Friday, October 25, 2013

Elgar's 515 Ciphers

The word enigma appears only once in all of Dante’s Divine Comedy, in the last canto of the Purgatorio, where Beatrice devises an “enigma forte” for Dante the pilgrim to ponder. To this day, it has not been solved conclusively. Dante the poet modeled it on the riddles of the Apocalypse, notably the number of the Beast, 666 (Rev. 13: 18). He set it in a prophetic speech where Beatrice borrows language from that most enigmatic biblical book.

Elgar’s makes multiple veiled allusions to Dante’s Divine Comedy in the Enigma Variations. One of the more profound examples centers on coded references to Dante’s enigma forte, the mysterious number "Five Hundred, Ten and Five." The majority of these are found in Variation XIII. That movement begins with the melody played by the first clarinet and an accompaniment figure performed by the second violins and cellos. The original score identifies these instrumental staves in Italian as Clarenetti, Violini and Violincelli.

The Roman numeral values of the first letters of those Italian terms are 100 for C, and 5 for V. Converting the first letters into their Roman numeral equivalents form a coded reference to Dante’s enigma forte, the fabled number 515.
V = 5
C = 100
V = 5
This is not the only coded reference to Dante’s mystical number. Rehearsal Number 55 marks the opening of Variation XIII just above both the Flute I and Violin I staves. The pairing of Rehearsal Number 55 with the instrument number (I) provides two additional coded references to 515. The Roman numeral I for the violin part even appears just between the two fives of the rehearsal number. Rehearsal 55 is assigned to the first measure of Variation XIII, creating yet another coded version of 515. The tempo marking Moderato appears just below Rehearsal 55. The Roman numeral value of M is 1000. By dispensing with the zeros, the pairing of M with 55 permits yet another coded reference to 515.

These cryptic allusions to 515 in Variation XIII are hardly coincidental. The twenty-first measure of Variation XIII is assigned Rehearsal Number 57, and it is measure 515 of the Enigma Variations. The appearance of that measure number in Variation XIII reinforces the conclusion Elgar’s other coded references to 515 were calculated. It is remarkable that Variation XIII is 51 measures in length. The concluding melody note in the Clarinet I part is D, the fifth of the G major scale. Pairing the fifty-first measure with the fifth of the G major scale encodes yet another 515.

