In New Republic, Daniel Estrin writes about how a former insurance adjuster claims to have solved the 118-year-old cryptographic mystery of the hidden message in Edward Elgar’s infamous Enigma Variations.
And far from the ivory towers of music academia, mostly on his blog, Elgar’s Enigma Theme Unmasked, Bob Padgett has emerged as perhaps the most prolific and dogged of all Enigma seekers. His solution, which has caught the attention of classical music scholars, lies at the bottom of a rabbit hole of anagrams, cryptography, the poet Longfellow, the composer Mendelssohn, the Shroud of Turin, and Jesus, all of which he believes he found hiding in plain sight in the music.
Over the course of seven years of work, and in more than 100 detailed blog posts, Padgett identified about 40 other clues that support his theory, weaving a confounding web of musicological, literary, theological, and historical references.
There is another way to experience music, and that is Padgett’s way: to dissect it, to learn its grammar, and, ultimately, to borrow a phrase from the sequence of coded letters he discovered, to know it better. For Padgett, who is very religious, wrestling with Elgar’s work is akin to studying the Bible. It is reassurance that a grand, intelligent design exists. “For him, it’s a religious text,” his wife told me. “But he didn’t want to go on faith alone. He wanted solid proof.” “I’m an outsider, you know. I’m not one of these credentialed academics. I’m not published,” he said.