It's the first full week of term at Farthingbottom School and Portia, Felix, Primula and Randolph have arrived in the music room for their lesson. Professor N. Igma is nowhere to be seen, but he has left a message on the blackboard for them:

This term we will be performing four pieces of music at the end of term concert. Please practise them. Two methods will be required.

On the desk at the front of class is a single musical score:

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The children get out their instruments and try to play the music, but it sounds terrible.

Question: Can you determine which four pieces of music the children should be practising?

  • $\begingroup$ I hope you will post a corrected version because this is brilliant $\endgroup$ Sep 8, 2015 at 14:21
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @dennisdeems Corrected version now posted! $\endgroup$
    – Gordon K
    Sep 8, 2015 at 20:47

2 Answers 2


Cracked it!

The two anagrams at the top of the score are the keys to this puzzle:

Novas Requiem Cuts = Count Semiquavers (thanks, Zandar!)
Steve Chivet De Norman = Never Mind The Octaves

The first clue gives us three of the song titles:

partial solution showing correspondence between note lengths and three song titles

Ignore the rests — they are just there to pad out each bar to the required length. If you count the number of semiquavers in each note or cluster of tied notes, then convert them to letters of the alphabet (A=1, B=2, etc.), then, with a few minor corrections, you get the following titles:

• Hallelujah Chorus
* O Holy Night
* Away In A Manger

The fourth title is encoded in the notes themselves. There are 57 notes, all of which are A, B or C. When grouped into threes, these form a series of 19 base-3 numbers, where AAA=0, AAB=1, AAC=2, ABA=3 and so on:

022 111 201 021 011 001 102 011 000 101 110 022 010 211 022 111 201 011 122
8, 13, 19, 7, 4, 1, 11, 4, 0, 10, 12, 8, 3, 22, 8, 13, 19, 4, 17

Using these numbers as offsets into the alphabet (A=0, B=1, etc.), we get the last title:

In The Bleak Midwinter

  • $\begingroup$ For the last - there's a 'cryptograms' tag, so I suspect it has something to do with unscrambling 'Steve Chivet de Norman' $\endgroup$ Sep 8, 2015 at 12:55
  • $\begingroup$ Correct so far in all respects. You weren't even put off by the errors in the score (posting too late at night). The other notes have the correct durations. $\endgroup$
    – Gordon K
    Sep 8, 2015 at 12:57
  • $\begingroup$ Shouldn't the notes for W be connected, though? Also, I don't suppose the second anagram is "sieve them and convert". $\endgroup$
    – Zandar
    Sep 8, 2015 at 14:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Zandar Yes they should :( you have got the correct word lengths, but try another anagram. $\endgroup$
    – Gordon K
    Sep 8, 2015 at 14:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Ohhh, I just realised what those numbers are for! They're the word lengths. I should have seen that earlier. (It's never mind the octaves, isn't it?) $\endgroup$
    – r3mainer
    Sep 8, 2015 at 15:20

Not an answer yet, but some thoughts along the way that might help someone else...

The only notes in there are A, B and C (albeit in different octaves). This makes it unlikely that they are simply tunes mashed together in some way (like taking every fourth note, starting from an offset of [0,1,2,3] to play a given tune). Not many tunes are confined to only 3 notes.

6/4 would be a fairly unusual time signature but the bars do all appear to add up to 6 crotchets (quarter notes for you 'Murricans). However the patterns of notes and rests are all over the place. I wonder if the note lengths have anything to do with the encoding?

Presumably the "read between the lines" comment, the "Novas Requiem Cuts (5-11)" and the "Steve Chivet de Norman (5437)" are significant in some way. The "Novas" reads like a cryptic crossword clue but that might just be that I spend too much time doing crosswords.

Given the hint in the comment that "Novas Requiem Cuts" is an anagram of "count semiquavers" I counted the semiquavers in the first line:
8A 1C 12C 1r 2r; 12B 4B-1B 1r 2r 4r; 12C 4r 8r; 14B-7B 1r 2r; 8A-3C 1B 8C 3B 1r; 8B 12r 4r; 12A-3A 1r 8r

  • $\begingroup$ Why isn't my spoiler markdown working?? $\endgroup$
    – Vicky
    Sep 7, 2015 at 19:31
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "Novas Requiem Cuts" is an anagram of "music quavernotes", which is about as relevant as I can get it. $\endgroup$
    – Zandar
    Sep 7, 2015 at 19:42
  • $\begingroup$ Also, the editor doesn't like consecutive spoiler paragraphs for some reason. I kind of fudged it with <p> tags. $\endgroup$
    – Zandar
    Sep 7, 2015 at 20:03
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Oh, it's "count semiquavers". I blame music. $\endgroup$
    – Zandar
    Sep 7, 2015 at 20:09
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Never mind the octaves. $\endgroup$
    – Zandar
    Sep 8, 2015 at 15:02

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