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Monday, May 8, 2017

The Enigma Variations Keys Ciphers




Cannot be heard, cannot be smelt,
It lies behind stars and under hills,
And empty holes it fills.
It comes first and follows after
Ends life, kills laughter.

A riddle by J. R. R. Tolkien from The Hobbit


The Enigma I will not explain – it’s ‘dark saying’ must be left unguessed, and I warn you that the connexion between the Variations and the Theme is often of the slightest texture; further, through and over the whole set another and larger theme ‘goes’, but is not played…

Edward Elgar from the original 1899 Program Note


The unmasking of the Locks Cipher in the Enigma Theme was a watershed moment in my search for cryptograms in the Enigma Variations. Why would Elgar encode the word locks in the Enigma Theme? One plausible explanation is that locks, like ciphers, are opened with keys. More important still was the realization that tonal music is composed in contrasting key signatures commonly referred to more simply as keys. A key implication of the Locks Cipher was that the musical keys of the Enigma Theme conceal a hidden message, a cryptogram.


The Locks Cipher catalyzed the discovery and decryption of the Keys Cipher. The Enigma Theme is written in the parallel keys of G minor and G major. The key signature of G minor consists of B flat and E flat.  The key signature of G major is F sharp. Consistent with the plaintext message of the Locks Cipher, the accidentals for the Enigma Theme’s keys encipher the initials for the covert principal Theme, Ein feste Burg. Alluded to by the cryptic subtitle of Variations XIII in the form of three asterisks, those three initials are encoded by no less than six ciphers spanning from the original cover to the final page of the symphonic score.

The Cover Page E.F.B. Cipher

In a deft display of concealing the obvious in plain sight, Elgar wrote the initials of the secretive melody as an anagram on the first and last pages of the original score. Twice on the title page, he wrote the abbreviation “FEb”  instead of “February” when annotating the start and end dates of the orchestration. The second letter in both abbreviations is incorrectly capitalized, suggesting both a coded version of Elgar’s initials (EE) as well as the first letter of a title. He also wrote “FEb” for a third time on the final page. The incorporation the composer’s initials into these cryptograms is not an isolated instance. There are at least five ciphers in the Enigma Variations in which Elgar subtly inserted his initials or last name within the plaintext. The first letters from the first and last titles (Enigma and E.D.U.) further suggest Elgar’s initials.
Elgar could not have made it more conspicuous by openly concealing the solution letters to Variation XIII’s cryptic subtitle (***) on the first and last pages of the full score. For good measure, he arranged those same initials as an acrostic anagram in the titles of the movements immediately before and after Variation XIII. The title of Variation XII is B.G.N. The titles of Variation XIV are E.D.U. and Finale. In each cipher, the initials of the covert Theme’s title is subjected to anagrammitization, a layer of transposition that efficiently camouflages the solution. The initials of the secret friend are actually encoded by the Roman numerals of Variation XIII, a method also applied in Variation IX to encipher the initials of August Jaeger.

The Enigma Date Cipher

The Enigma Variations Keys Cipher
The significance of the Locks Cipher extends beyond the Enigma Theme as it demands a cryptographic reappraisal of the key signatures used throughout the Enigma Variations.  A major implication of the Enigma Theme Keys Cipher is that the key signatures of the Variations collectively constitute a larger cipher. The first step to assess this possibility was to tabulate all of the key signatures for every movement of the Enigma Variations.


