Did Warmuth decide that there was a code and work backwards from that point ?
Or did he gradually come to the conclusion that there must be must be a code and set out to prove it?
There is something strange about the whole thing that seems wrong.
Hey Oldman (that's fun to write),
I think I am not understanding what you mean by 'code'. I know we hashed this out a little a couple of weeks ago, but I don't remember where we ended up.
So, if I am repeating something or rehashing it, just skip down below the asterisks.
Here is a short version:
The Technical Use of the Term 'Code' that Warmuth has Denied Being His Focus:
Taking direction from Warmuth's essay (linked early in this thread: Bob Charlatan), I worked through some texts on cryptography myself (I used to work on issues around that field). Drawing from the technical field of cryptography, I set out a definition of 'cipher' and 'code' -- basically, a cipher is a simple kind of code, transposed letters; a code can be a very complex algorithm whereby a message is translated into an unrecognizable form. You need the key algorithm to translate it back. The key to this technical use of the term 'code' is that there is one right answer to the code -- there is an exact formula that yields an exact right answer.
In this context, that would mean that Dylan has somehow created a way of encoding a secret message into his texts, using the quoted lines, melodies, images. For instance, the lines from Ovid in Ain't Talkin would be a set of clues. If you knew what to look for in the Ovid lines, you would pick up the secret message. Then, there would be a way of translating the song to yield Dylan's specific, single, correct secret intended message that only used Ovid as a carrier. Warmuth says this is not what he thinks is going on.
The Non-technical Use of the Term 'Code' that Warmuth cops to:
In this version, 'code' would just mean puzzle. Dylan's references/incorporations from other texts would evoke ideas, feelings, themes, connections. The trick here is to recognize which texts Dylan is drawing from. Once you recognize the text (see Stetson's post about Things Have Changed), you can see a set of connections to the source and that can reveal a play of themes, ideas, with that original text from which Dylan borrowed. Stetson's post is a perfect example of that. Dylan almost certainly placed those references to Streetcar Named Desire in the song, intending them to be noticed by a few people, but most likely for his own amusement. Once you recognize the Streetcar lines in the song, you can think about the song in a whole new way. See meanings you might not have noticed. But the key difference from the other sense of 'code' is that here there is not an exact key and no exact secret message to arrive at. The puzzle is simply finding the Streetcar Named Desire connection. Then, you can imagine your own effects of the play on the song. Interpretation remains wide open.
Now, Warmuth tells me that he thinks there all kinds of internal puzzles: for instance, he says that he believes that Dylan has given clues in his songs and texts to the sources of his borrowing/incorporations or given clues as to the real identities of the characters in his songs. For instance, In the very first post on Warmuth's blog, he notes that Dylan's borrowings from the poet Wither in the song Can't Escape From You are accompanied by a puzzle clue -- Dylan puts the word "withering" in the song. Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee , he tells me has a series of clues and puzzles.
That's not a code in the technical sense. It's like a clue leading you to the texts that are incorporated.
OK. So, when you ask whether Warmuth starts off thinking there is a code or not, I think the answer is that he starts off thinking that Dylan incorporates texts, melodies, images, etc in all of his current work (Warmuth never answered my question about when he thinks this particular practice started). And he also now comes to Dylan's work assuming there will be clues that point him (Warmuth) to other texts, movies, historical things, etc. But he doesn't approach Dylan's work assuming it's all a big (technical) code that has to be translated to reveal a single, secret message from Dylan. That is, he is just looking for incorporated lines (&tc.) and fun clues. Note that beyond that, Warmuth has rarely offered an interpretation of what those incorporated lines do to the meanings of the songs.
If I might address some of the snarky stuff that is said: Neither I, nor Warmuth (according to what he's said to me), think these incorporations are part of a technical code (a cryptogram) that would yield a single, hidden, secret message. We can just put that aside.
I think that the essay Bob Charlatan can leave readers (as it left me) with the impression that Warmuth does think there is a technical code. But he says that is not what he intended.
Now, Warmuth remains cagey. He may have his reasons for doing so. I don't quite understand them.
But he won't explain (at least to me, or here on ER) how he goes about finding these incorporations -- because it's clear it is not by having already read or seen all the sources he has located. That might be a kind of possessive thing -- perhaps he wants to maintain as exclusive a hold on this research as he can. That's fine. But, as I said in my first post, if his work is going to be really taken up and taken seriously, people will need to understand how he arrived at these conclusions.
And, while he denies that he believes there is a technical code at work, he almost always follows that with a "but..." after which he says there is "a lot more going on that meets the eye". I don't think he is hedging, holding onto the technical sense of code or anything. He usually follows the "but..." by referring to puzzles, clues, etc. I wish he would follow that up with more detail. He may just be waiting until he has it more fully worked out. Hard to tell.
He tells me that he is working on a number of new discoveries that he hopes to put up on his blog soon.
Alright, that's all.
Hope that helps.