Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.


Strike a Standard

An "A" is a simple thing really. You may be completely ignorant of music, or entirely cognizant of it, but an "A"--vibrating at exactly 440 cycles (or waves) per second--is the standard by which musicians tune. It is the pitch sounded at the beginning of a concert by the oboe, and again when a soloist comes out, and again after intermission. It is the pitch a violinist must strike on the piano, or blow on a pitch pipe, or hear on a tuning fork, or press on an electronic tuner. If I am tuned to a 440 A, and you are tuned to a 400 A, and we play a duet together, then we end up with an unpleasant mixture. If, however, we both agree to a 440 A, and we play together, we will have a delightful time producing harmonious music.

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Although the A has vacillated between the extremes of 309Hz (Trinity College Cambridge Organ in 1759), 422.5 (George Frederic Handel's tuning fork), and 454 (Steinway's pianos in 1879), in 1939, an international standard of 440 was agreed upon--all other notes would be tuned and aligned based upon a 440Hz A. That must be that, right? Now we can all make music in pleasant harmony and forget about the worrisome scientific details of debating between a 420 A and a 450 A. Not at all.

You see, many orchestras have decided to creep their A up. Just a tinge--just a tad. Hardly noticeable, you see. They just want the extra "brilliance" of a 442 A or a 445 A. It sounds so much brighter--cuts through an auditorium so much more crisply. 444 A is quite standard in many concert halls, and especially those in Europe.

I was discussing this topic with Sarah and Lauren last week. "Now," I began, "correct me if I'm wrong, but if everybody decides to tune to a 444 A, then won't it lose its perceived 'brightness'? Won't the enterprising orchestras now have to move to a 450 A in order to achieve the desired brilliance?" They agreed with me, and Lauren pointed out that the A has historically grown sharper and sharper. Despite the fact that a standard was agreed upon, that there is no truly musical necessity for raising the pitch of an A, and that it can be quite harmful to instruments--especially pianos and the like--to be constantly changed from one version of the A to another, many, many orchestras and performers insist on tuning to something other than the standard.

C'est la vie. Or, at least, such are humans. Whether dealing with a musical standard or a moral standard, we are consistent in one aspect: pushing the standard. Just as a 441 A has a barely perceptible difference compared to a 440 A, so a frumpy, frilly, Victorian bathing suit revealed only slightly more skin. But 441 As usually lead to 444 As, and the Victorian bathing suits of a century ago have led to bikinis that expose shameful nakedness.

Darwin's On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life may not have seemed much at the time, but the compromises it presented have led to generations of people who have taken the book to it's logical end and rejected the Scriptural account of creation--and with it the sanctity of human life, from conception, for all people groups, for all levels of intelligence, whether functional or not, whether old or young. From a book to a worldwide policy in favor of the murder of babies and the elderly, so goes the sagging of a standard.

You see, it's a dangerous thing to reject the moral code of God in favor of what "feels" right, or what is "edgy" or popular. Once we decide that morality is a personal choice that should not be forced on others, we have created a free-for-all. We do not just have orchestras tuning to a 444 A--we have musicians tuning to all sorts of incredible As, from 300 to 500. And when the members begin to play together, all that comes out is a hideous cacophony.

Tolerance and permissiveness do not create unity--they destroy it. Isaiah 5:20-21 addresses this serious matter:

"Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
And prudent in their own sight!"

Do not live by a personally derived morality. It will ever be changing, slipping, and sliding. Instead, tune your instrument to the true standard--God's--and live by that standard in every area of your life.

Photograph courtesy of Shaylor.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson,
Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

History of Pitch


  1. Very creative and thoughtful post - you illustrate the idea of slipping morals and tolerance very well. Thank-you!


  2. I was enjoying the thoughts on the 'A' and really didn't see that ending coming... it was a good point! It's one I've thought of a lot in reference to OTHER people. ("How could they... don't they see how they're letting their standard slide?") I really need to practice applying it to myself. Thanks for that reminder!

    With love,

  3. Love the analogy! Very good post, Mikaela, and so thought-provoking! :)

  4. I love this... what a great illustration!

  5. Thank you, Melody!

    Penn--very good point. Perhaps part of the key in recognizing our own slippery standards is to realize how subtle the changes can be. We must constantly be on the guard!

    Ruthie and Addendum handmade--thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment!

  6. Mikaela, this is an inspiring post. I know many young evangelists that can use this analogy. Thanks for sharing this message.

  7. Fantastic! I love how this is written. The analogy is effective and makes a lot of sense.And yes, I do agree wholeheartedly with everything said. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on such an important truth.

  8. Good point, yourself, Mikaela. =) Thanks for pointing it out to me. It's spot on, as usual.
    (You girls really could keep me going on and on about how wonderful your wisdom is and how timely! Wow. You just help drive home the things I'm learning elsewhere. Or you start a avalanche of a thought-process. I'm in your debt.)


  9. Mikaela,
    Fantastic post--totally agree with you! BTW--I used to play the oboe in earlier times:)

  10. Zoolster, Vilisti, and Penn--thank you so much for your sweet words! How could I not love blogging with you around?!

    Aimee--I have always declared that if I were to branch out from the strings and percussion (i.e. piano), I would pursue the oboe. It is such a gorgeous and unique instrument. I hope you pick it up again--there are not enough oboe players in the world! ;-)


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