It was determined that only five different key signatures are used throughout the fifteen movements of Enigma Variations. These five key signatures are G major, G minor, C major, C minor and E flat major. The use of five distinct key signatures is conspicuous because Elgar compiled five different lists of the Variations before settling on the final sequence.
Before attempting to make sense of these five key signatures, it is essential to recognize Elgar’s predilection for phonetic spellings, anagrams, and secret codes. His personal correspondence bristles with what Eric Sams dubbed trick spellings. For instance, Elgar respelled excuse as xqqq. His inventive alternative spellings for score ranged from ckor, skore, skorh, skowre, skourrghe, csquorr, skourghowore, to ssczowoughohr. Anagrams require transposing letters into new configurations to unveil a hidden meaning. For example, the word rescue may be reshuffled to spell secure. When his family moved into a new residence in March 1899, Elgar named it Craeg Lae. This unconventional title is an anagram constructed from the reverse spelling of Elgar’s name (Craeg Lae) mingled with the initials of his family members’ first names (Edward, Alice and Carice).
And now to the decryption. The five key letters “GGCCE” may be rearranged as an anagram to form “CGGEC.” At first glance this arrangement appears to convey no obvious meaning, an impression dispelled by a more comprehensive phonetic analysis. The first letter in this anagram (C) sounds like see. The next two letters (GG) are the plural of G, sounding like “Jees.” Elgar used the plural form of a letter to produce a phonetic equivalent with his respelling of excuse as xqqq. The last two letters (EC) sound like the letter S or “Es,” an interpretation supported by Elgar’s substitution of c for s in his respelling of score as ckor. A phonetic analysis of the anagram “CGGEC” derived from the key letters of the Enigma Variations reveals it may be read as “See Jesus.” Like scores of other ciphers in the Enigma Variations, this decryption authenticates the identity of the secret friend portrayed in Variation XIII. This plaintext solution is hardly a revelation, for Elgar was a Roman Catholic who dedicated the majority of his major works to God.
What makes the phonetic decryption “See Jesus” even more significant is that it mirrors the meaning of two phonetic plaintext solutions produced by the Locks Cipher: “Behold Jesus Christ” (LO JC) and “Looks like Jesus Christ” (LOOX LQ JC).  The probability of multiple ciphers encoding three virtually identical plaintext solutions constructed from phonetic spellings is so infinitesimally remote that only a deliberate construction may be seriously entertained. If Elgar’s correspondence is any measure of probity, then a phonetic decryption is his peculiar imprimatur of authenticity. Phonetic spellings are also an effective stratagem for hardening a cipher, making it exponentially more difficult to brute force and decode.
It is relevant to observe regarding the “C GGEC” anagram that the letter C not only sounds like see but also sea. It is richly symbolic that the Mendelssohn fragments in Variation XIII begin with the clarinet playing the note C in a passage that sonically portrays a steamer crossing the sea. With this homophone, the Enigma Variations Keys Cipher alludes to the very movement dedicated in secret to the unseen Christ who was crucified on a cross at Gordon’s Calvary. The letter C is also encoded by the XIII Roman Numerals Cipher as one of the initials for Elgar’s secret friend, the same revealed by the retrograde decryption of the Locks Cipher (LO JC).

The Enigma Variations Key Numbers Cipher
The decoding of the Enigma Variations Keys Cipher is not yet complete because Elgar applied the same Number-to-Letter encryption to key signatures with frequencies greater than one. Key signatures with frequencies greater than one are G major (6), G minor (5), and C major (2). These three keys are used in a total of thirteen movements. When the totals for each of these keys (6, 5 and 2) are converted into their corresponding letters (A = 1, B = 2, C = 3, etc…), the results are F, E, and B. These letters should be quite familiar by now as they are the initials for Ein feste Burg. With six other ciphers encoding the identical initials, the Enigma Variations Key Numbers Cipher joins that special subgroup as the seventh. When paired together, the numbers for the two remaining keys with only one movement each (C minor and E flat major) pinpoint the total of unique letters in the complete 24-letter title of the covert principal Theme, eleven (11). This is an important clue for applying frequency analysis to decrypt a Polybius Square Cipher embedded in the opening six measures of the Enigma Theme. Also known as a Music Box Cipher, the plaintext solution in measure 1 of the Enigma Theme is GSUS, a phonetic rendering of Jesus. This serves as further evidence for the secret friend’s true identity.
Richard Santa made the breakthrough discovery that the mathematical ratio Pi is encoded in the Enigma Theme’s first measure using the melody’s scale degrees (3-1-4-2). This special number defines a circle's circumference to its diameter, and its inclusion in the first bar of the Enigma Theme subtly hints at a large circular stone that sealed the entrance to Christ's tomb. The combined plaintext results of  the Enigma Theme’s Pi Cipher and Music Box Cipher in the first measure produces “Pi GSUS.” This is the Latin phrase “Pie Jesu” (Pious Jesus) with the English translation of Jesu. Latin and English are two languages used with phonetic spellings in the plaintext decryption of the Enigma Theme Music Box Cipher.  The Latin phrase “Pie Jesu” originates from the final couplet of the Dies Irae and is featured in musical settings of the Requiem Mass which is also known as the Mass for the Dead (Missa pro defunctis). The two broken thirds in measure 1 identify the age of Christ at his death (33). The mirror image of the number 33 resembles two capitalized cursive Es which are Edward Elgar’s initials.


