Saturday, October 19, 2013

Elgar's Code of Conduct

Affairs of the Heart & Mind

An article, by Mark MacNamara, in Nautilus says that cryptographers have been assiduously and perhaps arduously trying to crack what is known as the Dorabella Cipher, which British composer Edward Elgar penned in 1897, the year of Queen Victorias Jubilee.

MacNamara writes
On July 14, following a visit the previous weekend to some family friends, the Reverend and Mrs. Alfred Penny, Elgar spun off what looked like a drawing or scribble and gave it to his wife, Alice, to attach to a thank-you note. It was intended for Dora Penny, a 23-year-old ardent admirer, who sang in a local choral group and liked to dance.
They’d known each for a year and a half; she was not a lover, rather an entertainment, a colorful Aquarian butterfly with which to go biking, kiting, and strolling through the bracken and harebells of Malvern; someone who could read music well enough to turn the pages at the piano bench, but with whom he could also could talk about maps, fashion, and the fortunes of the Wolverhampton Wanderers football team. He nicknamed her Dorabella.
Elgar’s scribble was actually a cipher. It consisted of 87 glyphs unevenly spread over three lines. It contained 24 different symbols that featured one, two, or three cusps or curves. The glyphs were tilted in what appeared to be eight various angles. In a glance it gave the sense of seagulls, or sheep, or bits of stubble. Dora looked at it, couldn’t figure it out, put it in a drawer, and didn’t draw it out again for 40 years.

The scribble, known as the Dorabella Cipher, has never been decrypted and stands with such other famous unsolved puzzles as the Voynich Manuscript, a 240-page codex dating from the 15th century; the Phaistos Disk, an apparently Bronze-age piece of clay found in Crete in 1908; and the Zodiac Killer ciphers of the 1960s and ’70s.
Perhaps its not surprising that Elgar could come up with such a cipher, since mathematics and music are intricately and intimately linked. So is love and beauty, and I suspect that the answer to this cipher lies in the intersection of all these things that mattered most to Elgar.

You can read the rest of the article at [Nautilus].

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