THE CENTRAL COUNCIL OF CHURCH BELL RINGERS

Variation and Transposition

By

J. ARMIGER TROLLOPE

Issued under the Authority of the Council


VARIATION AND TRANSPOSITION

IN the first place we must recognise that the ideas which ringers hold about authorship and originality have been gradually evolved during three centuries. and they have changed from time to time, and are still changing. We shall make a great mistake if we imagine that the various standards of ringing are fixed and unalterable. It is a healthy sign, a sign of life and progress, that what men think in one generation is not quite the same as what they think in the next. Take the form of ringing as an example; its division into lead and course and peal or touch. After more than a hundred years’ development ringers adopted the standard that you must have a Method which consists of a course which has as many leads, all alike, as there are working bells; and that one kind of bob only is allowable. Later on they agreed that the lead must have certain definite qualities. By this means they arrived at the style of Method which is now universally practised. Here, at least, you might think there is finality. But no; Method splicing has introduced quite new ideas, and the tendency seems to show that the rigidity of the old standard will be relaxed. It is not that the old has been found to be wrong, but that new development has caused new ideas. So with the standards of authorship. Five and twenty years ago men held opinions about authorship and originality of composition which they thought final. To-day those views are changing, and five and twenty years hence quite different views may prevail.

In early days there was little question of authorship. It was a recognised fact that certain men had introduced certain peals and Methods, but for two centuries, with rare exceptions, neither in published books nor in peal records, are the names of composers given in full. In a few cases initials serve more to set a problem for the future historian than to reveal the identity of the persons. By the accident that Stedman’s name became the title of his Principle, his authorship of it has been recognised. Tradition tells us that Porter composed Double Norwich but for the most part we do not know, and can only guess, to whom the Exercise owes the Standard Methods — Treble Bob, Cambridge, London and the rest. It is only by tradition that we know that one of the three authors of “The Clavis” was the composer of the peals given in it. The book says nothing, except that Superlative was “our own”; and it is quite likely that some at least, of the peals were ones which were familiar to John Reeves, but were not actually his own composition. Indeed, if I remember aright, there is one peal always reckoned as Reeves’s, which in the Cumberlands’ peal book is said to be the composition of George Gross.

It is the same with peal boards. As a rule the early ones say nothing about the composer. Where they do it is usually in such exceptional cases as the first peal of Grandsire or Stedman. The earliest peal board of all is an example and its wording is interesting and instructive. It is the record of the peal of Grandsire Bob Triples rung at Norwich in 1715. It says: “It has been Studied by the most Acute Ringers in the land, but to no Effect ever since Triple Changes were first Rung; but now at last its found out to the truth by John Garthon, one of the said Society and Rung by him and the rest of the Society”. We can paraphrase it something like this. For a long time ringers knew that there was a peal of Grandsire Bob Triples to be had if only one knew how to apply Bob Minor to seven bells, and John Garthon was the first man who had the knowledge and ability to do so. It is quite a different claim to the modern one of authorship and ownership. The wording of the boards recording the first peals of Grandsire and Stedman Triples were similar. But where boards record peals of Major or Caters or Royal, no composers’ names are given. Not till Shipway’s book, which appeared about 1820, do we find it the rule to put a man’s name as composer to every composition.

But, of course, the modern ideas about authorship had been growing up in the Exercise from very early times. Annable, in his notebook, which was evidently a draft of the book he intended to publish, is careful to put an initial letter under the leads of the six-bell Methods he wrote out to show the composers, or perhaps the persons from whom he got them — A for Annable, S for Stedman, D for Dolman, and E for Laughton. Whether he would have put their full names in the printed book or not we cannot tell, for unfortunately it was never completed and never published. But by Shipway’s time, when composers had multiplied and had turned their attention to many Methods, it was generally recognised that, as nothing could exist without a cause, so there could be no composition without a composer. And, since composition was a vital and high branch of ringing, it was only due to the composer to recognise his work by putting his name to his composition.