Elgar’s initials (E. E.) are stealthily encoded in the Enigma Variations Keys Cipher using a Number-to-Letter conversion. The letter E is the fifth letter of the alphabet, and the number five appears twice. In the first instance, there are five distinct key signatures used over the course of fifteen movements. In the second case, five of the movements are in G major. It is reasonable to suspect Elgar inserted his name or initials into a variety of ciphers in the Enigma Variations to serve as a stealth form of authentication.
There is an explanation for why Elgar would encode the phrases “Behold Jesus Christ,” “Looks like Jesus Christ,” and “See Jesus” in the Enigma Variations. The “deathly stillness” of Goethe’s calm sea  (Meeresstille) depicted by the Mendelssohn fragments in Variation XIII hints at the reason. Elgar’s reference to two plays by Maurice Maeterlinck (L’Intruse and Les Sept Princesses) in the original 1899 program note bolsters this suspicion, for the main protagonist in those plays who never appears on stage is Death. The “Pie Jesus” Cipher in the Enigma Theme’s first measure also conjures up an image of death because of its association with the Requiem Mass. The special connection between Elgar’s secret friend and Death is established by the DEAD G-D Cipher in Variation XIII. Only three of the Enigma Variations were performed at a national memorial service held at Worcester Cathedral one week after Elgar's death in 1934. These were Variation I dedicated to Elgar's wife (C.A.E.) who died in 1920, Variation IX dedicated to Elgar's friend August Jaeger (Nimrod) who died in 1909, and Variation XIII. The performance of only these three movements clearly implied all three of these friends predeceased Elgar. Mark Pitt's theory concerning the link between Elgar's "dark saying" and mortality is dead right.


According to Elgar’s Roman Catholic doctrine of the Trinity, Jesus is recognized as a member of the Godhead whose death and sacrifice on the cross made possible the rekindling of the friendship between God and humanity that was tragically lost at the Edenic fall. The centrality of this pillar of Elgar’s faith is verified by the Romanza Cipher which encodes a reference to the Turin Shroud, the burial cloth of Christ. This famous linen cloth is the most sacred relic of the Roman Catholic Church because it bears the faint image of a crucified man that many believe to be the body of Christ. Five months before Elar began work on the Enigma Variations, Secondo Pia took a famous photograph of the Turin Shroud. Pia’s photographic negative made international headlines because it showed that the image on the Turin Shroud is a photographic negative. This discovery strongly implies a miraculous origin because the recorded history of the Turin Shroud predates the invention of photography by almost a millennium.
Elgar’s dedication for the Enigma Variations reads, “Dedicated to my friends pictured within.” This phrase is six words in length and has eleven syllables. These numbers, six and eleven,  are significant because the covert Theme’s full title is six words long and has eleven unique letters. Elgar’s choice of words is also remarkable because it hints at a picture of death. The first word begins with a phonetic version of dead (DEDicated), and the fifth word is pictured. Is this not an apt description of the Turin Shroud?



The encoded phrases “Behold Jesus Christ,” “Looks like Jesus Christ,” and “See Jesus” are fitting descriptions of the Turin Shroud and its famous photographic negative. As the Apostle Thomas would confess, seeing is believing. The cumulative impact of multiple ciphers encoding the same set of mutually consistent answers speaks to their authenticity and accuracy.


Elgar makes m coded references to Dante's epic Christian poem The Divine  Comedy in the Enigma Variations. These allusions to one of the great works of  Western civilization includes the number of key signatures (5) and movements (15) in the Enigma Variations. When these two numbers are placed side by side, they produce 515. There are numerous coded references in Variation XIII to that symbolic number associated with Dante's “enigma forte,” a cryptic prophecy about a future savior. In recognizing these subtle allusions to one of the great works of Western civilization, Elgar offers his own solution to Dante’s difficult enigma in the form of the Enigma Variations.
The efficacy of the Locks Cipher is further shown by Elar’s choice of keys for the Mendelssohn fragments in Variation XIII. There are four fragments in three contrasting keys. Two are in A flat major, a third in F minor, and a fourth in E flat major. These key letters are a pellucid anagram of the well known musical cryptogram F.A.E. The initials originate from violinist Joseph Joachim’s personal romantic motto "Frei aber einsam," which means “Free but lonely.” The thrust of Joachim’s motto is hinted at by Elgar’s retrospective remarks about the Enigma Theme, that “it expressed when written (in 1898) my sense of the loneliness of the artist.”  It is ignominious that someone of Julian Rushton’s stature failed to detect such an elementary music cryptogram streaking so openly in the anomalous Mendelssohn fragments. Rushton’s failure to do so testifies loudly to his impotence as a musical cryptographer.
The presence of so many ciphers encoding the same set of mutually consistent answers is confirmation of their legitimacy, not evidence of confirmation bias as musicologist Linda Shaver-Gleason biasedly contends without a shred of confirmation. In her haste to dismiss an incredible array of interlocking cryptograms in the Enigma Variations, Shaver-Gleason callously chalks them up to the convenient catchall of confirmation bias. She deceptively reasons that the existence of so many diverse yet compatible ciphers must be confirmation of confirmation bias rather than the result of Elgar’s deliberate construction. The mischaracterization of these cryptograms as the product of something as nebulous and plastic as confirmation bias is a barbaric insult to Elgar’s genius, and is a charge that more accurately characterizes Shaver-Gleason’s scurrilous and spurious denunciation.
In her bombastic critique, Shaver-Gleason invokes the opinions of Julian Rushton in a naked appeal to authority.  If Shaver-Gleason had done her homework, then she would have soon realized that Julian Rushton had not done his. Rushton is so obtuse that he cannot distinguish between the dichotomous definitions of simple and enigma. To sink into such a contradictory quagmire of intellectual depravity is the special purview of career academics whose minds are hard-boiled in a post-modernist sludge of secularism. Rushton is too backward to fathom a retrograde mapping of Ein feste Burg “through and over” the Enigma theme. If one has never read anything about the Enigma Variations, then that person is uninformed. If someone has consulted Rushton’s ruminations on Elgar’s enigmas, then that person is misinformed. Ultimately my research is above the heads of career academics like Rushton and Shaver-Gleason, and that is not very high. Shaver-Gleason’s reliance on Rushton expertise is a classic case of the blind leading the blind.
To learn more about the secrets of the Enigma Variations, read my free eBook Elgar’s Enigmas Exposed.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Shattering Rushton's Enigma Myths



