A Riddle Continues
If you examine the booklet
that accompanies the December release of Pink Floyd's 1984 album, "Momentary
Lapse of Reason," on minidisk (a digital alternative to the cassette),
on the sixth page, in the corner of a picture of a man standing on a
cliff, you'll find the word "enigma" printed in small white
capital letters. Eight pages later, printed in the corner of a picture
of a man standing in a wheat field with a scythe, you'll find the word
"Publius." There is no apparent reason for the recent addition
of these words to the packaging, but their presence has stimulated an
odd treasure hunt that has been taking place on the Internet since the
It was then that someone
using the pseudonym Publius began posting messages at the computer address
alt.music.pink-floyd, a Pink Floyd discussion group, claiming that in
the artwork, lyrics, and music of Pink Floyd's latest album, "The
Division Bell," there was a puzzle with "a central purpose
and a designed solution." "For those of you willing to think
through this perplexing and intricate problem," Publius wrote,
"a singular prize awaits."
To satisfy skeptics who doubted
his or her connection to Pink Floyd, Publius promised to put all doubts
to rest on July 18 in East Rutherford, N.J. During a Pink Floyd concert
at Giants Stadium that night, Publius kept the promise, and in the middle
of the song "Keep Talking," from "The Division Bell,"
the bank of small lights at the bottom of Pink Floyd's stage arranged
to form the words "Enigma Publius," a phrase that had not
been spelled out in lights on any previous stop on the tour. In November,
during Pink Floyd's pay-per- view concert, the word "enigma"
appeared again, this time in large letters on a projection behind the
In a letter I received last
year after interviewing the members of Pink Floyd, a group of treasure
hunters who called themselves the Publius Concern explained that "hundreds
of people have begun exchanging ideas and looking further into the puzzle"
but that they were wondering whether the band itself was behind this
brain teaser. The letter, which came with hundreds of pages of Internet
postings on the subject, asked if anyone in the band had talked about
The only one who had hinted
at mysteries on the album was David Gilmour, Pink Floyd's guitarist
and lyricist. When asked about the unusual sounds on the record, like
atmospheric radio noise and a phone conversation between the manager
and the son of his girlfriend, Mr. Gilmour said, "I like puzzling
people." When asked whether certain songs were about the group's
former leader, Roger Waters, he answered with an elusive smile: "Are
they? You'll just have to work it out for yourself."
Other attempts to pin down
the meanings of songs resulted in sim- ilarly vague answers about "clues"
to be given in forthcoming videos and promises that "there's all
sorts of other things" on the album.
When Steve O'Rourke, who
manages the band, was asked about the Publius enigma, he replied with
a wordless smile, a response often given by managers of big rock bands
when they are asked about anything from rumors of hotel-room romps to
It remains unclear what the
puzzle is and whether Publius is a band member, an employee of the band's,
a lone prankster or a record promoter, but that hasn't discouraged people
like Mark Brown, a technician at the University of Iowa who estimates
that he spends 40 hours a week working on the riddle. In the meantime,
as Publius continues to post vague, pretentiously worded clues on the
Internet and Pink Floyd fans continue to explore the minutiae of "The
Division Bell," the public will have to wait until the spring release
of Pink Floyd's next record, a live two-CD set culled from the band's
recent tour (including a performance of the entire "Dark Side of
the Moon" album), to find out whether Publius will strike again.