Key to the Sacred Pattern

30 April 2007

Inconsistencies in Reports about the Rosslyn Motet

Author’s Note:
One of the things that I look for in any series of information is inconsistencies. One can ferret out the trail of where truth lies by looking at the wake of conflicting details. It is with this mind set that I have explored the following topic. And as always, I have played Devil’s Advocate with myself. The few things that I’ve turned up might be explained away very simply. However, there is an equal chance they cannot. The bad thing is that I end at a place that brings more questions than answers to the table. The other really bad thing is that all of this makes me sound like an off the deep end conspiracy theorist.

There is never a short list of architectural enigmas when talking about Rosslyn Chapel. In the news this week, one of the most intriguing features of the Chapel has been brought literally in the limelight. The remaining rectangular cubes that adorn the ceiling of the Chapel have taken to the news in the UK. This time the solution to the solution seems to be a musical one.

In 2006, composer Stuart Mitchell claims to have cracked the code by assigning musical notation to the Cubes by way of Chladni Patterns. Mitchell worked with his father Thomas Mitchell to offer a solution to the Cube riddle. Below is a list of relevant articles to get you up to speed on recent developments.

Team cracks chapel's music 'code'; 30 Apr 07; BBC News

Da Vinci Chorus; 22 Apr 07; The Sunday Mail

Tune into the Da Vinci Coda; 27 Apr 06; The Scotsman

The Rosslyn Cipher; Aug 2006; Fortean Times

Composer Cracks Rosslyn Musical Code; 1 Oct 05; The Scotsman

Japanese bid to solve mystery of the Rosslyn cubes; 16 Jun 2002;The Scotsman

Stuart Mitchell and his father Thomas have a better solution to the Cube mystery than has ever been presented, I have noticed a few oddities about the story. The first is that we know that there is at least one cube missing in Rosslyn. The author of the Fortean Times article makes this claim quoting “Chapel Management”. When I visited the Chapel in 1999, I heard a tour guide place the number of missing or damaged cubes at four. Either: I am mistaken, I misheard the guide, my recollection is not accurate, or there were four missing cubes and now there is just one.

No matter what the number, the missing cube(s) could queer the whole decryption process. The missing piece, or pieces, could be the “key cubes” to the code. The piece of music would be incomplete without the missing cube(s). None of the articles about Mitchell even address how he overcame this obstacle. (Mitchell has a book on cracking the cube code that I have not gotten yet. This may be addressed there. Or I could have missed a reference that has explained this. If so, let me know.)

Related to the missing cube(s), is the number of cubes reported to be in the Chapel. All the news reports and articles I listed above set the total number of cubes in Rosslyn at 213. Thomas Mitchell’s web site says that he decoded 215 cubes. Out of all the references I have on Rosslyn, I cannot find an exact cube count. If anyone out there has a definitive answer to the number of cubes at Rosslyn, please let me know.

The other set of inconsistencies has to do with Matsushita Electric Works UK’s, a division of Panasonic, research into the Rosslyn Cubes. My misgivings about the Matsushita and the Mitchell situation can be found in my article Music and the Rosslyn Cubes.

Basically, the 27 Apr 06 Scotsman article Tune Into the Da Vinci Coda asserts that: “The breakthrough to interpreting the notation came when Mitchell's father discovered that the markings carved on the face of the cubes seem to match a phenomenon called Cymatics or Chladni patterns.” The Sunday Mail’s 22 Apr 07 article Da Vinci Chorus goes on to say, “Using skills learned as an RAF code-breaker during the Korean War and his lifetime knowledge of classical music, he finally realized they depicted the vibrations of musical notes. He said: "It was a Eureka moment to end all Eureka moments.”

Oddly enough, in the 16 June 2002, Scotsman article Japanese bid to solve mystery of the Rosslyn Cubes says one of the theories that Matsushita has is: “… that the notes were recorded using a brass plate covered with sand. When the brass plate was struck with a bow, it vibrated, creating a distinctive pattern of sand lines for that particular note.” This is exactly how Chladni patterns are created.

Mitchell’s father didn’t make any breakthroughs relating the Chladni patterns to do with the Cubes. The theory was in existence and in print four years before the Mitchells made the announcement they had cracked the code. To further muddy the waters, Stephen Prior was working on cracking the cube code via music as far back as 1994. So what gives? Stuart Mitchell made the comment on 30 Apr 07 to BBC, “We got clues from other books as well. Over the years this became more of an obsession than anything else and we decided we had to find out what was going on.” So how could the pair not have been aware of Matsushita’s work in 2002?

What has happened with Matsushita’s project? Their research began on the premise that music derived from the Cubes could be used to heal damaged tissue. This theory was based on Stephen Prior’s prior (sorry couldn’t resist) work. Stuart Mitchell himself thinks that playing the Motet in Rosslyn will literally unlock something in the Chapel. The big question at hand is did Matsushita’s project ever stop, or is it still on going? Furthermore is there a connection between the Mitchells and Matsushita? Alas, I have no answers for those questions.

The final oddity is one that puts me over the top with the Lone Gunmen. Stephen Prior was reported to be in the MI6. Thomas Mitchell was an RAF code breaker during the Korean War. While this truly is six degrees of separation that could link both men back to Kevin Bacon, the fact is both were part of the British Intelligence Community at one time. It’s odd how British Intelligence keeps popping up in my articles. Remember Vernon Gifkins or the decoding of the Shepherd’s Monument at Shugborough Hall being decoded by Bletchley Park? Ok, now I’m beginning to think that I should get a grip…

In closing, let me be the first to say all of this might be easily explained. I realize that I do not have all of the facts at hand; nor have I spoken with anyone involved in the project. I would welcome any rebuff from either Mitchell on some of the inconsistencies that are in print about them. Given what’s in the press, there’s just something that doesn’t feel right. Once again, I’m left with more questions than answers.



Stuart said...

hi there,

I was very interested by your observations and felt I should clear up a couple of your queries.

There are today exactly 213 surviving cubes/rectangles/stone blocks protruding from the arches in the Lady Chapel at Rosslyn. 2 have been lost to antiquity due to theft or accident. It is known that Oliver Cromwell once used Rosslyn Chapel as a stable for his horses and the theory abounds that they were broken off then. But whatever the case is, 2 are missing. We have mapped out the entire ceiling and pattern sequence in a topological diagram and finding the identity of the missing cubes was fiarly easy. For example, one of the missing cubes is in the middle a line of cubes that are repeated 9 times, interestingly belonging to the percussion line of a medieval drum that emits one particular note/cube throughout its part. That one was straight forward. The other was not quite so easy but is part of a recurring phrase that repeats 3 times in the work. By the time we arrived at this missing moment, we already had an understanding of the way the piece was developing and instinctively applied a note that worked with the melodic development of the Motet.

Regarding some of the media discrepancies and inaccurate comments that have occurred over the past few months in the press, the subject of Rosslyn's music and its relationship with Cymatics/Chladni patterns is complexed enough for most news articles to want to shape the story for their readers in an understandable way, however, at the sacrifice of the scientific and aesthetic knowledge one has to absorb in order to arrive at the musical conclusion. Everything is 'boiled down' to suit the reader. It is beyond our control and subject to the viewpoint of the publication(s).

I have heard of Matsushita’s project but do not know what results have developed for him in this area.

I hope this has shed some light for you on some of the inconsistencies you have experienced in the past months regarding our project.

Best regards
Stuart Mitchell

Brian said...

Stuart, thanks for setting the record straight on a these areas. I’m interested to see what happens when the work is played at Rosslyn. All the best, BK