On the original sketch, Elgar identified Variation XIII with a capital L. In latter life he appended it with the letters ML to form LML. By excluding the extra zeros, the Roman numeral conversion of LML just so happens to produce 515.
L = 50
M = 1000
L = 50
Besides augmenting the arsenal of the 515 Ciphers, the addition of ML to the original L also hints at the initials for the composer of the covert Principal Theme: Martin Luther.
It has been observed Elgar encodes the number 515 in various forms at the beginning and end of Variation XIII.  That mystical number appears in the decryption of the Dominant-Tonic-Dominant (5-1-5) Cipher found in the Mendelssohn fragments in Variation XIII. As a final tribute to that special number, he does so two more times in the title for Variation XIV E.D.U. Combining XIV with Elgar’s German initials (E.D.U. from Eduard) permit the formation of DUX and EIV. In Latin, the word dux means leader, a character trait of Dante’s prophesied Savior. The letters U and V are equivalent in Latin, so the Roman numeral value of DUX as DXV is 515. The three remaining letters – EIV – are yet another coded version of 515 because E is the fifth letter of the alphabet, I is the Roman numeral for 1, and V for 5. 
The number 515 is a biblical number associated with Noah's Ark which measured 515 feet from bow to stern and was 51.5 feet high. That special ship is a symbol of God's salvation because it preserved Noah's family and a remnant of terrestrial life from a devastating global flood. In Genesis 6:14 God commanded Noah to build an ark and cover it inside and out with pitch. In a remarkably parallel, Elgar's ship in Variation XIII is portrayed with musical pitches. Like Elgar's ship, Noah's Ark traveled the sea in search of dry land before safely resting on the Mountains of Ararat. In that account, the sea serves as a potent symbol of God's judgment. The ocean is intimately associated with Jesus. He walked on the Sea of Galilee, calmed the winds and the waves, and even preached from a boat. The Fish is a popular Christogram because Jesus likened his death and resurrection to the Sign of Jonah. After spending three days and three nights in the belly of a whale, Jonah was spit out onto dry land. In a similar manner, Jesus spent three days and nights in the belly of the earth – the grave – before rising miraculously from the dead.
DEAD G-D Cipher
With so many coded references to Dante’s 515, it appears Elgar is offering his own solution to Dante’s difficult enigma. Variation XIII captures the deathly stillness of the sea described by Goethe in his poems Meeresstille and Glückliche Fahrt. These poems were the inspiration behind Mendelssohn’s concert overture quoted by Elgar. Buried in the lowest staff of the score, the bass section plays the notes D-E-A-D in measures 498 and 499, and again in 533 and 534. Incredibly, the bass part literally spells out what Elgar sonically portrays with the Mendelssohn fragments.
But who is dead? The answer is given using the same enciphering method by the flute, oboe, and clarinet in the measures that immediately follow the bass part. In measures 500, the first flute and oboe play the notes G and D, and these are repeated by the clarinet in bar 501. This same pattern is revived in measures 535 and 536. Elgar’s answer to the question of who is dead is G-D, a phonetic version of God. Three repetitions of the notes G-D suggest the Trinity. Elgar’s Roman Catholic faith leaves only one credible candidate for a God who died, and his name is implicated by the XIII and Romanza ciphers: Jesus Christ. Elgar raises a question by encoding the word DEAD in the lowest part of the score and then answers it in the three highest staves with three codes references to G-D. With so many coded references to the number 515 in Variation XIII, Elgar is cryptically offering Jesus Christ as the ultimate solution to Dante’s enigma forte. It is remarkable Elgar answers Dante’s difficult enigma with one uniquely his own and reflective of their mutual faith.

To learn more about the secrets behind one of Elgar’s most celebrated symphonic achievements, read my free eBook Elgar’s Enigmas Exposed.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Enigma Theme's Hidden God

“Truly, you are a God who hides himself, O God of Israel, the Savior.”

“He [God] has willed to make himself quite recognizable by those; and thus, willing to appear openly to those who seek Him with all their heart, and to be hidden from those who flee from Him with all their heart. He so regulates the knowledge of Himself that He has given signs of Himself, visible to those who seek Him, and not to those who seek Him not. There is enough light for those who only desire to see, and enough obscurity for those who have a contrary disposition.”

Elgar dedicated the majority of his major works to God as a public testimony to his Roman Catholic faith. He invariably did so by writing the initials A.M.D.G., an abbreviation of the Jesuit motto Ad Majorem Dei Glorium. The Jesuits founded the Society of Jesus, serving as evangelists for the Roman Catholic Church. An excellent example of Elgar’s devotion is displayed on the cover of his sacred oratorio The Dream of Gerontius composed shortly after the Enigma Variations. While he openly dedicated the Enigma Variations “To my friends pictured within,” Elgar left the identity of at least one of those friends a mystery. All are identified by their initials, names or nicknames with one lone exception. The friend portrayed in Variation XIII is ostensibly represented by three asterisks (***). Is it possible Elgar inserted a secret dedication to God in the score using one of his favorite diversions, cryptography? If so, one would expect to find such a dedication at the beginning.

