Rosslyn`s Musical Code is Deciphered

A composer/researcher claims to have figured out the enigmatic musical code hidden in the carvings of Rosslyn Chapel.
News article as follows..
http://news.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=20...
It would seem that William Sinclair, creator of the Chapel and it`s design, was not much of a musician... the hidden notes forming a nursery rhyme rather than a choral masterpiece.

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JeffN's picture
Member since:
1 May 2004
Last activity:
1 year 14 weeks

Hi Rua.

I comment on William Sinclair's musicianship (or lack of same) in the following message sent to the Sinclair Discussion List last night, the same day the Scotsman story ran at the link you provided, which is ...

http://news.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=20...

Here is what I sent to the SDL:

---------

Dear Cousins:

Remember that you heard this from me on the day the "Composer Cracks Rosslyn's Musical Code" article ran in the Oct. 1 2005 "Scotsman," Scotland's premier daily newspaper.

Far be it from me to be a naysayer, but certain things don't ring right about the article.

First let's consider what was introduced into the article as a way to boost the reader's estimation of Stuart Mitchell, the composer who "took 20 years to crack a complex series of codes which have mystified historians for generations." The article goes on to say that Mitchell's feat "was hailed by experts as a stroke of genius."

Note first that the word "experts" is plural, and then consider that there is ONLY ONE "expert" listed in the balance of the article. No matter, though -- the reader of the article already has it in the back of his mind that there is more than one expert, and so the reader's estimation of the truth of the article has already been raised more than the accurate reading of it would warrant.

This expert named is one James Cunningham, author of "The Medieval Diatonic Scale."

The reader now thinks that Mr. Cunningham is both an expert in, and author of a published book or article about, an area of study that Mitchell's research might fall under, and so the reader further feels that Mitchell is well-credentialed and has the support of a peer group, even though the peer group of "experts" is, as far as the article explains, a group of one.

I did an "exact phrase" Google search on "Medieval Diatonic Scale," and came up with a search result of exactly ZERO. [Try it yourself].

It would seem to me that the "Medieval Diatonic Scale" is neither a book, nor a scholarly paper, nor even an academic area of study under the slightest bit of study or debate.

The other factoid woven into the article in order to raise our opinion of Mitchell's code-breaking abilities as a composer is that he "has been nominated for the British Composer Awards 2005."

I find from the following source ...

http://www.classicalsource.com/db_contro...

... that those particular awards are only in their third year. While that alone does not make Mitchell's credentials any less solid, the following excerpt from that site about last year's eligibility requirements might have raised one or two eyebrows on the editorial fact-checking staff of the Scotsman. It raised both of mine. Capital letters are mine.

"ANYONE CAN PUT FORWARD A WORK FOR AN AWARD, although composers cannot submit their own music. Entry is free and unpublished music is eligible, but every piece must have received its UK première between 1st April 2004 and 31st March 2005." [Since Mitchell's piece has yet to be performed, it must be a nomination for the 2006 awards that the writer refers to].

So, besides the reader thinking that Mitchell's theory has been "hailed as a stroke of genius," by more than one expert in the nonexistent field of "The Medieval Diatonic Scale," the reader is led further down the journalistically paved garden path by thinking that anyone who is nominated for a British Composer Award must be deserving of the nomination -- even though ANYONE can make the nomination, and can do so at no cost.

I am thinking that Angie Brown, the author of the piece, began to write her piece before Ron Howard and his crew showed up at Rosslyn, and that the Scotsman timed its publication for the day after Opie and his entourage pulled up stakes and left. The excellent and carefully posed and lit portrait of Mitchell and his musical tome beneath Rosslyn's five-course vaulted ceiling must certainly have taken a bit of work that time did not permit.

But, after all I've said, I am not saying that Mitchell's theory is wrong. What I am saying is that the content, structure, and attribution of the Scotsman's article does not inspire confidence that that's the case. [A bit of a structure problem on my own part, here. What I should have said is "the Scotsman's article does not inspire confidence that it's RIGHT"].

Mitchell has until 31 March 2006, just a few weeks before the premier of the Da Vinci Code movie, to debut his "Rosslyn Canon of Proportions" in front of an audience in order to make the British Composer Award nomination stick. I have every faith he will.

One other thing bothers me about the article.

Mitchell explains away the "nursery rhyme style" of the music by saying it is evident that William Sinclair, the designer of the chapel, "was an architect, not a musician," and that "he could not play very well."

