The Livery
August 21, 2008

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"Steganography" is an album released by Cypherpunks in 1999. The album's title means the practice of secretly encoding data inside another piece of data which is not encoded. In transmitting a message this way, only the sender and recipient are aware that the message exists, and even if the message is intercepted, the encoded data is safe because of the interceptor's lack of recognition that the coded message even exists.

The album was released on CD-R disks that had "Steganography" written in Morse code with Sharpie on the CDs themselves. When making the album, Dylan Klein used computer software to encode music inside GIF images, a popular image format used on the Internet. The GIFs could be displayed by a computer just as any other picture could, but Klein's also had secret musical data encoded within them.

Klein has given many interviews about the project, and as he expressed to Edge, "this album epitomizes the spirit of the Cypherpunks project. In releasing 'Steganography,' we were doing something almost unprecedented in the artistic world: giving our audience beautiful pieces of visual art which had secret music inside of them." Klein states that he was fascinated by Gnosticism at the time and was interested in "artistically displaying levels of higher hermeneutics and lower hermeneutics."

Klein uses the example of both Scripture and alchemical texts as examples of this approach. From the Edge interview:

"When critics approach a text, they necessarily begin their interpretation with preconceived notions not just regarding the text, but of language or art in general. Signifiers point necessarily to signifies in each critic's extremely complex semiological system. When you are reading Scripture or an alchemical text or a piece of visual art or a song, you necessarily base your reading on this system, on the way your neurons interpret language or brushstrokes or musical notes. With Scripture, your interpretation of the concept of 'predestination' will shape your view of Romans 8. When you believe that alchemical study is purely metaphorical or literal, that will shape what you believe about the instructions which Paracelsus gives you."