The A.M.D.G. Cipher
Are any of the letters from A.M.D.G. present in the first measure of the Enigma Theme? The original orchestral score has seven discreet notes in measure 1: A, B-flat, C, D, F-sharp and G. Three of those notes appear three times each: A, D and G. Three notes three times in one measure are highly suggestive of the number 33, the mirror image of Edward Elgar's initials. In a remarkable coincidence, those three note letters are found in the Jesuit acronym A.M.D.G. Together they form the initials A.D.G. Based on Elgar’s characteristic dedication, that acronym may be reasonably interpreted as Ad Dei Gloriam – “Glory to God.” The only missing letter from the Jesuit acronym is M, one not found in the seven-letter musical alphabet. How could Elgar have conceivably encoded it? The answer is by Morse Code. Elgar studied Morse Code, adopting the palindrome Siromoris as his telegraphic address. The rhythmic pattern of the Enigma Theme on beats 3 and 4 consists of two quarter notes. In Morse code those two quarter notes are the equivalent of two dashes, the sequence for M. The case can reasonably be made Elgar encoded a stealth dedication to God in the Enigma Theme’s opening measure using his preferred abbreviation A.M.D.G. Three of the four letters are represented by three notes each stated three times (A, D, and G), and the M is encoded in Morse Code by two quarter notes on beats 3 and 4. This stealth dedication is known as the A.M.D.G. Cipher.

Elgar’s Other God Allusions
Elgar’s covert dedication is hardly an isolated gesture to the hidden God of his Christian faith. There are many other coded references to the Deus absconditus within the Enigma Theme. That unforgettable movement begins on a G minor chord. That is an intriguing choice of harmony because G is the seventh and final letter in the musical alphabet, and seven is the divine number. As previously observed in measure 1, there are seven discreet note types with seven different performance directions. That comes to at least three distinct sevens in the first measure. The two lowest notes of that first G minor chord are G and D, the phonetic equivalent of God. The interval formed between them is a compound fifth, also known as a thirteenth. That number is associated with Jesus since he is the subject of Variation XIII. It is also linked to him because he washed the feet of his twelve disciples like a common servant at the Last Supper as described in John 13. By lowering himself before his disciples, Jesus made himself last – the thirteenth – among them.
The G minor chord supplies G and D, a phonetic spelling for God. The missing O is implied in a roundabout manner by the mathematical constant Pi encoded in measure 1. Without beginning or end, the circle symbolizes eternity, one of the infinite attributes of God. Combining G and D with the circular letter O permits the complete spelling of God. The spiritual foundation of the Enigma Theme is literally spelled out in measure 1, a number at the heart of monotheism, the belief in one God. Little wonder Elgar inserted a secret dedication to God in that measure. The G minor chord repeats on the first beats of measures 2 and 3, and only breaks the pattern in measure 4 with a diminished seventh chord on B. The triple repetition of the G minor chord on the first beats of the first three measures suggests the Trinity, the belief in the triune God.

As described by the prophet Isaiah and Blaise Pascal, God conceals himself from humanity because Adam and Eve first hid themselves from him in the Garden of Eden. In a figurative and imitative fashion, Elgar’s God hides Himself in the Enigma Theme. There are at least 24 coded references to God in the Enigma Theme based on musical note patterns. That is an interesting total since prior research shows the number 24 is itself encoded 33 times in the Enigma Theme, again based on musical note patterns. The bass line in measures 7 and 8 is a sustained G falling to a sustained D in measures 9 and 10 held for seven quarter beats. This is one example of a coded reference to God. Confirmation of this interpretation is found in measures 8 and 9 where the melody line consists of a series of falling fifths in the second violin part from E, A to D. These notes in reverse (DAE) are a phonetic version of Dei, the Latin word for God. This reading is supported by the fact Dei is the third word in the Jesuit motto Ad Majorum Dei Gloriam.
An abundance of covert references to God in the Enigma Theme is complimented by other coded allusions to the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ. Nowhere are these God allusions more evident than in the Enigma Theme, an oddly structured counterpoint to a famous yet secretive Principal Theme. Research reveals that elusive melody is the epic hymn A Mighty Fortress Is Our God by Martin Luther who drank deeply from the well of Psalm 46. In a symbolic gesture, Elgar based the Enigma Theme, and by extension the Variations, on a hidden hymn about the hidden God who also happens to be a him. Hymn sounds like him, a play on words evocative of Elgar’s distinctive brand of wordplay.  The lyrics of that rousing melody liken God to a mighty fortress, naming his son Jesus Christ in the second stanza. The words of the secret melody conveniently provide the solution for the secret friend portrayed in Variation XIII.
The connection between Elgar’s hidden theme and Luther’s famous hymn is implicated by a coded reference to the Psalms in the Enigma Theme’s opening measure. This is done using an anagram using the first letters of the seven performance directions found in measure 1.

