Composition - The Enigma Machine

The Enigma Machine was written at the request of The BT Band and their Musical Director Michael Fowles to celebrate the band's 40th Anniversary. The first performance was given in the Villa Marina, Douglas Isle of Man on 30th September 2007.       Section: 2+

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Enigma Machine takes its name from the famous cipher machine used by the Germans in World War Two. The wartime Enigma cipher was cracked at Bletchley Park by teams of British code-breakers, including the legendary Cambridge mathematician Alan Turing.

Some of Britain’s finest brains of the period worked to decipher Enigma messages. Key to their success was working with UK industry to produce machines which automated various code-breaking tasks. One important collaboration was with the engineers at the Post Office (a predecessor of BT) who designed and built the world’s first electronic computer ‘Colossus’ which was a pioneering achievement in 1940’s wartime Britain.

Their collaborative work was part of a top-secret operation called ‘Ultra’ which proved to be vital in the defeat of Nazi Germany.

When performing this piece it is important to note that you will require the use of a WW2 siren. You can use either a real machine or a sound effect that can be played through a speaker system.

During this piece there are many and varied morse code messages played by the different members of the band. These various instructions and messages have been taken from books and documents highlighting the types of messages that were sent to various military groups during the war.

This piece uses a variety of musical styles: From the jumbled eerie messages given by the Germans at figure A, to the combat scenes at B and beyond, the military marching at G and the reference to Walton’s Spitfire Fugue at H. The middle movement features a quotation from the last post and then after a recapitulation of the opening material with embedded morse code throughout, the piece climaxes with a development of the famous last post motif to a tub-thumping ending.


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