During the nineteenth century these ideas became more definite and reached the opinions generally held five and twenty years ago. In the eighties and nineties there were a number of composers of outstanding ability and industry who produced an immense number of peals. Three of the most typical and leading of these men were Henry Dains, Nathan Pitstow and Charles Henry Hattersley. The Exercise benefited enormously by their work, and their opinions are worthy of respect. Broadly, their view was as follows, and it was shared generally by ringers. They accepted one or two rules of variation. Beyond that, each Method or peal was a distinct composition and belonged to the person who first produced it. As a rule it was necessary to publish a peal to prove priority of composition, but other ways, such as ringing it, might be accepted. Once you had made out your title to your peal it was your property. Another man might compose it quite independently. That did not affect the case. Priority of composition was everything. It was no answer for the man to say that he did not and could not know that there had been previous publication. He should have known. It was the business of anyone who wished to enter the ranks of the composers to make himself acquainted with what had already been done. When, as must inevitably happen, someone did by mistake publish a peal that had already been published, it was his duty to apologise and withdraw as soon as the fact was brought to his notice No one ought to use another’s peal without acknowledgment, and it was even held that if a man spoke disparagingly of a composition or a Method he was insulting its composer. People thought that they had real rights and property in their peals, and they were ready to fight for them, and did fight for them, as you can see if you turn to the correspondence columns of the ringing papers.

Now, apart from extravagances, if you accept two ideas, these views were quite natural and logical. The two ideas are, first, that each composition, with its definite variations, is a distinct thing; and the other that the composer creates something which did not exist before. Ringers had got to look on compositions in ringing as if they were like literary or musical compositions. Everybody recognises, and the law recognises, property in musical compositions. Why not in peal compositions? It takes, or rather it once took, as much ability and knowledge to compose a peal of Bob Major as a hymn tune. If there is copyright in one, why not in the other? True, the arrangement of bobs in some peals is very simple; but so is the arrangement of notes in an Anglican church chant. And they are copyright. I think that when Holt issued his broadsheet of peals of Grandsire Triples, he had produced something which did not exist before, and, speaking diffidently, as becomes a layman, I think the law would have upheld his property and copyright in his peals.

But it soon became clear that there are difficulties. Holt had to use an infinity of labour and trouble to get his peals, but once they were published it was no great difficulty for other people to get other peals, similar in many ways, but not quite the same. Whose property are they? John Reeves, as we know, found that by bobbing the “Q set” with the second before he could get an improvement. That was called “Reeves’s Variation”, giving the credit partly to the original author and partly to the author of the variation. Other men were not so particular. In the belfry of Lambeth Parish Church there is a board recording a peal of Grandsire Triples; when and by whom rung I do not remember. It does not matter. But it is said to have been composed by such a one, and to have contained 103 bobs and 2 singles. When we consider all the circumstances, it does not require much imagination to guess that what was rung was half of Holt’s Ten Part and half of Reeves’s Variation. We may think that it was not quite honest of the man to call it his composition, but I do not know that we ought to. People knew very little about variation in those days, and they may quite well have thought that this really was a new peal.

Shipway does not hesitate to put his name to a peal which is only Reeves’s Variation begun at another leadend. This sort of thing was done continually, and the names of the people who did it forbid us to think that it was anything which was not considered perfectly right and allowable. There are many such instances in Sottenstall’s book and, in “Treble Bob”, Jasper Snowdon gives some cases. The three Surprise peals rung at Bennington — Cambridge in 1873, Superlative in 1855, and London in 1870 — were all by J. Miller, and all were variations of older compositions. It is pretty sure that Miller knew of the older peals and used them to produce his; but did he know, as we do today, that his variations would automatically produce true peals, as we know it today? I am not so sure. Perhaps he thought he was doing what would be considered quite legitimate now — taking the idea of an old peal and using it to produce another peal with different qualities.

