Verdi and the Flat-Earthers
I learned something about myself this week: I am not nearly imaginative enough to be a conspiracy theorist. Unless you’ve spent the last several weeks living under a rock, you will know that this week there was a total solar eclipse. I didn’t get my act together in time to locate approved eclipse-viewing glasses (and I misplaced my welder’s helmet), so I had to be content watching reruns of it on the internet. It did look like a remarkable event. I was even more astounded to learn that to some, this week’s celestial happening was confirmation that the earth is in fact flat. There is a collection of people out there that believes the earth is actually a large disc ringed by a massive wall of ice. (Think Game of Thrones.)
If you didn’t know about this head-spinning theory, then I’m going to guess that you probably don’t know about the far more allegedly catastrophic effects of the musical note A. The theory goes that instead of using what has been dubbed “Verdi’s A”, the world has been thrown into life-threatening chaos by a subtle up-tuning of music. I’m the last person to get scientific about things, but essentially Verdi’s A vibrates at 432 cycles per second; the A we use today (according to some codified by none other than the infamous Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels) sounds higher, vibrating at 440 cycles per second. To the average listener, the difference is barely distinguishable. However, some have gone on record to say that this ratcheting-up of pitch causes stress, aggression and anti-social behaviour in humans.
I don’t mind saying that I give this theory the same amount of credence I give the Flat-Earthers’ claims. I’ll go a step further and theorize that poor old Verdi would never have wanted to be dragged into this dubious debate.
Giuseppe Verdi holds an unassailable position in the pantheon of great composers. He created some of the most profoundly moving music we know today. Over 100 years after its first performance, his Requiem still has the power to hold listeners spellbound, and of his thirty-plus operas, over half of them, including blockbusters like La Traviata, Rigoletto and Aida, still appear on stages the world over year after year. His unquestionable understanding of the human condition allowed him to write music that still packs a palpable gut-punch.
Maybe more importantly, Verdi played an essential role in the birth of the country we now know as Italy. At the beginning of his career, Italy was nothing more than a loosely-associated collection of independent city-states. He saw this historical division as a debilitating impediment to his fellow citizens’ happiness and prosperity. Never fearing to walk the talk, Verdi even served a four-year term as representative in the brand new Italian parliament. He made it his life’s mission to see all Italians set aside their differences and come together as a nation.
If someone could definitively prove that playing an A slightly too high is the root cause of what currently ails us, then I’d be happy to circulate a petition for change. Until then, I propose that we be more interested in talking about Verdi’s other, more unifying pursuits.