The Psalms are a collection of hymns replete with references to God.  According to theologians, it also contains many important prophecies about Jesus. The Psalms Cipher solidifies the biblical scope of the Enigma, something already suggested by the scriptural names given to Variations VI (Ysobel) and IX (Nimrod). It also furnishes a vital clue about the identity of the elusive missing melody inspired by Psalm 46.
The number Pi is encoded in measures 1 and 11 of the Enigma Theme based on the scale degrees of the melody (3142). These same numbers are the fingerings for the first violin part in third position on the D string when performing that poignant phrase. Pi is a mathematical constant that captures the ratio of the circle's circumference to its diameter. The circle represents God, symbolizing eternity by having no beginning or end. Building on this is the Pi-C Cipher, also in the first measure of the Enigma Theme. Pi is enciphered in measures 1 and 11 of the Enigma Theme. Three 1’s – one does not need to wonder what theological concept that suggests. The Enigma Theme is set in Common Time, a meter represented by the symbol C. The combination of Pi and C creates the phonetic equivalent of pisce, the Latin word for fish. The fish or Ichthys is a well-known symbol for Jesus. C is the first letter in words like Christ, Cross, Christogram, and Cipher. It is also the phonetic equivalent of sea, something Elgar sonically portrays in Variation XIII using fragments from Mendelssohn’s concert overture Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage. The Pi-C Cipher is a distinct reference to Christ, the Lord and Savior of Elgar’s Roman Catholic faith. After all, fish inhabit the sea, and one should not be surprised to find a pisce in C.
The rhythmic patterns of the Enigma Theme may be translated into Morse Code. In measure 1 the two eighth notes simulate two dots for the letter I. These are followed by two quarter notes resembling two dashes for the letter M. The Morse Code conversion for the melody in measure 1 is IM. The phonetic equivalent of IM is I am, an important phrase spoken by Jesus to describe himself. The I AM Cipher identifies a uniquely theological title used by Jesus, bolstering the conclusion he is the subject of both the Enigma Theme and Variation XIII. The Catholic belief in the Trinity asserts Jesus is a member of the Godhead, making any reference to him a reference to God. When asked by a disciple to show him the Father, Jesus replied, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” In Roman Catholic theology, Jesus is the incarnation of God.
Besides harboring multiple codes like the Psalms, I AM, Pi and Pi-C Ciphers, the Enigma Theme’s first measure is part of other larger ciphers. The first six measures of the Enigma Theme are marked off by an oddly placed double-bar at the end of measure six. This six-bar section encompasses two other ciphers. The first and more elementary of the two is the Locks Cipher. It encodes two sets of solution letters: LOQX and LOJC. The fist is phonetic for locks, and those, like ciphers, come with keys. The second solution set – LOJC – forms a phrase, or ‘dark saying.’ Lo means to behold, as in the phrase lo and behold. The letters JC are the initials for Jesus Christ, the secret friend of Variation XIII. In a remarkable twist, the Roman numerals for that movement encode his initials. X stands for the number ten, and the tenth letter of the alphabet is J. III represents the number three, and the third letter is C. The secret phrase revealed by the Locks Cipher (LOJC) is “Behold Jesus Christ.”
The second and more sophisticated cryptogram found in the first six measures of the Enigma Theme is a Music Box Cipher. That description is exquisitely appropriate because Elgar encodes solution letters using bass and melody note pairs to pinpoint specific cells within a checkerboard grid. This type of code is known as a Polybius Square, or more simply as a Box Cipher. Since it is a box cipher set to music, it is more accurately known as a Music Box Cipher. What an exquisite play on words! This unique code reveals twenty-four solution letters from the complete 24-letter German title of the unstated Principal Theme: Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott. What Elgar does is rearrange those letters into phonetic words and phrases in Latin, English and Aramaic, a language spoken by Jesus. For example, the solution letters for measure one are GSUS, a phonetic version of Jesus. To dispel doubt, Elgar authenticates his elaborate cipher by encoding his last name by means of the first letters of the languages from the cipher: English, Latin, German, and Aramaic. He uses a similar device with the Psalms Cipher by pairing his initials with the word Psalm (EE’s Psalm) via the first letters of the performance directions in measure one of the Enigma Theme.