The publication by Jasper Snowdon of “A Treatise on Treble Bob” in 1878 set up a new standard. He explained that any composition may be varied by beginning it at any lead-end, and that every composition may be reversed and still be true. This was the standard which I said was generally accepted five and twenty years ago. Each composition was regarded as a distinct thing but it could be varied in these two ways, and the original and the variations alike were the property of the first composer. But now a new factor came into the case. The older composers, all except Fabian Stedman, worked by experimental methods, and looked on their peals as artistic productions. In the late eighties and nineties a new style of composition came in which regarded a peal as the result of mathematical law. C. D. P. Davies and W. H. Thompson were the pioneers of this class of composition, and they were followed by A. P. Heywood, H. Earle Bulwer and others. For the most part they held the current ideas of ownership, and were equally ready as the others to fight for their rights. But it makes ail the difference in the long run if you consider a composition as the solution of a mathematical problem instead of an artistic creation. And especially if you teach other people to look at it so.

The publication of the Central Council Collections may fairly be said to have given the death blow to the old ideas of authorship and ownership as far as Methods are concerned. The six-bell Methods were worked out neither as distinct compositions nor as the solution of mathematical problems. A simple formula was set up which gave every combination of all possible places in a lead. From this, by a purely mechanical process, the different leads were written out. Those which did not produce the proper lead-ends were rejected and the remainder were the full total of Minor Methods. In the same way all the Plain Triples and Plain Major Methods were produced. The latter number over eight hundred, and of course they could not all be printed. In making the necessary selection a new plan was adopted. There is a short chapter in the book which begins thus: “Methods are not isolated independent things. They are related to each other in a number of ways”. It is then pointed out that there is a small number of simple or “key” Methods, and that all the others follow from these by means either of combining them together or by varying them according to definite and ascertainable rules. Then follow the simply constructed Methods in the order they appear one from another. Anyone who studies this part of the “Collection of Plain Major Methods” will see that there is no room for individual authorship and ownership. And, indeed, anything of the sort was ignored in making the collection. Where a Method had been rung or was known to the Exercise from its having been printed in one of the standard books, its name was carefully given. Many of the others no doubt had been published and possibly named. As they had never been rung, and, to all intents and purposes, were forgotten, it was not considered necessary to search for them, since every possible Method was in the hands of the compilers.

What is true of the Plain Methods is equally true of Treble Bob Methods. But with this proviso. The number of Methods on the Treble Bob Principle is so immense, so unbelievably immense, that no one will ever be able to claim that he has written them all out, or even an appreciable part of them. But the laws of Method construction are now fairly well known. we can see pretty well what is possible. We can see how Methods are related to each other. We can by means of short formulae set down hundreds of Methods in any one of which the lead-ends, or for that matter any particular row, can readily be ascertained. During the last thirty years, working on the Methods Committee’s investigations, I must have written out many thousands of fresh Methods. How many I have worked out in formulae I should not care to say, even if I knew. But I have never claimed the authorship or ownership of a single one, and most of the the methods which appear from time to time are old friends. I have before me a manuscript book, the result of some investigations I made into Surprise Methods. It measures about eleven inches by eight and four inches thick. It consists of sheets of thin paper, and has nothing but half-leads of Surprise Methods, some of which stand for two Methods, some for four, and some for more. How many there are altogether I do not know. It is too long a job to count them. These represent only a small proportion of those that can be mechanically written out without any experimenting and with the certainty of arriving at a given lead-end, if only one knows the laws of Method construction. When one reaches this stage, what, do you think, is left of any ideas of a Method as a distinct composition or of authorship and. ownership?

It is only fair at this point to say that when you have more or less blindly written out half a lead of a Method, you have not done very much. Before it is any good to the Exercise there are many other things to do. You must know something about necessary qualities, you must work out proof scales and peals. This wholesale manufactory does not supersede the kind of work that Arthur Craven did, or that Messrs. Bankes James and Lindoff and others are doing. But it does throw a flood Or light on questions of authorship and ownership which are sometimes hotly debated. When Methods are common property, anyone has the right to take one and by working out proof scale and peal composition make it possible for a band to ring it. And if someone says “That is only a variation of my Method”, the obvious retort is, “And so is yours of someone else’s”. There is no Method which will stand any test of originality.

