How a Saxophonist Tricked the KGB by Encrypting Secrets in Music

“After we arrived, we had been instantly pulled apart, and so they went by means of all the things in our baggage, to the purpose of unwrapping Tampax. It was loopy,” says Goldberg, who’s presenting in regards to the expertise and her musical code on the RSA safety convention in San Francisco at the moment. “With my music, they opened it up and there have been some actual tunes in there. Should you’re not a musician, you would not know what’s what. They went web page by web page by means of all the things—after which they handed it again.”

Goldberg says that whereas the code labored and Soviet officers did not confiscate their music, they did interrogate all 4 vacationers about what they deliberate to do whereas within the USSR. “We had been introduced right into a room with a giant burly man who banged on the desk and yelled at us,” remembers Goldberg, now a music training professor at California State College, San Marcos.

Musical notice names span the letters A to G, so they do not present a full alphabet of choices on their very own. To create the code, Goldberg assigned letters of the alphabet to notes within the chromatic scale, a 12-tone scale that features semi-tones (sharps and flats) to increase the chances. In some examples, Goldberg wrote solely in a single musical vary, referred to as treble clef. In others, she expanded the register to have the ability to encode extra letters and added a bass clef to increase the vary of the musical scale. These particulars and variations additionally added verisimilitude to her encoded music.

For numbers, Goldberg would merely write them between the staves, the place typically you may see chord symbols. She additionally added different traits of composition, like rhythms (half notes, quarter notes, eight notes, entire notes), key signatures, tempo markings, and articulation indicators like slurs and ties. Most of those had been there to make the music look extra reputable, however some doubled as coded dietary supplements to the letters hidden within the music notes. She even often drew tiny diagrams that might be mistaken for charts to remind herself of the place a gathering place was situated or how you can ship one thing.

Whereas somebody might technically have performed the code as music, it could have sounded much less like a tune and extra like a cat strolling throughout piano keys.

“I picked a notice to begin, after which I created the alphabet from there. As soon as you understand it, it finally ends up being fairly straightforward to write down issues. I taught my buddies on the journey the code, too,” Goldberg says. “We used it so as to absorb folks’s addresses and different data we would wish to seek out them. And we coded issues whereas we had been there so we’d have the ability to take out some details about folks and their efforts to to migrate in addition to particulars we hoped might assist different folks ask to go away.”

The US musicians bought their bearings in Moscow earlier than heading to Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. There and on their subsequent cease in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, they efficiently met members of the Phantom Orchestra, a lot of whom spoke some English, and hung out attending to know one another, taking part in music collectively, and even staging small, impromptu live shows.

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