19th century musician Maurice de Raoulx has left behind a message hidden in sheet music. Can a reader decipher it?
The concept of using musical notes to encode a secret message is centuries old.
For instance, the following musical notes code was developed by the clergyman and cryptologist John Wilkins in the 17th century:
Here’s a similar steganographic code introduced by 17th century polymath Daniel Schwenter:
The following music piece represents an hidden message in this code:
Augustus the Younger, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg (also known as Gustavus Selenus) created a musical code, too:
Augustus’ musical cipher is generally regarded as one of the better ones, as the messages it encodes sound like real music when played. This can be heard in the following video:
If you want to know more, check my book Versteckte Botschaften – Die faszinierende Geschichte der Steganografie.
A French musical code
When I recently read the French Wikipedia entry about the history of cryptography, I found another example of a message encoded in musical notes. It was created by a certain Maurice de Raoulx, a 19th century musician and composer. Judging by his presence on Wikipedia, de Raoulx was not a particular famous person. He is only mentioned in the French Wikipedia edition, and his entry is quite short, with not even his birth and death year being provided.
De Raoulx’s only claim to fame appears to be the said musical notes code. Here’s the piece of “music” that is depicted in the French Wikipedia article:
According to Wikimedia Commons, this “composition” was created in 1854. On the sheet, the years 1840 and 1841 are noted. I don’t know what this means. The original document is kept by the Archives Nationales in Paris.
To my regret, I don’t know how de Raoulx’s musical code works. Wikipedia doesn’t mention it and I have found no information about it elsewhere. Can a reader find out how this piece of music can be deciphered?
In addition, it would be interesting to know how this composition sounds. Does it sound like real music or would an expert immediately recognize that the notes are just used as a cover for a secret message. Perhaps, one of the musicians among my readers can answer this question.
Further reading: Listen to this musical cipher from 1933