‘The Da Vinci Code’ Church reveals 600 year old musical code
May 1, 2007 10:12 AM   Subscribe

'Da Vinci' Church Reveals Secret Code -- A father and son team from Edinburgh think they have found a secret piece of music hidden in carvings at Rosslyn Chapel. Stuart Mitchell, 41 and his father Tommy, 75, said they had deciphered a musical code locked in the stones of the chapel -- featured in Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" -- for more than 500 years. They will perform the music in May at a concert in the 15th Century chapel.
posted by ericb (26 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The Rosslyn Stave Angel - Music Cipher [YouTube].
posted by ericb at 10:14 AM on May 1, 2007

Sure hope the piece isn't entitled In The Garden Of Eden.

"Wait a minute... this sounds suspiciously like rock and/or roll!"
posted by Spatch at 10:24 AM on May 1, 2007

and it sounds exactly like smoke on the water.
posted by sgt.serenity at 10:44 AM on May 1, 2007

Huh, no idea if it was actually intended to be music, and I'm kind of turned off by the "wait until our big debut to hear it" thing, but this is compelling and cool.
posted by serazin at 10:49 AM on May 1, 2007

I know I'm in the minority here... but if I never have to be reminded of that godawful Dan Brown book ever again, I'll be a-ok. Giddy, even.

As usual, YMMV.

posted by miss lynnster at 10:56 AM on May 1, 2007 [2 favorites]

hauntily beautiful
Well there's the entire article discredited right there. Sheesh.
posted by Wolfdog at 11:03 AM on May 1, 2007

oh cool! My sis was married in Rosslyn Chapel. I think she'll be amused by your post. Thanks.
posted by nickyskye at 11:06 AM on May 1, 2007

posted by thirteenkiller at 11:16 AM on May 1, 2007

Spatch! Wow! Haven't seen you since the days of Brunchma!

posted by sourwookie at 11:17 AM on May 1, 2007

They played it on BBC World Service radio yesterday morning. It sounded pretty haunting. Unfortunately, I can't find a clip on their site.
posted by hyperizer at 11:31 AM on May 1, 2007

if I never have to be reminded of how much people hate that godawful Dan Brown book enough to derail every thread ever again, I'll be a-ok
posted by ken_zoan at 11:38 AM on May 1, 2007

Did anybody see the Howard Goodall "How Music Works" show on Channel 4?

Anyway, he showed how you can take virtually any random collection of notes and make a tune out of them. That doesn't mean the Rosslyn code isn't music, but this theory, rather than a deliberate attempt to encode music by some medieval stone mason, is definitely the simplest. Occam's razor, and all that.
posted by humblepigeon at 11:40 AM on May 1, 2007


Well, yeah, obviously. But people have an insatiable appetite for this brand of "secret code" bullshit these days, so other people might as well make a buck off it.
posted by languagehat at 11:45 AM on May 1, 2007

Sure to be the greatest father-and-son performance of a rediscovered masterwork since Vortigern and Rowena.
posted by ormondsacker at 12:18 PM on May 1, 2007

It's complete and utter bullshit. I saw an interview with the guys on Scottish TV. It's not explained in the FPP links, but essentially the notes were discerned by looking at patterns on some pillars and interpreting them as Chladni patterns.

Depending upon how you specify the dimensions, elasticity, fixing and bowing/vibrating of a vibrating plate, the patterns will change. I have yet to see any data on how they decided these parameters. In the absence of that data, they might as well have pulled the notes out of their arses.

Oh, and BTW, Rosslyn was surrounded by new age pseudo-scientific bullshit before Dan Brown, and I'm sure will continue to be so long after he's forgotten. It's metaphorical shit to the new age fly. Looks good, though.
posted by Jakey at 12:20 PM on May 1, 2007

If I never have to deal with people who act like I'm not allowed to express anything negative about that godawful book ever again, I'll be a-ok.
posted by miss lynnster at 12:51 PM on May 1, 2007

I think you may have gotten hold of the wrong end of the stick, miss lynnster. I have no wish to defend Brown's nonsense although I do admit to finding it passably entertaining in a brainless way. I was just pointing out that he's not solely responsible for every bit of hippy shit that's become popular in recent times.
posted by Jakey at 1:57 PM on May 1, 2007

I've never read the book and I don't know anything about the physics of Chladni patterns, but I do agree with the statement that you can make a convincing melody out of any set of notes. Its quite convenient that the notes they chose are all white notes as that definitely fits in stylistically with the kind of music that they're going for (in a way in which a tritone and a major 7th, for example, wouldn't). They've made it sound like 16th century counterpoint, which gives it a certain legitimacy, but I didn't see any evidence of a score or a notation system, just three notes (as far as I could tell.) You can make almost any kind of music from three notes.
posted by ob at 1:59 PM on May 1, 2007

Furthermore if this is indeed a hidden score why did they hide it? Surely they would hide something scandalous or groundbreaking but, as I said according to them everything fits in quite nicely to the musical stylistic conventions of the day. They talk about the knowledge of harmonics being forbidden (I've never heard of this, but then I'm not a early music scholar) but what exactly (musically speaking) is so worth hiding here?
posted by ob at 2:05 PM on May 1, 2007

There were 'chords' or intervals that were banned by the Roman Church in the middle ages.Depending on your viewpoint - given the Templars (non) relationship to the Church of Rome it may well have been for this reason that the music required to be 'hidden'.

Im not necessarily a subscriber to the Rosslyn / Templar meme , but i did find the book , 'The Hiram Key' fascinating on the subject if only for a different perspective on the Chapel.
posted by burr1545 at 3:57 AM on May 2, 2007

The chapel had nothing to do with the Templars. It's a 15th century collegiate chapel - and as mainstream catholic for the time as you can possibly get. The idiots who jump up and down about the decoration hiding secret codes haven't a clue that this sort of joy in elaborate over-the-top decoration of every available space is just a first cousin to highly-decorated medieval manuscripts where the margins are full of odd foliage, plants, people, fantastic creatures, religious symbolism and grotesques.
posted by Flitcraft at 6:19 AM on May 2, 2007

There were 'chords' or intervals that were banned by the Roman Church in the middle ages.

Yeah the tritone was banned, but I didn't hear a tritone. It's all based on the notes B,C and A. Nothing unusual there.

In what appears to be second section there is a descending minor 6th (from F to G-sharp) which is a little odd stylistically (it points to later harmonic practices) but I very much doubt that this would have been 'banned'. I'm not sure why I'm getting bothered by this, but it may be the fact that as a composer the bullshit level here strikes me as quite remarkable. I don't doubt that the patterns generated are replicated on the walls, but he's taken a few notes and has put together a fairly competent pastiche and is now selling it as some mystical 'hidden music'. If this isn't an attempt to make a few quid off 'snake oil', then I don't know what is.
posted by ob at 8:26 AM on May 2, 2007

I heard a piece about this on the radio yesterday morning - I was half-asleep, but I could swear that they played an excerpt and that it contained the Shostakovich motif (D-S-C-H - D, E flat, C, B). Then again, I might have been dreaming.
posted by altolinguistic at 9:05 AM on May 2, 2007

old news, though. complete with excerpt. for listening pleasure
posted by ComfySofa at 2:35 PM on May 2, 2007

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