no way to compare the two and you don’t have an ear with perfect pitch, you probably won’t even notice. It is merely a personal preference, not a universal benefit.

Here’s what I can’t understand. The Isaacs went to all this trouble to get the pitches tuned just right, but they also chose to feature former NFL quarterback Terry Bradshaw’s vocals on one song. I’M JOKING!!! (a little)

The Isaacs may be the only artist with Southern Gospel connections to embrace this idea, but you only need to search “432 tuning” in Google to explore it further. It’s more widespread than I would have imagined.
There are fanatics out there who approach this like a religion, which, for the record, I’m NOT saying is the case with the Isaacs. If you’re trying to get to God by how you tune your instruments, you may as well try to smell the color 9.

David Bruce Murray

David Bruce Murray is a church music director in Ellenboro, NC. He is the author of Murray's Encyclopedia Of Southern Gospel Music and the owner of both SGHistory.com and MusicScribe.com. David plays piano for Southern Sounds Quartet and the Foothills Community Choir.

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11 Comments

  1. Justafan
    Reply July 23, 11:17 #1 Justafan

    Like you, I enjoy the Isaacs and the their sound. Love their creativity, out of the box arrangements and projects.

    However, I agree with you that the whole thing sounds like nonsense. As a musician I get the whole tuning thing and its fine and interesting actually, but the whole over-spiritualizing the dropped tuning comes across as over the top and odd.

    Once again, I think this will be a great record and i look forward to hearing it. I agree though…it was an odd press release




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  2. canuk
    Reply July 23, 11:38 #2 canuk

    Bradshaw




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  3. quartet-man
    Reply July 25, 09:24 #3 quartet-man

    I feel like such an unclean sinner for having used a 440 tuning in church all these years. I can adjust it on the Clavinova, but will have to get the piano tuner and to fix it on the baby grand piano.




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  4. Tad Kirkland
    Reply July 26, 02:59 #4 Tad Kirkland

    Them saying it more closely reflects the sound in nature isn’t them saying it’s more spiritual. I assume oceans, rivers, birds, etc more closely match this pitch. Them saying God led them to record it this way isn’t them saying this method is more spiritual.
    I find this very intriguing and much more interesting than than the other 50 Haun or Collins SG albums with the same 5-10 writers (i.e. Black/West/C Smith/Peck/Wilkinson) that will come out this year.
    I’m even more intrigued with the lack of Gaither connection on this project. Maybe he agreed with you! And I love Smell The Color Nine–great Chris Rice project.




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    • David Bruce Murray
      Reply July 26, 09:37 David Bruce Murray Author

      “I assume oceans, rivers, birds, etc more closely match this pitch.”

      You’re joking, right?




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      • 1234miles
        Reply September 09, 13:51 1234miles

        They seem to agree…from their website

        Scientific experiments are proving that birds sing, whales bellow, and untrained human voices naturally sing in 432 tuning, only to name a few examples.




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  5. lee65
    Reply July 27, 09:20 #5 lee65

    Hope they’re not going “new age” on us. I love The Isaacs and I’m sure I’ll like their new project, as I have many of their others!!!




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  6. 1234miles
    Reply September 09, 13:45 #6 1234miles

    For those of us that don’t understand the phrase “the frequency which most closely reflects the sounds found in nature”…can you explain what they meant. How does it “reflect the sounds found in nature.

    Separate question… If I’m singing along with the piano will the pitch I’m singing at need to be adjusted to stay in tune…..whatever that is…




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    • David Bruce Murray
      Reply September 09, 15:01 David Bruce Murray Author

      To your first question, sound is measured in vibrations per second. 1 vibration per second=1 hertz (hz). The A above middle C is typically tuned to 440 hz, and every other note is tuned relative to where that particular A is tuned.

      A=432hz is another setting that a good many artists, mostly of the new age variety, have come to associate with a more spiritual value, because they say the earth is tuned to that frequency. In their CD liner notes, the Isaacs even go so far as to suggest that God’s own voice was tuned to A=432 when He created the earth.

      So, to answer your question, they are claiming that sounds found in nature are often tuned to A=432. If your keyboard or guitar is tuned to A=432, for example, you should be able to play along without these sounds from nature sounding off key. The Isaacs even included some bird sounds on one of their songs. There’s also the idea that you’ll feel more relaxed if you listen to music tuned in A=432 hz. A=440 hz tuning is often described as “harsh” sounding in comparison.

      To your second question, whenever you sing with a piano, you must match the piano’s tuning with your voice in order to be in tune with it. If the piano is tuned to A=440hz, and you sing that note at a slightly higher frequency…say A=445hz…then you would sound sharp in relation to the piano. If you go the other way and sing your A at 435hz, or even the magical 432hz, then you’ll be flat compared to the piano.




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      • Kyle Boreing
        Reply September 13, 10:17 Kyle Boreing

        Who’s to say, however, that the birds weren’t auto-tuned?? :)




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