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For instance, the name HAYDN is mapped to the note sequence BADDG in Ravel's "Menuet sur le nom d'Hadyn". And the name CLARA is mapped to CBAA in Schumann's Piano concerto. Why is that the case? Is there a standard for mapping names to notes? If I want to map the name SCRIABIN to notes, what would the notes be?

  • Since CLARA has 5 letters, how come it maps to CBAA with only 4? – Tim Feb 11 at 8:51
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    @Tim Apparently, I found out today Clara is spelled CHiArA in Italian, hence C-H-A-A. – PeaBrane Feb 11 at 10:54
  • Sort of fits in with my take on the concept. Hardly a convincing 'translation' in musical terms. Clara derivates from 'clear', probably Spanish. Chiara from the same, Italian. CHAA is unconvincing! Could translate to tea... or half a dance. – Tim Feb 11 at 11:20
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    Could be worse - I've heard rumors of compositions based on DNA sequences. – Carl Witthoft Feb 11 at 14:04
  • @CarlWitthoft - if it's true, they probably have some dire tonics... – Tim Feb 11 at 17:09
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The first one is the trivial modulo cipher but using the H=B rule.

ABCDEFGH IJKLMN OPQRSTU VWXYZ    
ABCDEFGH BCDEFG ABCDEFG ABCDE

The second one isn't even the same number of letters so I am suspiscious of it being a mapping.

Use the first one for your word.

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  • Interesting, is the H=B rule particular to the Haydn compositions or is it general? – PeaBrane Feb 10 at 21:54
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    in some Eurpoean countries Bb is called B and B is called H – Legorhin Feb 10 at 21:56
  • Why would GH not be followed by A after the first 8, and why is H missing thereafter? And - Haydn would still begin with H, from your answer. – Tim Feb 11 at 8:48
  • @Tim I'm actually quite confused about this myself. If A follows H, then wouldn't it shift the entire mapping to the right, hence violating the Y to D mapping as required? – PeaBrane Feb 11 at 10:57
  • Trying to work out how this answer is correct - and why it's the preferred answer. HAYDN extrapolates here as HADDG. – Tim Feb 12 at 8:46
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The concept has been used for many centuries - often spuriously in my view - and Bach was probably one of the luckier ones. BACH translates directly into musical notes, as fortuitously the German notation uses 'B' for B♭ and 'H' for B♮. John Cage was also fortunate and wrote Cage Dead as one of his audible pieces.

It's akin to 'personalised number plates' in UK, where car owners use 5 as S, 8 as B, 1 as I and 0 as O for example, spelling out 'names'. As in JAMIE, PATSY and SINGH. A bit of fun, really!

German Es and As (E♭ and A♭) have been used by some composers to spell out motifs with their names, some more successfully than others.

There is a 'French system' which puts letters in a box:

A B C D E F G

H I J K L M N

O P Q R S T U

V W X Y Z

And letters which don't exist musically can be found vertically underneath the genuine 7 letters. Thus G would represen N, or U, D would represent K, R or Y.

CRYPTOGRAM is the key word.

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In English, one has two vowels (A,E) and 5 consonants (B,C,D,F,G) so you get what can be spelled with these letters. In German one gets H (and perhaps Es, As, etc.); I don't know other languages that well. (Use the syllabus, do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, perhaps?) German gets to have BACH and English gets CABBAGE.

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  • This isn't answering the question. – Tim Feb 11 at 8:49

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