Edward Elgar's Enigma- Solution and Confirmation

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Edward Elgar's Enigma- Solution and Confirmation

Recent research has uncovered what is probably the "real" solution.  What do you think?

The first four notes of the Enigma Variations are scale degree 3-1-4-2, a common decimal approximation of Pi.  Pi was in the news during the year before Elgar wrote his famous enigma.  The Indiana Pi Bill of 1897 attempted to legislate the value of Pi.  This futile effort was widely ridiculed and Elgar was always amused by such "japes" as he called them.  Elgar loved puzzles and he alone solved a famous riddle that was issued as an challenge to all of England by a master puzzler (who bragged that his riddle was impossible to solve.)   Elgar's six page solution is on display at his birthplace museum.  Elgar said that his work on the Enigma Variations was "begun in a spirit of humor."  Pi fits all of the clues given by Elgar in his 1899 program notes.  The dark saying could be "Four and twenty blackbirds (dark) baked in a pie (Pi)".  Elgar was fond of puns.  One of his earliest works was "Childhood Daze."  Pi is the theme in the literary sense.  It is the concept behind the work.  The word "Enigma" was handwritten on the score, centered over the first four bars, where we can find both decimal Pi (3.142) and fractional Pi (22/7) cleverly hidden.  

In 1929, when he wrote his pianola roll notes, Elgar was 72 years old, in ill health, and no one had solved his enigma for 30 years.  Elgar was determined not to give up the solution but he probably wanted to leave unmistakable clues to verify the correct solution in case it were solved after his death.  In the first sentence he refers to 2 quavers and 2 crotchets, a hint at 22 (of 22/7).  In the second sentence he states that "the drop of the seventh should be observed in bars 3 and 4."  These two sevenths follow exactly after the first eleven notes leaving us 2/7 x 11 = 22/7.   In the third sentence Elgar further confirms his intentional Pi by refering to bar 7, a hint at /7 (of 22/7).   At age 72, Elgar left us three sentences hinting at fractional Pi in music that begins with decimal Pi, scale degree 3-1-4-2.  Elgar either planned his Enigma Variations around Pi or we have a series of phenomenal coincidences.  What do you think?

 

 

C R Santa

RE: Edward Elgar's Enigma- Solution and Confirmation

dnlsanta wrote:
The dark saying could be "Four and twenty blackbirds (dark) baked in a pie (Pi)".

It could be, yes.  It could also be "Baa, baa, black (= dark) sheep", or "Old King Cole (= coal = dark) was a merry old soul". Or something else entirely :-)

 

Quote:
At age 72, Elgar left us three sentences hinting at fractional Pi in music that begins with decimal Pi

Age 72? Hmm... that could be 7/2, or 3.5, which is fairly close to pi.

Sorry if that seems flippant, but it's just to illustrate that's it easy to find things if you look, and it seems as "close" as the "Four and twenty blackbirds..." idea.

 

Quote:
What do you think?

It seems rather like the 'plot' of a Dan Brown novel.

Fwiw, a longer version of the explanation, apparently by Dick Santa who came up with it*, is at 'http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_solution_to_Elgar's_Enigma_Variations (just scroll down a bit).

* see 'A New Solution to Elgar's Old Enigma' at http://minnesota.publicradio.org/collections/special/columns/comparing_notes/archive/2007/06/a_new_solution.shtml


 

"Louder! Louder! I can still hear the singers!"

- Richard Strauss to the orchestra, at a rehearsal.

RE: Edward Elgar's Enigma- Solution and Confirmation

dnlsanta wrote:
Besides the enigma solution does not depend on the dark saying...

The darkness is rather implied, certainly:

"The Enigma I will not explain - its 'dark saying' must be left unguessed..." (From the programme note to the first performance).

But all I was trying to indicate is that once you fix on a "solution", it's easy enough to find things that seem to fit, to some degree or other.

