Sunday, October 28, 2012

Elgar’s I AM Cipher

“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.

Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations begin with an unusually structured melody called the Enigma Theme. The opening rhythmic figure is made up of alternating eighth and quarter note pairs separated by regularly placed quarter rests on the first beat of each measure. This rhythmic pattern forms a palindrome that repeats three times over the first six measures (an allusion to the trinity). This pattern is reprised three more times in measures 11 through 16 for a total of six episodes over twelve measures. The presentation of this rhythmic palindrome in two groups of three suggests Elgar initialed the Enigma Theme with the numeric equivalent (33) of his initials (E.E.). Thirty-three just so happens to be the age of Elgar's secret friend at the time of his crucifixion. The Roman numerals given to this secret friend's movement are XIII. What makes this remarkable is the word crucifixion has one X and three I's. That is hardly a coincidence.
Like the number three, twelve also holds symbolic meaning in the Bible. In the Variations Elgar places special emphasis on the number six, so the statement of this particular rhythmic pattern six times is not without numerological significance. The total number of letters in these six episodes is 24, the same number of letters in the title of the covert principal theme. In measures 7 through 10 a modulation formula known as rosalia is presented with a repeating rhythmic pattern of a quarter note followed by two eighth notes. The word rosalia sounds very similar to rosary, a term near and dear to the hearts of Catholics like Elgar. Even the dots and dashes of Morse Code are evocative of a rosary.

Elgar studied Morse code, coining the palindrome Siromoris as his telegraphic address. With this in mind, it is plausible to translate the Enigma Theme’s distinctive rhythmic patterns into Morse code. As Kevin Jones observes:
Interpreting these rhythms as Morse Code provides an explanation for this distinctive arrangement. Two dots followed by two dashes spells out I M, which reversed becomes M I. This invites the interpretation "I am, am I?"
In Morse code the palindromic metrical pattern repeated in measures 1 through 6 and 12 through 16 produces IMMI. Over measures 7 through 10 the repeated rhythmic figure stands for the letter D. The single whole note in measure 17 signifies the letter T.  The Morse code patterns found in the Enigma Theme are summarized in Figure 1.

Elgar was a connoisseur of codes and anagrams; and as the composer of such sacred oratorios The Apostles and The Kingdom, he was intimately well versed in theology. What message could he conceivably send via the Enigma Theme by means of Morse code? Kevin Jones reasonably concludes the phonetic equivalent of IM is I AM. Considering Elgar’s penchant for anagrams, MI may reasonably be construed as the mirror image of IM, namely a second I AM. In theology the double I AM is known as the Great I AM. It famously appears in a passage from the book of Exodus in which Moses encounters God at the burning bush. When asked by the Pharisees about his identity, Jesus replied by invoking that sacred title. This presents a remarkable parallel since the secret friend and inspiration behind Variation XIII is the Lord and Savior of Elgar’s Roman Catholic faith – Jesus. This hidden friend is mentioned by name in the lyrics of the covert Principal Theme to the Enigma Variations. In light of these interconnections, it would appear Elgar knew exactly what he was doing by incorporating the Morse code for the double I AM within the Enigma Theme.
There is yet another theological basis for featuring so many IM references in the Enigma Theme. This is so because Jesus is associated with a number of enigmatic I am statements. Some famous examples from the Gospels are listed below:
  1. I am the bread of life
  2. I am the light of the world
  3. I am the gate
  4. I am the good shepherd
  5. I am the resurrection and the life
  6. I am the way and the truth and the life
  7. I am the vine
It is remarkable each statement begins with I am. With so many repetitions of IM by means of Morse code in the Enigma Theme, Elgar draws inordinate attention to this theological shibboleth. Within the context of his Roman Catholic education and faith, the elusive explanation for the repetitive IM statements is brought into crystal clear focus. The phrase is intimately connected to Elgar's secret friend, Jesus of Nazareth.
Now new evidence has emerged supporting the conclusion Elgar deliberately encoded the double I AM within the Enigma Theme. This new information draws on two German sayings identified by two distinct music ciphers in Variation XIII. The FAE Cipher encodes the letters FAE using the key signatures of the Mendelssohn fragments: F minor, A-flat major, and E-flat major. These letters are the initials for a well known romantic motto coined by the famous violinist Joseph Joachim. The initials stand for the German phrase Frei aber einsam which means ‘free but lonely.’ FAE is a well known musical cryptogram used by Robert Schumann (Elgar's ‘ideal’ composer) in the F-A-E Sonata. As shown in Table 1, four titles from the Enigma Variations may be arranged in such a way as to spell out Joachim's romantic motto in German and Italian. This is a classic example of Elgar's exquisite sense of wordplay.

The Mendelssohn Cipher is a more elaborate alphanumeric cipher that produces the letters EFB, the initials for Ein feste Burg­ – the title of the unstated Principal Theme of the Enigma Variations. This ingenious cipher is summarized below in Table 2.