But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.


In Breaking Elgar’s Enigma published by The New Republic, journalist Daniel Estrin asks the provocative question, “Did a violin teacher from Plano, Texas solve the world’s greatest classical music mystery?” In the virtual pages that follow, he highlights some key discoveries from my seven-year quest to crack two cardinal riddles of Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations. The first is the identity of a famous secret melody to which the Enigma Theme is a counterpoint, and by extension, the full complement of Enigma Variations. The second is the nature and content of a “dark saying” locked away within the Enigma Theme. Estrin does not directly address a third enigma, namely the unnamed friend portrayed in Variation XIII. I could not have asked for a better journalist to cover my research because Estrin’s work ethic is infused with a hard-nosed integrity harnessed to a soft-spoken boldness. When he first asked to write about me and my research, I replied there was no such thing as bad press so long as he spelled my name right. I wish to extend my earnest gratitude to Estrin and The New Republic for covering my story and sharing my discoveries with a much broader audience.
In performing his due diligence, Estrin solicited the opinions of recognized experts from the British academic establishment. As expected, unsympathetic appraisals were received from Julian Rushton, Clive McClelland, and an anonymous professor at the University of London. Rushton’s objections were by far the most detailed and extensive, so they will be assessed and redressed. Before responding to his salvos, it must be emphasized there is no comparison between Rushton’s lavish credentials and my scant few. After studying at Cambridge, he obtained his Doctorate from Oxford under J. A. Westrup before starting his teaching career at the University of East Anglia. He then served as a professor at Cambridge with a fellowship from King’s College before finally being appointed to the West Riding Chair of Music at the University of Leeds. A prolific and respected musicologist, Rushton is Emeritus Professor of Music at the University of Leeds and a former editor of The Elgar Society Journal. In stark contrast to Rushton’s lengthy curriculum vitae, I am merely a provincial music teacher and freelance musician with a high school diploma from Stevenson School and an undergraduate degree from Vassar College. If there ever was a David versus Goliath scenario in the arena of musicology, it would have to be my research pitted against Rushton’s giant resume and Brogdingnagian intellect. Such an analogy is exquisitely appropriate as David contributed a book of songs to the Old Testament known collectively as the Psalms, and one among them inspired Martin Luther to compose his rousing hymn Ein feste Burg.
Rushton gives two reasons for rejecting my retrograde mapping of Ein feste Burg “through and over” the entire Enigma Theme’s nineteen bars. The first is the rhythms of Ein feste Burg are “distorted,” meaning some flexibility with note values was required to produce a harmonious fit. The second is Ein feste Burg was adapted to accommodate the minor and major modes of G in which the Enigma Theme is played. His contention about “distorted” note values is nothing more than a red herring. Someone of his expertise is keenly aware that the shortening and lengthening of note values in counterpoint is known as diminution and augmentation respectively. Elgar studied these and other contrapuntal devices in Cherubini’s treatise on fugue and counterpoint. His reverence for Bach’s music further assured Elgar was fluent in these standard contrapuntal techniques. There is ultimately no greater authority than Elgar to decisively settle this issue. For the October 1900 edition of The Musical Times, he furnished a counterpoint between God save the Queen and the 5/4 waltz from Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique (Figure 1).




