5. Conclusion  


The two streams of music and cryptog­raphy, usually quite separate, sometimes converge. That trend became more marked in the later years of the 20th century. The combinative impetus came from both sides. Cryptographers have always striven to make their music-ciphers as much like real music as possible in order to enhance their effectiveness as cipher. Some composers, conversely, may well have felt that their music was enriched by a judicious admixture of cryptographic elements. The use of cipher themes seems to have begun with J.C. Faber and may well have continued with Michael Haydn, Schumann and Elgar. The undisguised use resumed in France with Ravel, Poulenc, Honegger and others, and culminated in Messiaen. But, as Norman Cazden showed in 1961, modern scores present unrivalled opportunities for encipherments of all kinds, and no doubt there are undeclared exponents of undisclosed cipher techniques of musical composition.

   Critical mention of this practice tends to be uncomprehending and deprecatory. But on the evidence it derives from a true intuition that music and semantics have deep roots in common ground. Nor is this intuition confined to musicians; Thomas Mann for example in Dr Faustus envisaged a 12-note system which could also be used as cipher, suffusing the music with new quasi-verbal meaning. It is perhaps significant that in the past all the best-known and most frequent examples have been encipherments of names – presumably because names, of all words, are the least fixed and most fluid in meaning, and therefore the most closely akin to musical motifs as generally understood. With changing techniques and attitudes cipher equivalents may now more readily assume the form of words or phrases.

   In any event there will remain the demonstrable kinship between the musical and the cryptographic mind. The ready assimilation of music to symbolic communications systems and language structures; the consensus that music has an import related to its own structure; the prevalent feeling that music is itself a mysterious language intelligible only to the initiated: all these and other affinities and analogies between music and cryptography at least suggest that the relation is not without psychological or aesthetic significance.






Grove 5 (T. Dart); WolfH, ii, 464ff

G. Porta: De furtivis literarum notis (Napoli, 1563, 3/1602)

E. Tabourot : Les bigarrures du Seigneur des Accords (Rouen, 1584/R)

D. Schwenter: Steganalogia et steganographia (Nuremberg, c1620)

F. Godwin : The Man in the Moone, or a Discourse of a Voyage Thither (London, 1638)

J. Wilkins: Mercury, or The Secret and Swift Messenger (London, 1641)

A. Kircher: Musurgia universalis (Roma, 1650)

G. Schott: Schola steganographia (Nurenberg, 1655)

J. Friderici: Cryptographia (Hamburg, 1685)

E. Guyot: Nouvelles écréations physiques et mathématiques (Paris, 1769-70)

P. Thicknesse : A Treatise on the Art of Decyphering, and of Writing in Cypher (London, 1774)

W. Hooper: Rational Recreations (London, 1774)

J. Klüber: Kryptographik (Tübingen, 1809)

A. Bertini: Stigmatographieou Lìart d’écrire avec des points (Paris, 1811)

“Cipher”, Rees’s Cyclopaedia (London, 1819-20)

F. Sudre: Langue musicale universelle (Paris, 1866)

J. Schooling: “Secrets in Cipher I-IV”, Pall Mall Magazine, viii (1896), 119-29, 245-56, 452-62, 608-18

L. Couturat and L.Leau: Histoire de la langue universelle   (Paris, 1903)

A. Meister : Die Gehimschrift im Dienste der päplichsten Kurie (Paderborn, 1906)

J. Devos: Les chiffres de Philippe II, 1555-1598 (Brussels, 1950)

“Codes are Fragile”, Spring 3100, xxiii (New York, 1952), 10- 13

B. Bischoff: “Übersicht über die nicht diplomatischen Geheimschriften des Mittelalters“,Mitteilungen des Instituts für österreichische Geschichtsforschung, lxii (1954), 1-27,  esp. 6, 18-19

N. Cazden: “Staff Notation as a Non-Musical Communication Code“, JMT, v(1961), 113-28; [vedi anche idem: “Forum”, ibid., 287-96]

D. Kahn: The Codebreakers (New York, 1967)

H. Davies: “The History of a Cipher”, ML, xcviii (1967), 325-9

O. Wessely: Musik (Darmstadt, 1973), 226-46


Composer studies


G. Otter e F. Schinn: Biographische Stizze von Michael Haydn (Salzburg, 1808)

L. Spohr: Selbstbiographie (Kassel, 1860-61)

G. Auric: “Gabriel Fauré“, ReM, vi/2 (1924), 100-03

P. Dukas: “Adieu à Gabriel Fauré”, ibid., 97-9

ReM, x/7 (1929) [numero su Roussel]

A. Capri : Giuseppe Tartini (Milano, 1945)

K. Geiringer: Symbolism in the Music of Bach (Washington DC, 1956); repr. In Lectures on the History and Art of Music (New York, 1968), 123-37

J. Krause: “Gestalten und Zahlen im Et incarnatus est der h-moll Messe Bachs“, Saarbrücker Hefte, xix (1964), 1-16

E. Sams: ”Did Schumann use Ciphers?”, MT, cvi (1965), 584-91 [trad. it ne Il Tema di Clara, Asti, Analogon 1997]

E. Sams: “The Schumann Ciphers”, MT, cvii (1966), 392-400 [id.]

E. Sams: “The Schumann Ciphers: a Coda”, ibid. 1050-51 [id]

E. Sams: “Politics, Literature and People in Schumann’s   op.136”, MT, cix (1968) 25-7 [id.]

E. Sams: The Songs of Robert Schumann (London, 1969,  3/1993), 22-6

B. Large: Smetana (London, 1970)

E. Sams: “Elgar’s Cipher Letter to Dorabella”, MT, cxi (1970), 151-4 [trad. it in Variazioni con Enigma svelato, Asti, Analogon1998]

E. Sams: “Elgar’s Enigmas”, ibid., 692-4 [id.]

E. Sams: “A Schumann Primer”, ibid., 1096-7 [trad. it ne Il Tema di Clara, cit.]

E. Sams: “Variations on an Original Theme (Enigma)”, ibid., 58-62 [trad. it in Variazioni con Enigma svelato, cit.]

E. Sams: “Brahms and his Clara-Themes”, MT, cxii (1971), 32-4 [trad. it. ne Il Tema di Clara, cit.]

E. Sams: “Brahms and his Musical Love-Letters”, ibid., 329-30 [trad. it in Introduzione ai Lieder di Brahms, Asti,  Analogon, 1998]

H. Halbreich: “Ciphered Creed”, Music and Musicians, xx/12 (1971-2), 18,19

D. Brown: “A Note on Désirée Artôt, ‘Fatum’, and the First Piano Concerto”, Tschaikovsky: a Biographical and Critical Study, i (London, 1978), 197-200

Code and Cipher: the Secret Language of Music, Central Television Film (1989)

H. Noguchi: “Mozart: Musical Game in C K.516f”, MISM, xxxviii (1990), 89-102

R. Tatlow: Bach and the Riddle of the Number Alphabet (Cambridge, 1991)

S. Bruhn, ed.: Encrypted Messages in Alban Berg’s Music (New York, 1998)

E. Sams: “Elgar’s Enigmas”, ML, lxxviii (1998), 410-15 [trad. it in Variazioni con Enigma svelato, cit.]

E. Sams: The Songs of Johannes Brahms (London and Yale, 2000)