The Enigma Theme is performed in the minor and major modes of G. The accidentals for G minor (B-flat and E-flat) and G major (F-sharp) form the initials for Ein feste Burg. Remarkably the accidentals for the Enigma Theme pinpoint the very same three letters encoded by the Mendelssohn Cipher. A reasonably bystander would be inclined to call that confirmation. Two German sayings pinpointed by the FAE and Mendelssohn ciphers are each three ewords in length: Frei aber einsam and Ein feste Burg. Applying a simple one-for-one elimination of matching letters between these two phrases leaves behind the following eight letters: ATRIUGAM.

      When treated as an anagram, those eight letters may be reshuffled to spell GRUAAT I M, the phonetic equivalent of GREAT I AM. Elgar's use of trick spellings is on full display in his personal correspondence. For instance, he respelled excuse as xqqq, and score as ckor, skore, skorh, skowre, skourrghe, csquorr, skourghowore, and ssczowoughohr.[1] These inventive spellings amply justify interpreting gruaat as great. Elgar’s More code allusion to the Great I AM in the Enigma Theme links up elegantly to his letter elimination cipher, the unstated Principal Theme and the secret friend’s identity. It is equally relevant and intriguing yet another elimination cipher in Variation XIII (the Romanza Cipherpoints to the burial cloth of Jesus, the Turin Shroud. There are a surprising number of allusions to that sacred cloth within the Enigma Variations, forming a second series of indirect references to Elgar's Messiah.
     The Morse code references to D beginning in measures 7 serve as another biblical allusion, this one to God. How is this possible? Elgar dedicated the majority of his major works to God using the Latin acronym A.M.D.G. The initials represent Ad maiorem Dei gloriam, the motto for the Society of Jesus meaning 'For the greater glory of God.' The D in that motto stands for the Latin word for God. Elgar's repeated use of the Morse code pattern for D in measures 7 through 10 is a reference to God, an interpretation reinforced by the sequential appearance of  the notes E-A-D in the melody over measures 9 and 10. The reverse of those note letters is D-A-E, a phonetic spelling of Dei. That the Morse code reference to D first appears in measure 7 is significant because the number seven is known as the divine number symbolic of God.

      Elgar concludes the Enigma Theme with a whole note in measure 17. The equivalent of this single long note is a single dash in Morse code that represents the letter T. The actual cross on which Christ as crucified resembled a capital T. Resembling the lower case t, the Latin cross is the most popular symbol of Elgar's Christian faith. Elgar's use of common time for the Enigma Theme echoes this reference because conducting this time signature resembles forming the sign of the cross. 

Conducting common time
Another reason to suspect the D stands for the Latin word for God is based on an alternative reading of the Morse code pattern IMMI. While the IM in measure 1 clearly represents I AM, the MI in measure 2 is cryptographically recast as El, the Hebrew word for God (Table 3). This reading is possible based on two facts. First, Elgar reorients E to resemble M in his Dorabella Cipher. Second, the capital I closely resembles a lower case L (l). Based on these two observations, IMMI may be interpreted as I am El, or simply I am God. It is undeniable that the association of I AM with God is theologically robust and compelling. El is phonetically equivalent to the letter L, the very same one used to designate the original sketch of Variation XIII. Interestingly, the lyrics to the unstated Principal Theme (A Mighty Fortress) come from Psalm 46. Verse 10 of that chapter includes the phrase, "Be still, and know that I am God." Amazingly, Elgar quotes a short passage from Psalm 46 using a mixture of Morse code, letter equivalents found in cryptography, and English and Hebrew. A multilinguistic approach is also found in his more sophisticated music box cipher embedded within the Enigma Theme. In that sublime melody Elgar covertly quotes Luther's most famous hymn by means of counterpoint, and for good measure added a fragment from the very same Psalm that inspired its lyrics using Morse code and cryptography.

Secular scholars failed to grasp the significance of the Christian symbols encoded in the Enigma Theme because of their collective ignorance if not open contempt for Elgar’s biblical faith. They would have been wise to ponder the proverb, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” While they swim in a proverbial ocean of knowledge, secular scholars remain hopelessly marooned in an arid desert bereft of wisdom. This largely explains why for over a century Elgar's deeply spiritual enigmas escaped detection and decryption...until nowTo learn more about the secrets of the Enigma Variations, read my eBook Elgar’s Enigmas Exposed.

[1] Cited from an unpublished paper by Eric Sams entitled Elgar’s Cipher Table (1970-71).

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About Mr. Padgett

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Mr. Padgett studied violin with Michael Rosenker, and Rosenker’s pupil, Owen Dunsford. Mr. Padgett studied piano with Sally Magee (a student of Emanuel Bay), and Blanca Uribe, a student of Rosina Lhévinne. He attended the Stevenson School in Pebble Beach, California, and Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in psychology. At Vassar he studied music theory and composition with Richard Wilson. Mr. Padgett has performed for Joseph Silverstein, Van Cliburn, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maria Shriver, Steve Jobs, Prince Charles, Lady Camilla, Marcia Davenport, William F. Buckley, Jr., and other prominent public figures. His original compositions have been performed by the Monterey Symphony, at the Bohemian Grove, the Bohemian Club, and other private and public venues. In 2008 Mr. Padgett won the Max Bragado-Darman Fanfare Competition with his entry "Fanfare for the Eagles." It was premiered by the Monterey Symphony under Maestro Bragado in May 2008. A member of the Elgar Society, Mr. Padgett is married with five children.