This investigation revealed the first measure of the Enigma Theme harbors a stealth dedication to God, a gesture amplified and expanded on by many other coded references to God throughout rest of the movement. In addition to these are several ciphers that encode the initials, name, and fish symbol for Jesus Christ, the secret friend portrayed in Variation XIII. According to Roman Catholic theology, Jesus is a member of the Trinity, making any mention of him also a reference to God. This insight helps explain why the melody of Variation XIII begins with the notes G and D, a phonetic spelling for God. To learn more about the secrets behind the Enigma Variations, read my free eBook Elgar’s Enigmas Exposed.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Elgar’s "Enigma" 24 Cipher

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.”

The digits for the number 24 are cleverly encoded throughout the opening Theme of Elgar’s Enigma Variations. The first instance occurs in measure 1 where two bass note chords on beats 1 and 3 accompany four melody notes played on beats 2 through 4. The two bass notes and four melody notes are the lowest and highest notes in the score respectively, and together in measure 1 they sequentially encode the digits for 24. The bass notes start first, identifying the number 2, and the melody notes that follow point to the number 4. This pattern is reprised in measures 2 through 6 – the A section of the Enigma Theme’s ABA ternary form – and again in measures 11 through 16 with the recapitulation of the A section. The fact each melodic fragment begins and ends on beats 2 and 4 hints at this special number.