And now the question arises — Can originality be maintained in the case of peal compositions, or must they, too, be considered as, so to speak, common property? Personally, I think that the time will come when the idea that every composition has a composer who has the right to put his name to it will have to be dropped. When we issued the “Collection of Major Methods” we had to supply peals for those Methods where they were not already available. I was strongly in favour of printing them without any composers’ names, as was the case with the Methods. Probably we should have done so but for the fact that an outside composer had been invited to supply many of these compositions, and it would not have been fair to him to have broken the established custom.


I

First of all it must be understood that the great majority of peal compositions are Round Blocks. The exceptions are peals that come home at hand-stroke (these are almost invariably in Triples, Caters, or Cinques), and a few peals in such Methods as Stedman and Duffield, where the bells come home at a change in the division or six different to that in which they come home in the Plain Course. (Where I speak of a peal, any touch of any length must also be understood.)

A “Round Block” is a course, touch or peal which, provided the conductor does not say “That’s all”, can be repeated ad infinitum. Thus, you could keep on ringing a course of Bob Major for ever simply by keeping on with your regular work. But if the touch came round at hand and you went on, immediately you would get changers in a different order to that you have already rung. Suppose you could write out a peal of Bob Major on a long slip of paper and paste it on a drum just the right size, so that the final Rounds would come on the top of the first Rounds, you have a good illustration of what a round block is. You have five thousand true changes written on your strip of paper, and if you start from Rounds and follow your drum round till you come to Rounds again, you will have all the five thousand true changes, and you will have passed a certain number of bobs at certain intervals. If you start at any other point, say at 16423578, and follow the drum round till you come back to 16423578, you will equally have five thousand true changes (for it is the same drum) and the same bobs, and at the same intervals. The only difference is that, as we started at a later point, we shall get those changes and bobs now at the end, which before we got at the beginning.

But we must realise that the figures 12345678 are symbols. We call the treble 1 and the second bell 2 because it is convenient. For no other reason. We could call them anything we pleased — A.B.C., etc., for instance. Now suppose we call Rounds 16423578 instead of 12345678, why then we could start our peal where 16423578 comes on the drum, and go on till 16423578 comes up again and have a true peal. It must be true, because it is the same peal we wrote on the drum, and that, we know at the start, is true. What we have done is not to vary the peal, but to vary the musical notes we give to the symbols 1234, etc.

It is but a step further to alter the symbols themselves. We can call 6 in the original 2; 4, 3; 2, 4; 3, 5; and 5 we can call 6. Making these alterations we can write our peal out afresh. It is still the same peal, but we are now producing different rows.

Up to now we have followed the different rows written on our drum in one direction, but it is obvious that if you start from Rounds and follow them the other way you will equally reach Rounds again and have all the five thousand true changes. It would be exactly the same peal but backwards. It is equally clear that if you write 12345678 in place of the handstroke row that comes before it (whether it be 12436587 or 12346587 or 13246587) and follow the peal backwards, you will have a true peal.

There is another form of reversal, and by it we can reverse the bobs at the Wrongs and Homes. Thus:-

23456  W. H.
-----       
45236  -  - 
24536     - 

23456  W. H.
-----       
52436  -    
43526  -  - 

Each twice repeated.

