Forget about all the Christmas carols! Here comes the Friedman’s musical cryptogram from 1933, as played by a scorewriter.

Last week I reported on a number of encrypted Christmas cards created by William and Elizebeth Friedman during the interwar period. One of these cards show the following musical cryptogram that stems from the year 1933, when the USA suffered from the Great Depression:


The key to the cipher is given in the lower right corner. As you see, two notes played simultaneously stand for one letter. The solution is the following sentence (thanks to blog reader Norbert for the decryption): HOLIDAYS ARE HERE AGAIN WE SING OUR SONG OF CHEER AGAIN.

A major question about every musical cipher is whether it sounds like real music, when played. To answer this question for the Friedman composition I decided to let it play by the computer. I used a program named NoteWorthy Composer for this purpose.

In the first step, I transcribed the notes from the sheet to the program:


NoteWorthy Composer can be used to print sheet music. This is how the Friedman composition looks like in a professional layout:


Now I was quite excited to listen to this piece of music. On the following video you can see and hear how NoteWorthy Composer plays it:

As you can hear, the Friedman’s cipher composition is far from being a masterpiece. As it seems, it requires a little more sophistication to create a musical cipher that sounds well. However, this piece of sheet music looks and sounds close enough to a real composition to beat a mail censor. And there’s no doubt that it worked well as a Christmas puzzle.


Further reading: A musical cryptogram from the 17th century

Kommentare (4)

  1. #1 Dampier
    26. Dezember 2016

    Dieses Video ist privat
    Melde dich an

    Sorry, no Google member …

    Anyway, season’s greetings an’ good Rutsch :))

  2. #2 Klaus Schmeh
    26. Dezember 2016

    Sorry, it works now.

  3. #3 Norbert
    27. Dezember 2016

    Respekt, lieber Klaus, vor so viel Mühe für, naja, so wenig Hörvergnügen 😉
    Der ästhetische Genuß würde weiter vermindert, nähme man die Notation beckmesserisch ernst: Die durchgezogene vertikale Linie am linken Rand bedeutet nämlich, dass die drei durch sie verbundenen Notensysteme gleichzeitig erklingen sollen … Ich denke aber, dass dies John und Barbara Friedman nicht bewusst oder besser gesagt vollkommen egal war. Es ist und bleibt ein origineller und liebevoll gestalteter Weihnachtsgruß 🙂

  4. #4 Klaus Schmeh
    27. Dezember 2016

    @Norbert: Danke für den Hinweis, das war mir nicht bewusst.
    Gerade habe ich bemerkt, dass ich den zweiten Takt falsch eingegeben habe (Achtel statt Vierteln und halben Noten). Es klingt aber richtig gesetzt nicht wesentlich besser.