There is more in measure 1 that points to the number 24 than just the note totals for the melody and bass lines. On beats 3 and 4 the melody notes are C falling by minor third to A. The scale degrees for these two notes are 4 and 2 respectively, the reverse of 24. In measure 2 those same melody notes recur in reverse order on beat 4 with A rising by minor third back to C. These melody notes are played contiguously in measures 1 and 2, and again in 11 and 12. In measure 12 they not only occur in the melody line as A and C, but also concurrently in the countermelody as C and A. In all there are five instances of contiguous melody or countermelody notes in the Enigma Theme with scale degrees that provide the digits for the number 24. When Elgar recapitulates the opening six measures, he does so with added emphasis on the numbers 2 and 4.  In measures 11 there are 2 bass notes for every 4 notes in the Treble staff. A similar pattern occurs in bar 13 with 2 bass notes played in octaves for every 4 melody notes which are also in octaves. In measure 6 there is an unusually placed double bar marking off the end of section A, the opening G minor section of the Enigma Theme. The sum of the melody notes in Section A equals 24. The same holds true for its modified recapitulation in measures 11 through 16.
So far we have observed multiple allusions to the number 24 in the G minor A sections of the Enigma Theme, namely measures 1 through 6 and 11 through 16. Are there any coded references to 24 in the G major sections found in measures 7 through 11 or 17? Measures 7 through 10 represent the B section of the Enigma Theme’s ABA ternary form, and it holds at least two allusions to the number 24. The first hinges on the total number of melody notes. There are 6 melody notes per bar in measures 7 through 11, and 6 notes multiplied by 4 bars equals 24. This mirrors the precise number of melody notes in both A sections. The second instance is in measures 7 and 8 where there are 2 bass notes with 4 half-note chords played over them. In measure 17 the Enigma Theme cadences on a Tierce de Picardie, a G major chord that contrasts with the more prevalent minor mode of the A sections. It should be observed the interval between the low G and the high B of that final chord is a major third plus three octaves, a span of a twenty-fourth, also known as a triple compound third.
Why would Elgar place such a special emphasis on the number 24 in the Enigma Theme? That number relates directly to Western music because there are 24 major and minor keys excluding enharmonic equivalents. The number 24 may be viewed as a symbol of the circle of fifths, a summary of the major and minor scale modes. That the Enigma Theme repeatedly modulates between the minor and major modes of G invites this interpretation. The circle of fifths is also suggested by the fact Pi (a mathematical constant pertaining to circles) is encoded in the Enigma Theme’s first and eleventh measures.
Should the meaning of the number 24 be confined to this one perspective? There is no reason to limit our analysis to the strictly musical since the number 24 is multivalent. In theology – a subject in which Elgar was well versed – that particular number turns up a number of times. For instance, there are 24 books in the Hebrew Tanakh, the Masoretic Text of the Bible. In the Temple there were 24 courses of Priests and singers. The number 24 also represents the sum of the Twelve Tribes of Israel and the Twelve Apostles. In Revelation 4 there are 24 Elders seated around the Throne of God. As these examples show, the number 24 is theologically nuanced with a range of connotations relevant to the Enigma Variations, especially since Variation XIII is dedicated in secret to Jesus.
There is a distinct association between ciphers and the number 24. In cryptography, the English alphabet of 26 letters is commonly paired down to 24 by combining two letters, usually i and j. In Elgar’s personal library there is a collection of four articles called Secrets in Cipher from The Pall Mall Gazette published in 1896. They provide a general history of cryptography from ancient times to Elgar’s era. On page 459 there is a description of a music cipher used by King George III. The cipher key consists of 12 ascending quarter notes and 12 descending eighth notes from a scale, features that poses at least two parallels with the Enigma Theme. First, the Enigma Theme’s melody is composed of quarter and eighth notes. Second, there are 24 melody notes in each of the A and B sections of the Enigma Theme’s ternary form. The similarities between the Enigma Theme and the music cipher described in The Pall Mall Gazette are remarkable, furnishing credible evidence for the existence of a music cipher. This conclusion is bolstered by the discovery of a trove of music ciphers within the Enigma Variations.

There is one gigantic reason why Elgar would stress the number 24 in the Enigma Theme. It is the exact number of letters in the original German title of the covert Principal Theme: Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott. Why would he encode it 33 times? That number mirrors Elgar’s initials (EE), so it may be reasonably understood as the composer’s stealth imprimatur. That is certainly suggested by the discovery of 33 ciphers within the Enigma Variations. The 24 Cipher is not the only cryptogram initials by Elgar, for he also did so with his Psalms Cipher placed in measure 1 of the Enigma Theme. He takes it one step further with the Music Box Cipher in measures 1 through 6 of the Enigma Theme by spelling out his complete last name. In measure 1 the number 33 is intimated by the two broken thirds in the melody line. In measure 17 that same number is suggested by the triple compound third formed between the highest and lowest notes of the G major chord. 33 is not only the numerological equivalent of Elgar’s initials – it is also the age of Jesus at the time of his crucifixion. The Locks, I AM, Pi-C, and Music Box ciphers contain coded references to Christ, and these are all located within the Enigma Theme. Therefore the number 33 may be plausibly understood as an allusion to Elgar’s secret friend portrayed in Variation XIII. To learn more about the secrets behind one of Elgar’s most celebrated symphonic achievements, read my free eBook Elgar’s Enigmas Exposed.

About Mr. Padgett

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Mr. Padgett studied violin with Michael Rosenker (a student of Leopold Auer), 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.