From our drum we see that any true peal can be begun from any lead-end and still remain the same true peal; or it can be reversed and still be the same, and the reversal can be begun from any lead-end and still be the same. All these variations will give different leadends, and, of course, different qualities. Take the following example:-

A.
23456  W. B. M. H.
-----             
25463     1  -    
45362        -    
35264        -    
42356  -     -  - 
34256           - 
25346  -        - 
32546           - 
24365     1       
53246  -     -  - 
45236  -          
23456  -        - 

B.
23456  W. B. M. H.
-----             
43652        -    
26435  -     -  - 
42635           - 
63425  -        - 
46325           - 
62453     1       
34625  -     -  - 
23645  -          
64235  -        - 
63254     1  -    
23456        -    

C.
23456  W. B. M. H.
-----             
23564     1     - 
52364           - 
43265        -  - 
24365           - 
32546  -     -    
43526  -          
24536  -          
32465  -  1     - 
42563        -    
35264        -  - 
23456  -     -    


II

Before you can understand very much of the problems of composition, you must know something of the Law of “Q-sets”. When we talk about “law” in this connection, we do not mean some rule that an authority has laid down, and which we are expected to observe, but what the Oxford Dictionary calls “invariable sequence between certain conditions and phenomena” — that is to say, in certain circumstances certain things always happen. Just as when we talk of the law of gravity, we do not mean that once upon a time Parliament passed an Act ordering that all stones which are dropped should fall to the ground, but that so far as we know all stones which have been dropped in the past, have fallen; and so far as we are concerned, all stones which will be dropped in the future will fall.

In the early days of composition there were one or two problems which composers had to face, and the most interesting and important of these was — Is it possible to get a peal of Grandsire Triples with ordinary bobs only? On the face of it, there seemed no reason why it was not possible. John Holt got as far as three leads short of the total, and there he stuck; nor could anyone else put those three leads in. Still, it was argued, because it was a difficult task, that was no proof that it was an impossible task; and because no one had ever done it was no reason for saying that no one ever would do it. Men worked, as I have said, by experimental methods, by trial and error, but one fact early forced itself on their attention. This, used by a man belonging to a later and different school of composition, was to supply the solution of the problem. The fact is this — If you call a bob at the first lead-end of Grandsire Triples and bring up 1752634, you may not bring up 1253746 at a plain leadend, because you would have to ring the same lead you have already had to bring up 1752634. You would get these changes:-

5716243 and 5716243
5172634     5172634
1576243     1527364
1752634     1253746

And if you bring up 1253746 at a bobbed lead-end, you cannot bring up 1354267 at a plain lead-end.
Again, and for the same reason, if 1354267 is bobbed, 1456372 must not be plain;
And if 1456372 is bobbed, 1657423 must not be plain;
And if 1657423 is bobbed, 1752634 must not be plain.

This has brought us back to where we started from, and we find we have got a group of five lead-ends — 1752634, 1253746, 1354267, 1456372 and 1657423 — all of which, if they come in our composition, must come up bobbed, or else all must come up plain. In the same way every lead-end of Grandsire Triples is a member of a group of five, and if a peal of Grandsire Triples were possible with bobs only, they would have to be in sets of five.

By making a mathematical use of this fact, Mr. W. H. Thompson was able to prove that a peal of Grandsire Triples with common bobs only is not possible. He showed that the 360 in-course lead-ends of the method divide into 72 of these groups, and he called them the “Q sets”.

Composers and the Exercise generally have accepted Mr. Thompson’s conclusions, but I do not think that it is generally known what a “Q set” really is. Mr. Thompson worked out his argument in terms of the leadends, and gave his “Q sets” as lead-ends, as I have done above. But the actual bob is made before that. Now if we write out the rows (back and hand) where the bobs are made in a “Q set” we get this block:-

5172634
1576243
5167423
1564732
5146372
1543627
5134267
1532476
5123746
1527364

It consists of a plain hunting course on the five bob making bells. If you write out the back and hand rows of the lead-ends of a Plain Course (i.e., the rows where the place is made) you will get an exactly similar block. Now write out the “Q set” of Bob Major and the lead-ends of the Plain Course and you will get a similar result. And, further, we shall find that every bit of work in every composition and every method is a part of some such movement. The law does not always work quite so simply as in these cases, but it always does work. We will not go into that further now. It is enough for our present purposes to know that in any composition where one member of a “Q set” is brought up bobbed and a second plain, there is another which cannot be had at all; and that in any composition the great majority of the bobs will be in “Q sets”.