In his contrapuntal melding of two famous themes, Elgar “distorted” some of the note values of God save the Queen (originally written in 3/4) to accommodate the 5/4 structure of Tchaikovsky’s waltz. If Rushton’s reasoning was applied to this contrapuntal specimen, it would lead to the risible conclusion that Elgar could not have conceived of it. By itself, this example should be sufficient grounds for Rushton to recant his “music-illogical” heresy against Elgar, yet there is still more evidence to bring to bear on this subject.
In another scenario eerily similar to the Enigma Theme, Elgar composed a counterpoint to a famous principal Theme that is not heard. For his overture Cockaigne Op. 40, he composed the Lover’s Theme as a counterpoint to the Wedding March from Mendelssohn’s overture A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Figure 2).


Elgar takes great liberties with his source melody. Not only does he change the mode of the Wedding March from its original key of C major to B flat major, but he also alters some rhythms and dispenses with some of the notes. These are the very same kinds of alterations Rushton invokes as proof against my retrograde mapping of Ein feste Burg over the Enigma Theme. Like the blending of Tchaikovsky’s waltz with God save the Queen, Rushton’s strictures regarding the integrity of the source melody would compel us to rule out Elgar’s use of Mendelssohn’s Wedding March as the foundation for his Lover’s Theme counterpoint. The reality is these modifications to rhythm and mode should be expected by someone familiar with Elgar’s contrapuntal style, particularly when the objective is to mask the identity of a source melody as was undoubtedly the aim with the Enigma Variations. The delicious irony is this example of Elgar’s counterpoint appears in the pages of The Cambridge Companion to Elgar, a worked co-edited by none other than Julian Rushton.
Elgar’s treatment of the Mendelssohn fragments in Variation XIII reaffirms this artistic inclination to change a source melody’s range, mode, tempo and note values. Seventeen measures after Rehearsal D in Mendelssohn’s concert overture Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt, the fragment Elgar quotes is first introduced by the cello section in the key of A major. Elgar departs from the original mode by quoting that source fragment twice an octave higher in A flat major, once a sixth higher in F minor, and again a fifth higher in E flat major. The key letters of those fragments (F-A-E) are a well known music cryptogram, an important feature that someone of Rushton’s expertise should have easily spotted. At approximately 112 beats per minute per quarter note, Mendelssohn’s tempo is much faster than Elgar’s quotation with a more leisurely metronome marking of 76. The source fragment’s rhythmic sequence is a half note (C sharp), dotted quarter (B),  eighth note (A) followed by a whole note (A). While he retains much of the original rhythm, Elgar’s quotations truncate the fourth note to a dotted quarter. Like the Enigma Theme, the Mendelssohn fragments are presented in both major and minor modes. These fragments are accompanied by a pulsating ostinato figure that replicates the Enigma Theme’s palindromic rhythm with the regular quarter rests stripped out, implying a special connection with the Enigma Theme.
Another problem with Rushton’s opinion calling for a strict adherence to the source melody’s note values is that it is not shared by other musicologists. In his paper Shadows of the evening: new light on Elgar’s ‘dark saying,’ Clive McClelland warns against making the “false assumption that the hidden melody fits in real time with Elgar’s theme.”  This perceptive observation is delectably ironic given that McClelland consulted with Rushton in preparing his paper, thanking him “for much useful advice.” Elgar’s flexible treatment of the Enigma Theme throughout the Variations should make it exceedingly obvious that such a pliable approach would also be extended to his handling of the covert principal Theme, particularly since his intent was to harden his melodic cipher against discovery.
Yet another flaw with Rushton’s assumption Elgar would assiduously preserve the original mode and rhythmic values of the covert Theme is there are multiple iterations of Ein feste Burg with varying rhythmic and melodic patterns (Figure 3).