To that I would say that William, the architect, could design a building, but not build it. For that he hired masons.

Is it too much to expect that a man who knew his limitations would not hire a musician to build the chapel's "musical code?"

One always takes the risk, when one reacts too quickly, that one is making a big mistake. I take that chance, and will apologize to Mitchell if I'm wrong. But I don't think I'll have to apologize to the Scotsman. The structure of the article, built though it was to increase the reader's confidence about Mitchell's credentials and theory, was a tad sloppy for those with eyes to read and a brain to think.

Best!

Jeff

----------

PS: I wrote an article titled "Rosslyn Chapel Revisited," published in the Nov./Dec., 2004 issue of Atlantis Rising magazine, which deals with the five-course vaulted ceiling of Rosslyn Chapel and something I discovered encoded in it. If you go to the following link you can then click on the "Articles Archive" link to the right, near the top of the page. The article is third from the bottom. Several of my articles are about Rosslyn Chapel.

http://www.mythomorph.com

thefloppy2's picture
Member since:
22 February 2005
Last activity:
6 years 47 weeks

for the insights. Your comment here is what makes TDG special.

DISCLAIMER: the opinions and veiws in this post are mine only and are not those of others or of TDG. Any similarities are by chance only.

Baphomet's picture
Member since:
9 October 2005
Last activity:
8 years 50 weeks

Just trying to understand your point...

Are you just taking exception to the way in which "The Scotsman" presents Mr. Cunningham's credentials and a fairly flippant comment he makes about the banality of the tune of the music encoded into the "cubes" (I put this in inverts as I know that many who have studied these do not like this label. These stone carvings are not "cubes" at all, they are rectangular - probably better described as "nodes". I'm being pedantic).

Have his finding's been hailed by "experts", "an expert", or a layman? Does it really matter? The Press have a habit of elaborating on the "facts", that's the nature of the beast. Those who get their information first hand often do not read the papers as this is an exercise in frustration. I have taken "The Scotsman" up a couple of times before on their claims to "fact" and received what, at best, could be described a exceptionally weak justifications (I am schooled in logic and rhetoric and I am being generous here - they actually gave no substantial answer to my queries, but at least they replied).

The more important question (for me) is whether the code has been broken. I have worked on these symbols for over 5 years now and I will be interested in hearing his interpretation. Of course, I expect Mr Cunningham to capitalise on his theory and release his book to coincide with the release of the film ("TDC"), I would do exactly the same.

Until we have heard his theory in full, I think it a tad premature to judge him.

As for the comments on Sinclair, it seems too often the case that unless Henry & family are spoken about in less than glowing terms, that there is a kneejerk reaction. I find it hard to believe all the claims made of Henry: the navigator who discovered America, knight, lord, prince and, more recently, god of the Micmacs, &c, &c. I am just waiting for the first claim that the Micmacs are actually descendents of the holy bloodline, the "Sons of Mic(k) (Michael)", who passed through Scotland (merging some blood with the locals) in some bygone age on their way from Jerusalem to the New World...

JeffN's picture
Member since:
1 May 2004
Last activity:
1 year 14 weeks

Dear Baphomet:

Sorry I'm answering your post so long after you posted it. I tend to lose track of the blogs I answer once they slip out of the bottom of the front-page list, as was the case here.

No, I am not judging Mitchell's work. How could I?

I am simply judging the Scotsman article, which I know that many have swallowed hook, line and sinker. I always think it is good to eventually know HOW the hook was set while there's still time to shake it.

I am saying that the reader should naturally, if so inclined, keep an open mind, wait for Mitchell to deliver the goods, and read every news report twice -- once to accept at face value, and once to look behind the face.

As far as the Sinclairs are concerned, I have been a member of the discussion list for quite some time. I rarely get replies to my posts "on list," and therefore feel that I am far from being a favorite member. Several of my articles, you see, cast serious doubt that the "Book in Stone" we see today is the one that the builder intended.

There has been some editing of this book over the centuries since it was built, as my articles have shown, and this is not a popular idea.

All Best!

Jeff

www.mythomorph.com

Baphomet's picture
Member since:
9 October 2005
Last activity:
8 years 50 weeks

Dear Jeff

:| I managed to completely miss your post, must be the senility kicking in...

OK, now I understand you and I apologise if I was off the mark. Your criticism of The Scotsman is well founded, but the fact that they elaborate on the "facts" is of absolutely no surprise to me - I know from experience just how much the Press make up in the name of a good story (and selling papers).