When I talk about extents in the last paragraph I do not include the extents in Methods on the Treble Bob Principle which are restricted by false course-ends, and the last sentence hardly applies to peals of such Methods as Kent, where you have a “lengthening” lead-end.


III

A knowledge of the law of “Q sets” gives us at once one way of varying peals. In any composition in any Method which contains all the members of a “Q set” if they are bobbed you can plain them; and if they are plained, you can bob them. The result will have exactly the same rows as the original, and therefore will not affect the truth. But it may result in resolving the composition into separate parts. If the original is only a few changes over the 5,000, of course, the parts will be of no practical use. But suppose your peal is 5,376 of, say, Double Norwich, and it contains these course-ends:

       I. F. O. 
62453  -     -  
26354     -  - )
63254        - )
32654        - )
25634  -        

You can plain the bobbed “Q set” I have bracketed and so reduce the peal to 5,152.

In many cases if you bob a plained “Q set” you will still get the same number of changes, but they will come in a different order. Reeves’s Variation of Holt’s Ten-Part is an example of this. In any three (or six) part peal of Bob Major or Double Norwich you can call or omit any bobs which do not affect the “part Bells”, i.e., those which come home at the part-end, provided that all parts are called alike and the bells do not come home at the first part-end.

A knowledge of the law of “Q sets” will also enable you to apply the composition of one method to another. I take at random a three-part peal of Double Norwich and I want to apply it to Bob Major. I see at once that to call bobs in the same order will not give me the same peal. I look through the composition and I find that all the members of the different “Q sets” are there, and that makes my task simple. Then I write out my peal of Bob Major. Whenever I come to a bob in the Double Norwich I make a bob on the same three bells in the Bob Major. Here are the two side by side [sic]:-

Double Norwich.
23456  I. F. O.
-----          
34256        - 
42356        - 
24653     -  - 
46253        - 
52643  -     - 
25346     -  - 
53246        - 
32546        - 
45236  -     - 
52436        - 
24536        - 
34625  -  -  - 
46325        - 
63425        - 
23564  -  -  - 

Bob Major.

23456  W. M. H.
-----          
42356        - 
63254     -  - 
26354        - 
32654        - 
46325  -  -  - 
34625        - 
63425        - 
42635  -     - 
64235        - 
26435        - 
54263  -  -  - 
26543  -     - 
52643        - 
36245     -  - 
23645        - 

Each twice repeated.

These two compositions look quite different; actually they are the same, and they contain exactly the same lead-ends, but in different order. The first by N. J. Pitstow is No. 88 in the Double Norwich Collection, and was rung in 1892. The second, with a little alteration of the bobs which do not affect the “part” bells is No. 87 in the Bob Major Collection, and was composed in 1894 by Mr. Lindoff. According to the old standards. these are distinct and original compositions, and, of course, they were produced quite independently of each other

In the same way peals of Grandsire Triples can be applied to St. Clement’s and College Triples. The order in which the bobs come will be different, but every leadend which is brought up bobbed in the Grandsire will be brought up bobbed in the others. A warning must be given here. Every peal of Grandsire will produce all the lead-ends in these other Methods, but if you use common singles they will run false in the interior of the leads. Holt’s in-course singles must be used, and the Ten-Part is a very suitable composition for these Methods. [ In some instances it would have to be Reeves’s Variation or the equivalent. ]


IV

When you are comparing two compositions the easiest mistake you can make is to judge from apparent similarity or dissimilarity. It by no means follows that two peals are variations of each other because they look alike; or that two peals are distinct and separate because they do not look alike.

Two good examples of the first occur to me, both of which have been debated in years gone by.

23456  W. M. H.
-----          
42635  -  -    
64523  -  -    
56342  -  -    
23564  -  -  - 
45236  -  -  - 
-----          
24653  -  -    
62345  -  -    
36524  -  -    
45362  -  -  - 
34256  -  -    

Five times repeated. Single half way and end.

