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Not quite so accessible. Ciphers and cryptograms in music throughout the Centuries

Plenary Speaker
24 August 2023
10:30 - 11:15 hrs (GMT+7)

In this presentation I will attempt a dangerous––hopefully not fatal––balancing act.


On the one hand I will present to you my current research on cryptography and ciphers in music. At first glance, one might expect that coding of verbal information does not play a significant role in music, since secrecy is definitely not a major goal here. However, it has been a current since early in the history of notation! The famous B-A-C-H cipher is only the tip of the iceberg. I will present intriguing and sometimes astonishingly complex musical coding techniques together with an overview of their historical development.


On the other hand I will introduce myself to you as a composer. Many of my works make use of coding techniques, e.g. in "Epigramm–Kryptogramm–Piktogramm for a speaking drummer", or my "Dark Matter'' series. Encoding, together with other strategies, helps me navigate the broad field of “musical meaning” and enables me to explore new possibilities of intertextuality.


I’ll uncover some secret messages to finally try to––at least provisionally––answer the question: Why coding in music?

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