I agree, let's see what Mitchell proposes with a very open mind. I have studied Rosslyn closely, in particular the "cubes" and so am interested to see what he comes up with. I hope and pray that it doesn't lead to another "Head of God" story! I have a feeling that what is actually encoded in these cubes is some guild hymn, but we will see.

I have just had a quick scan of your site, nice work! Not sure I agree with everything that you write (not had chance to read it closely yet, but I am on nightshift tonight so that will give me something to do ;)), but I can see that you have certainly done your homework. You are dead right about alterations being made to the chapel long after William died and (I reckon) probably as recent as 1958. The "Apprentice" is a case in point - his beard seems to have been chiseled off and that dunt in his head looks fresher than the rest of his visog. The Apprentice Pillar is, I am pretty sure, named after the Prentys family who carved it. The legend came at a later date.

I can appreciate how your views would go down like a lead balloon with Niven, but if I may speak frankly I think the guy's either a total fruitloop, or just trying to monopolise Rosslyn whilst deifying his family: they recently promoted Henry to a god!

I will have a thorough look at your site and perhaps contact you from there - I can see you have looked closely at the chapel, through your own eyes. As you will know well by now, that is a pretty rare thing when it comes to Rosslyn.

Cheers, and thanks for replying.

Bappy

JeffN's picture
Member since:
1 May 2004
Last activity:
1 year 14 weeks

Hi Bappy.

Thanks for the kind words about my site, especially your comment that you can see that I have "looked closely at the chapel" through my own eyes. I am writing an article titled "Rosslyn Chapel's Strangest Carving" which brings into play an amazing observation sent to me by someone who used their own eyes to assist my own. It'll be out at the end of January, 2006, and I hope you'll like it.

Niven actually is quite interested in my work. Though he doesn't say too much about it, I know that he doesn't shrug it off, either. Unless he knows a WHOLE lot more than I do, he is certainly old enough to know that there's a whole lot more to know -- if you know what I mean.

So, look at my site. And if you do contact me from there, tell me who you are. When I wrote my first article I decided that I would use my real name. Over the years since, I have spoken to many people who are known by their "handles." It is a bit disconcerting, but I have become used to it. Nevertheless ...

All Best!

Jeff

www.mythomorph.com

Rua's picture
Member since:
9 August 2005
Last activity:
7 years 18 weeks

I am also very sceptical about the `deciphering` of a musical code within the Chapel`s carvings, aswell as the merit of Mr Mitchells `genius`. And it is so obviously timed to co-incide with the high level of interest and media coverage that the Chapel is getting just now. There are quite a number of musicians, researchers and just plain curious folk studying the possibility of links between the carvings, patterns and musical notation. One of these is a professional musician friend of mine who has researched, studied, lectured and written articles on the subject.
We can find patterns and themes in nearly all things (especially in nature) if we look hard enough- and pattern, maths, structure & rhythm are the stuff of music. Me no expert though.. me just like nice tunes, pretty pictures in stone & shiney things...!!

Baphomet's picture
Member since:
9 October 2005
Last activity:
8 years 50 weeks

My aplogies, it should be Mr Mitchell, not Cunningham as I write above... sloppy ;)

What does your musical friend make of the nodules, cubes, or whatever they are? Your last paragraph seems to indicate you think that anyone seeing a cypher here is actually seeing faces in the clouds - have you studied these? If they were purely decorative, then the patterns on them would be symmetrical - mirrored in some way.

As I say above, I have studied just this patricular section of the chapel for quite a few years now and it's encoded music, believe me (or not, choice is yours, but please don't argue from simple blind prejudice - go & have a look for yourself, I know you're a local).

Baphomet's picture
Member since:
9 October 2005
Last activity:
8 years 50 weeks

My aplogies, it should be Mr Mitchell, not Cunningham as I write above... sloppy ;)

What does your musical friend make of the nodules, cubes, or whatever they are? Your last paragraph seems to indicate you think that anyone seeing a cypher here is actually seeing faces in the clouds - have you studied these? If they were purely decorative, then the patterns on them would be symmetrical - mirrored in some way.

As I say above, I have studied just this patricular section of the chapel for quite a few years now and it's encoded music, believe me (or not, choice is yours, but please don't argue from simple blind prejudice - go & have a look for yourself, I know you're a local).