23456  W. M. H.
-----          
42635  -  -    
64523  -  -    
56342  -  -    
23564  -  -  - 
45236  -  -  - 
-----          
24653  -  -    
62345  -  -    
36524  -  -    
45362  -  -  - 

Four times repeated.

The first is by Annable; the second by D. Prentice, of Ipswich. Up to a point these two compositions are identical — the course-ends, the bobs, the actual changes are the same. And yet the whole peals are quite distinct and independent.

Treble Bob Maximus.
6,000
23456  M. W. H.
-----          
64352  1     1 
56342     1    

Four times repeated.

Cambridge Maximus.
5,280.

23456  M. W. H.
-----          
64352  -     - 
56342     -    

Four times repeated.

The first, by Henry Hubbard, appears in his “Campanalogia”, 1876; the second was rung at Ipswich, the first in the Method.

In these two, the Course-Ends throughout are the same, and the incidence of the bobs much the same, but the general conditions of the two Methods are so unlike that we cannot call these variations.


V

In its simplest and most general form, composition consists of joining together a number of separate courses by bobs and singles, usually arranged in “Q sets”. In Double Norwich or Bob Major or any of the Plain Major Methods there are one hundred and twenty course-ends. From each of these a course of 112 rows can be written out, and as, in a course, I.7.8 never fall twice into the same relative positions, these one hundred and twenty courses will contain 13,440 true rows. If you start with the Plain Course and call three Homes you will join together three complete courses into one round block. Anywhere in this block you can call three Middles, and that will add two more courses. So you can go on adding courses till you have got the total number available or as many as you want. Bobs and Singles are links in a chain which binds separate courses into one whole.

But it is obvious that if a set of bobs will link up a number of courses, it will also link up the same number of any sort of round blocks, provided that you have the necessary positions to call the bobs. And if you have conditions similar to those of a course, the result will be true. For instance, here are three round blocks:-

23456  W. B. M.
-----          
35264     1    
23456  -     - 

23456  W. M.
-----       
43652     - 
63254     - 
56234  -    
35264  -    
23456  -  - 

23456  W. M.
-----       
42635  -  - 
64235  -  - 
56342  -  - 
35264  -  - 
23456  -  - 

In each of these 1-6-7-8 never fall into the same relative positions, so we can take any touch with the sixth never moved, and in place of the courses put one of these blocks, and get a true composition. We cannot call a bob “Wrong” in the third block, but if we call a Home in the fourth course the result is the same. If we take any block which has twenty-four courses with the sixth at Home, and use the second or third block, we get the full extent of the method with 7-8 together. If we use the first we have a peal with the sixth its extent each way. And if we care to work out the different combinations and variations of these we shall get several peals which have passed as the original work of different composers.

We could also use the same block to link up a mixture of courses and different sorts of blocks, providing we pay regard to the truth of the result. There is a further useful way of linking up round blocks. In Double Norwich (and in Bob Major and the rest) there is a number of touches to be had (by bobs only) of different lengths without moving the sixth. Actually their number is small, but by beginning at different Course-Ends, by reversal, and by reduction [sic], we can get for practical purposes quite a good number. There will be the same number of out-of-course touches, and the same with the Fourth a sixth’s-place bell, and the Fifth a sixth’s-place bell. Now, provided each has a position where a bob may be called on 4-5-6, you can take six of these blocks (one from every group), and by four bobs and two singles make them into one block. According to the lengths of the different blocks, so will the length of your peal be. The result will look like an irregular one-part, but all the conductor has to do is to call six easy touches, all of which probably are familiar to him. There are quite a large number of peals to be had like this, and any conductor who knows this plan need never be at a loss for a peal if he is called on at a minute’s notice.