For example:

"Sir Edward wrote a dedication on the score, "To My Friends Pictured Within".  As the entire piece is about variations, he could have written, "To My Circle of Friends." This variation includes the word "circle," and in  math, characteristics of all circles are related by a universal constant, Pi. "

from "The solution is as easy as Pi"* by the chap who came up with the "Pi" theory, seems more than unduly contrived. Yes, Elgar could have written that - but he didn't.

* see http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_solution_to_Elgar's_Enigma_Variations

 

 

 

"Louder! Louder! I can still hear the singers!"

- Richard Strauss to the orchestra, at a rehearsal.

RE: Edward Elgar's Enigma- Solution and Confirmation

Elgar did write scale degree 3-1-4-2 as the first four notes of the Enigma Variations.  Elgar did write in 1929 that the "drop of the seventh in the 3rd and 4th bar should be observed."  Those 2/7 do come exactly after the first 11 notes and 2/7 x 11 = 22/7.  Coincidence or plan?

C R Santa

RE: Edward Elgar's Enigma- Solution and Confirmation

dnlsanta wrote:
Coincidence or plan?

Well, that's the $64,000 question :-)

Fwiw, I'm personally much less persuaded by the "pi" explanation than by, say, the "Corinthians" theory, or even the "Rule Britannia" one.

But since the only person who really knows died 76 years ago, I suspect we will never truly know.

 

"Louder! Louder! I can still hear the singers!"

- Richard Strauss to the orchestra, at a rehearsal.

RE: Edward Elgar's Enigma- Solution and Confirmation

SpiderJon wrote:
But since the only person who really knows died 76 years ago, I suspect we will never truly know.

Even if Elgar told us, some would not believe him.  Dorabella repeatedly suggested to Elgar that "Auld Lang Syne" was the solution even though he denied it .  After Elgar died, she wrote a book and still suggested "Auld Lang Syne" was the solution. 

C R Santa

RE: Edward Elgar's Enigma- Solution and Confirmation

The 4 opening notes of the theme can be heard in the slow movement of Mozart's "Prague" Symphony, which was in fact played in the first part of the concert at which 'Enigma Variations' were premiered.

Adrian

RE: Edward Elgar's Enigma- Solution and Confirmation

There is also the possibly relevant point that the interval of the seventh appears in many Elgar scores: it suits his compositional style, giving his music a rather unsettling feel.

RE: Edward Elgar's Enigma- Solution and Confirmation

It may be helpful to see the first few measures of the Enigma Variations.  I copied and pasted from Wikipedia-Enigma Variations:

Theme (Andante)

The theme consists of two contrasting melodic fragments, the first one the main theme:

I hope this helps everyone to see the "Pi" within the music.  Also notice the Four and Twenty Black(notes) baked in the pie (Pi) first 6 measures.

C R Santa

RE: Edward Elgar's Enigma- Solution and Confirmation

The complete "Pi solution" is now available in the latest issue of Current Musicology published by Columbia University.

C R Santa

RE: Edward Elgar's Enigma- Solution and Confirmation

Sir Padgett wrote:
The unstated Principal Theme to Elgar's Enigma Variations has been discovered. It is "Ein feste Burg" (A Might Fortress) by Martin Luther as realized by J.S. Bach and Felix Mendelssohn. To learn more about this historic discovery, visit 
 http://enigmathemeunmasked.blogspot.com/p/elgars-enigmas-exposed.html[/q...

Has your "solution" been accepted/published by any recognized, peer-reviewed musicology journal?

The only mentions of it I can find anywhere are comments to various Elgar-related blogs or articles that you made yourself, promoting your solution, plus an increasingly heated discussion resulting from when you tried to add chunks of your blog to the Wikipedia Engima Variations page.  

That said, and on a cursory reading, your proposed solution certainly looks interesting, and you've obviously put a great deal of work into it - but it would need to be rigorously and independently reviewed before you could even begin to claim to have 'solved' the mystery.

"Louder! Louder! I can still hear the singers!"

- Richard Strauss to the orchestra, at a rehearsal.

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