With so many conflicting versions, Elgar could not have chosen a better source melody if his goal was to complicate its discovery. And who would ever guess that Elgar, a devout Roman Catholic, would adopt as his secretive source melody the battle hymn of the Protestant Reformation, a work composed by a heretic excommunicated by Pope Leo X? This would provide a motive for its covert rather than overt quotation. With Ein feste Burg, Elgar enjoyed the extraordinary advantage of accessing multiple versions in constructing his perplexing contrapuntal conundrum. Why choose just one version when he could mix and match fragments from all three? By fusing together distinct phrases from Luther’s original and permutations by Bach and Mendelssohn, Elgar produced a unique “tribrid” hymn in homage to these pillars of the German School. It must be emphasized these fragments were detected through a methodical process of identifying sequentially matching notes between Ein feste Burg and the Enigma Theme’s short score, reconstructing each distinct phrase sequentially in reverse.  Such a disciplined procedure effectively rules out these fragments as figments of an overactive imagination. The odds of mapping Ein feste Burg’s seven phrases note-for-note in a way that precisely matches one of its three established versions in the correct phrase order that harmonizes perfectly with the entire 19 measures of the Enigma Theme is so infinitesimally remote as to rule out a fortuitous assemblage. This could have only been engineered by someone far more talented than myself.
As a student of the German language, it is conceivable Elgar’s “tribrid” version of Ein feste Burg was motivated by the German expression, “Aller guten dingen sind drei” (All good things come in threes). It is also possible his contrapuntal mashup was inspired by the Roman Catholic belief in a Triune God. In his correspondence, Elgar voiced a preference to give his breakout symphonic work the austere title Variations, something that implies the hidden melody was itself a variation. The combination of fragments from three distinct versions of Ein feste Burg produces a fourth permutation, a feature that mirrors Elgar’s use of four languages in his Music Box Cipher. Like ciphers, lockboxes are opened with the right combination. This distinct characteristic extends to Elgar’s contrapuntal cipher that required a combination of different versions of Ein feste Burg to be unlocked.
Concerning his second objection regarding adjustments to Ein feste Burg to mirror the minor and major modes of the Enigma Theme, Rushton provides as much basis to justify this grievance as the first. In other words, nothing except his professional opinion devoid of any relevant factual support. There are compelling reasons for dismissing his second objection as resoundingly as the first. First, Elgar was more than willing to change the mode of Mendelssohn’s Wedding March from C major to B flat major when sketching his Lover’s Theme counterpoint. Second, Elgar abandoned the original A major mode of the Mendelssohn fragment when citing it in both major and minor modes in Variation XIII, favoring alternative keys that conveniently spell the famous music cryptogram FAE. Third, Elgar’s decision to frame the Enigma Theme in the minor and major modes of G involves the construction of a key cipher that cleverly encodes the initials for the covert principal Theme. This is the case because the accidentals for the key signatures of the G minor and major modes are B flat, E flat, and F sharp. The letters of these accidentals (E, F, and B) are the initials for Ein feste Burg. The Mendelssohn fragments in Variation XIII also encode the same three letters, reaffirming the decryption of the mysterious three asterisks (***) for its mysterious subtitle.
It is critical to recognize Elgar was deliberately shielding the source melody from easy discovery. One way he accomplishes this is by repeatedly modulating the Enigma Theme between the minor and major modes, generating a modal smoke screen that renders the source melody’s key ambiguous. The unconventional bar lengths of each section further confuse matters. The A section has six bars, the B section four, the A’ section seven, and the C bridge section only two. This irregular phrase structure frustrates all attempts at overlaying a standard eight-bar phrase over any particular section of the Enigma Theme to detect a prospective solution. These odd phrase lengths could only have been realized by “distorting” the rhythms of the source melody through the contrapuntal techniques of augmentation and diminution. A retrograde mapping of the source melody “through and over” the Enigma Theme escalates the challenge even further, justifying the sobriquet Enigma. Not only is it necessary to adjust the source melody’s rhythms to achieve a retrograde mapping, but it is also essential to calibrate its mode to mirror that of the Enigma Theme. Context is key, or more precisely, the key is the context. The keys are also a cipher that unlocks Elgar’s melodic safe.
It has been shown in two documented cases that Elgar’s counterpoints exhibit just the opposite of what Rushton demands to authenticate a contrapuntal match between the Enigma Theme and the covert principal Theme. Elgar’s treatment of the Mendelssohn fragments in Variation XIII further proves he was perfectly comfortable with modifying a source melody’s key, octave, tempo, and rhythm to suit his creative needs. Other reputable scholars like Dr. McClelland reject Rushton’s assumptions, correctly pointing out that the covert Theme does not need to remain completely intact to achieve a credible contrapuntal fit. Rushton’s insistence on a rigid consistency is in open conflict with the conflicting versions of Ein feste Burg available to Elgar when he composed the Enigma Variations. Although revered as a pontiff of Elgar scholarship, Rushton’s pontifications on Elgar’s contrapuntal inclinations prove he is far from infallible. His stubborn refusal to acknowledge the prospect of a retrograde mapping of Ein feste Burg over the Enigma Theme based on “distorted” rhythms is not rooted in a sober appreciation of the facts, but a myth of his own invention. The only thing being distorted is Rushton’s perverse sense of logic. His unsound objections are best answered by a passage from Self Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — 'Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.' — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.

