Musicology Seminar (a)


Week 2: Performing pitch: The road to Concert pitch

Essay Title

  1. EITHER To what extent is Concert pitch the outcome of prior European standards? Consider known pitch standards from the seventeenth century onwards.

  2. OR Trace the events that led to the international agreement on Concert pitch in 1939. Has that agreement been justified by subsequent developments in the performance of classical music?


  1. Alexander John Ellis, ‘The History of Musical Pitch’. Journal of the Society of Arts, 28 (1880), 293–336 (jstor)

  2. ————, ‘The History of Musical Pitch in Europe’, in Hermann Helmholtz, On the Sensations of Tone as a Physiological Basis for the Theory of Music, transl. Ellis, 3rd English edn (London: Longmans, 1895), 493–522 (web)

  3. Bruce Haynes, A History of Performing Pitch: The Story of ‘A’ (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2002) (library)

  4. Beverly Jerold, ‘Pitch in the Vocal Works of J. S. Bach’, Bach, 31 (2000), 74–95 (jstor)

  5. Llewelyn S. Lloyd, ‘International Standard Musical Pitch’, Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, 98 (1949), 74–89 (jstor)

  6. Arthur Mendel, ‘Pitch in Western Music since 1500: A Re-Examination’, Acta musicologica, 50 (1978), 1–93 (jstor)

  7. ————, ‘On the Pitches in Use in Bach's Time’, The Musical Quarterly, 41 (1955), 332–54 (jstor), 466–80 (jstor)