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Breaking Elgar’s Enigma (newrepublic.com)
27 points by mhb 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 9 comments

While the article is strongly sympathetic to Padgett's answer, various hints seep through that Padgett is actually a bit of a crackpot, and his solution is a bit of a Bible Code. Nothing too obvious, but the sort of thing one recognizes from reading about other crankery. And then, two-thirds of way into the article:

> Most Elgar scholars I contacted said they have stopped responding to Padgett’s persistent inquiries.

Sigh. This sentence should have been in the lede.

Yes, at that point they revealed some of the classic symptoms of a crank:

> One professor at the University of London, who asked for anonymity so Padgett wouldn’t follow up, called Padgett’s theory an “attempt to create a reality effect through the excessive presentation of material which the reader is meant to assume is somehow evidence.”

Cranks are fascinating in that, while they have boundless time and energy to produce voluminous work on a subject, they can't quite be bothered to educate themselves about what does or does not constitute a logical argument, or about little details like the fundamentals of mathematics or physics.

> He also contends that English scholars are too protective of their prized composer to consider the theory of a layperson such as him. “I’m an outsider, you know. I’m not one of these credentialed academics. I’m not published,” he said. “Who am I to presume that I could fathom the dark secrets of one of their foremost composers?”

Another hallmark, the crank feels mistreated strictly because they are an outsider and questioning the insiders.

>When I asked Rushton about it, he said Padgett distorted the rhythm and mixed between the major and minor keys to get it to harmonize.

Mixing and matching disparate things and bastardizing them to synthesize them into some whole is also a hallmark crankpot move. Add in things like turning to God for direction, a codebreaking obsession, and so on, and yes, this all walks and talks like a crankpot theory.

Add in Elgar's apparent appreciation of playing jokes on people, and you have what seems like the full story here.

This is actually a rather good article. It covers the subject in some detail varying points of view. Enjoyable read.

Listening to Padgett's rendering of his Enigma theme on Youtube, it's not especially musical. Author of the article seems duly impressed, but it's very easy to write harmony to any given passage if you know the rules.

Good piece, other than the Grammarly product placement that stood out like a sore thumb

I don't think it's paid product placement.

Some might be interested in Nick Pelling's thoughts:


So it seems that even music has its own kind of numerologists

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