Elgar may be added to Emerson’s list of celebrated but misunderstood minds. Blinded by a pedantic obsession for a crushing consistency, Rushton lost the contrapuntal forest for the trees. In the process, he flagrantly misunderstands and misrepresents Elgar’s style of counterpoint, and by extension, my explication of it. If only Rushton had done his homework by actually reading the works he takes credit for editing, he would have quickly realized Elgar’s contrapuntal style permits a more elastic treatment of note values and modes. Is that case not already proven by Elgar’s divergent contrapuntal treatments of the Enigma Theme throughout the Variations? No wonder Elgar was critical of academics, warning their textbooks “teach building, but not architecture.” In this context it is questionable whether Rushton even understands building, unless it involves a house of cards.
In describing Rushton’s qualifications to assess my research, Estrin mentions his 1999 book Elgar: Enigma Variations. In a recent blog post, a number of errors in that treatise are described. One of the most egregious is Rushton’s stubborn insistence that the correct solution to the Enigma Variations – if one exists at all – “should seem obvious (and not just to its begetter).” Where he found such a peculiar proviso is not so obvious, for there is no record of Elgar stipulating the solution should be apparent. This faux condition is easily refuted by consulting a dictionary. Merriam-Webster defines enigma as “something hard to understand or explain.” In contrast, the definition for obvious is “easily discovered, seen or understood.” With such diametrically opposed meanings, Merriam-Webster classifies enigma and obvious as antonyms. Following the passage of over a century without discovering a compelling solution to the Enigma Variations, what should be excruciatingly clear (even to a career academic like Rushton) is the correct solution is anything but obvious. Compromised by such a fatal logical flaw in which the principle of contradiction has been suspended, Rushton’s quest for a credible resolution was doomed from the start.
There are other outlandish errors plaguing Rushton’s analysis of the Enigma Variations. One of the most glaring is his assumption Elgar had only a brief three-day period in which to conceive of any cryptograms. He relies exclusively on Elgar’s correspondence with Jaeger to arrive at such an eccentric conclusion. Rushton ruminates, “A tempting avenue leads to ciphers, although the short interval (three days) between conception and the commitment implied by mentioning the existence of the Variations to Jaeger makes elaborate precompositional calculation unlikely.” This inference openly conflicts with Rushton’s remarks concerning Variation X (Dorabella) which he describes as being of “possible early origin…” An “early origin” would imply some degree of “precompositional calculation,” so Rushton is writing out of both sides of his own mouth. What Rushton alleges is the Variations were essentially a spontaneous, unplanned eruption of Elgar’s genius that would necessarily preclude any elaborately premeditated cryptograms and counterpoints.
Does Rushton’s theory harmonize with the historical evidence? A cursory review of the timeline decisively refutes such an arbitrary three-day constraint on the formulation of any cryptograms and counterpoints. Elgar openly began work on the Variations starting October 21, 1898, only completing the orchestration by February 19, 1899. From the time he first performed the Enigma Theme for his wife until he completed the initial orchestration covered a span of no less than 121 days. This timeline does not take into consideration an extra five days in July 1899 when Elgar sketched and appended 96 bars to the extended Finale. At a minimum, Elgar enjoyed a leisurely four months to devise and perfect any eventual ciphers and counterpoints, not a scant three days as Rushton bizarrely contends. The selfsame scholar who conflates the definitions for obvious and enigma apparently lacks the mathematical acuity to differentiate between three days versus four months. To paraphrase Elgar’s not-so-secret friend, it is as if Rushton’s left lobe does not know what the right is thinking. If Rushton is the best England’s renowned universities can muster in the quest to crack the Enigma Variations, no wonder the British academic establishment failed to successfully navigate that melodic labyrinth.
Rushton’s three-day limitation on Elgar’s creative ferment is in marked conflict with Elgar’s lifelong compositional habits. In The Cambridge Companion to Elgar (edited by Daniel M. Grimley and, somewhat ironically, Julian Rushton), Christopher Kent describes Elgar’s compositional practices in his essay Magic by mosaic: some aspects of Elgar’s compositional methods. From early childhood Elgar would record and accumulate his musical ideas on small sheets of staff paper during outdoor excursions, a practice he likely absorbed from his father. Kent designates these musical sketches as “spontaneous jottings.” He offers numerous anecdotes of Elgar deriving musical inspiration from outdoor trips by the River Wye, Lake Windermere, and the reeds of the Severn with “a sheet of paper trying to fix the sounds and longing for something great.” Elgar’s lasting “indebtedness to environmental stimulation” raises the question whether he conceived of the Enigma Theme and some of the variations while ostensibly extemporizing at the piano on the eve of October 21, 1898, or if his ideas were crystallized earlier during his pastoral forays.  It is unfortunate the sketchbook that could document those ideas was burned in July 1921, a year after the passing of Lady Elgar. Nonetheless, there is abundant evidence proving Elgar used material from sketches generated years and even decades before fashioning them into a polished work. Rushton’s observation regarding Variation X as potentially being of an early origin supports this very conclusion.
Rushton’s failure to objectively present the most basic facts about the Enigma Variations without imposing artificial constraints on Elgar’s genius casts a long and lingering shadow of doubt over much of his analysis. When citing the original 1899 program note, Rushton wryly observed, “This passage raises a ripe mixture of unanswerable questions, not least why the composer indulged in obfuscation as early as 1899.” Unanswerable questions? From the outset, Rushton pigeonholes the only “solution” he finds palatable, namely that the answer should remain uncertain, unknowable, and undecided. His summary of Elgar’s conditions concerning the relationship between the covert Theme and the Enigma Variations is so hopelessly constructed that it reaps a whirlwind of clashing, cacophonous answers. That was undoubtedly Rushton’s intent from the outset, sowing seeds of confusion and doubt to so thoroughly confound his audience that they would inevitably arrive at the only inconclusive conclusion he deems palatable.
Estrin highlights some of the more intriguing discoveries from my original research into the Enigma Variations. He gives a snapshot of the most sophisticated of all the music cryptograms lurking in the Enigma Theme, a Polybius Square cipher ensconced in its opening measures demarcated by an oddly placed double bar at the terminus of bar 6. This is Elgar’s “dark saying” which was first mentioned in connection to the Enigma Theme in the original 1899 program note. I first began searching in earnest for this cipher after reading Dr. Clive McClelland’s paper Shadows of the evening: new light on Elgar’s ‘dark saying.’ He perceptively observed the regularly spaced quarter rests punctuating a palindromic rhythm suggests the presence of a cipher:

Elgar's six-bar phrase is achieved by the characteristic four-note grouping, repeated six times with its reversible rhythm of two quavers and two crotchets. This strongly suggests the cryptological technique of disguising word-lengths in ciphers by arranging letters in regular patterns. Elgar's love of puzzles and cryptograms is well documented.

Although McClelland was the first to formally recognize the potential existence of a music cipher in the opening six measures of the Enigma Theme, he lacked the cryptographic expertise to crack it. Another term for this type of cryptogram is a box cipher as the cipher key resembles a checkerboard. Elgar’s unique application of the Polybius box cipher to music puts on full display his penchant for wordplay, for it may aptly be described as a music box cipher. The four languages used in this cipher are English, Latin, German and what Elgar would have reasonably believed to be Aramaic (but is actually Hebrew). The first letters of these four languages form an acrostic anagram that cleverly spells Elgar. In a remarkable cryptographic feat, Elgar signed his signature cipher with a code wrapped within a code ostensibly to serve as a stealth form of authentication. Contrary to the insistence of mainstream scholars like Rushton and McClelland, Elgar did indeed write down the answer to his melodic riddle within the Enigma Theme to ensure its survival and signed his masterpiece in silent witness.
The abundance of cryptographic evidence authenticating Ein feste Burg as the covert principal Theme to the Enigma Variations has yet to convince mainstream Elgar scholars such as Rushton and McClelland.  This is best explained by the recognition these musicologists are unschooled in the art of cryptography, mistaking their inability to understand these ciphers as proof that they must be the figment of an overactive imagination as claimed by an anonymous professor from the University of London. Rushton’s failure to detect the rather rudimentary FAE cipher openly concealed by the Mendelssohn fragments in Variation XIII is symptomatic of this intellectual blind spot. My response to career academics who maintain it is impossible to crack Elgar’s enigmas is best captured by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s reply to career military commanders when they cautiously advised that a bombing raid on Japan just months after the calamity of Pearl Harbor was impossible. Reduced to sitting in a wheelchair due to the ravages of polio, Roosevelt defiantly locked his leg braces and struggled mightily until he pushed himself to stand upright. He then courageously proclaimed, “Do not tell me it can’t be done.” In the baffling quest to crack the Enigma Variations, it has already been done. To learn more about the secrets of the Enigma Variations, 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.