In Bob Major I use a somewhat similar plan. Personally, I always have had a liking for Bob Major. I think that, next to Spliced Surprise, I get more enjoyment out of ringing that Method than any other, and I am always quite ready for a peal of it. What I do is this. First I take a block of twenty-four courses with the sixth at Home. There are, I think, three of such blocks; but by variation and reversal they become a fair number for practical purposes. And there are others if you use Short Courses. Then I have a number of blocks with the sixth in fifth’s place. I start my first block. At a point I switch into one of the others; finish that; go back to the first block; then again into one of the others; finish that; back to the first block, and so to the end of the peal. I have two ways of switching from block to block:-

23456  W. B. M.
-----          
35264     1    
23456  -     - 

23456  W. M.
-----       
43652     - 
63254     - 
56234  -    
35264  -    
23456  -  - 

It does not matter a bit which I use, what course I put it in, or what particular blocks I use with the sixth in fifth’s place, provided that one of them is In Course and one Out of Course. Usually when I call a peal of Bob Major we have met short for something else, and I have worked this dodge quite a number of times, perhaps twenty, perhaps more. And so far as I am aware I always use a different variation. I have heard people talk about composing peals as you ring them. If you use some sort of plan as this it is quite easy. But you might get let down if you take it too lightly. Once I made a mistake and rang a course longer than I intended. It might have been a course too short.


VI

The following is a very good example of what transposition and variation is, and how it can be useful in ordinary practical circumstances. Some years ago I had the job of calling a peal of Double Oxford Bob Major, and I wanted a peal for the purpose. There are several very good compositions in the “Central Council Collection”, but what I wanted was one which, besides being musical, would let me see what every bell was doing right through without putting very much tax on an elusive memory. Perhaps, in case anyone may think I am claiming to be a smart conductor, I ought to say, would let me know throughout if every bell was in its right place. I argued it out something like this. I said, If I take the “Old” nine courses (Wrong and three Homes twice repeated), and if I call a bob on 4-5-6 that will give me twenty-seven courses and, doubled by singles, fifty-four courses or a peal of 6,048 changes. This is a very old and well-known composition, and who the original composer was (if there were one) I should not like to say. If in this I call the bobs at the Wrong when the second is a fourth’s-place bell, I shall very much improve the music, for that will keep the second out of both fifth’s and sixth’s at a Course-End. As the single is called half-way and end, and the half-way is 32456, the second half of the peal will look different from the first, but actually will be the same composition. But the peal is too long; I only want a 5,000. I can reduce it by omitting three consecutive bobs at Home, and if I do this four times I shall have a 5,152. But I do not like that number. I want something nearer 5,000. There is another way I can reduce the peal. Every course in which the second is a Second’s-place bell ends with a Home. If I call any one of these courses, Middle, Before, Wrong and Home I shall have the same Course-End. and reduce the length by one lead. And it cannot be false. Because the Middle will make the Second a sixth’s-place bell and the Wrong will bring her back to a second’s-place bell. And in none of the courses of our original is the second either a sixth’s or a fifth’s-place bell. Notice that in this course, although the second is a sixth’s and a fifth’s-place bell, she does not get away from the lead, and so we do not have any 8-2’s.

If I omit three consecutive bobs at Home four times, and call the short course nine times I shall have a 5,008 That is what I did. I dropped my Homes at irregular intervals, and I put in my M.B.W. where I thought fit; and we rang the peal. It looked like a very irregular one-part composition. I showed it to several of my friends, and none saw the secret of it, though I told them there was a catch in it. They only expressed surprise that I should have chosen such a peal to call from an inside bell, and in a Method, too, we had not practised. I will let my readers into my secret now — I rang the second.

I had produced the peal from an old composition by very simple means of variation and transposition, and now here are a few questions which the curious may answer if they can:-

  1. Was I justified in saying the peal was composed and conducted by me?
  2. If not, whose composition was it?
  3. How much “originality” was there about it in any case?
  4. And if this will not stand any real test of originality, how many of the compositions that people put their name to can?


VII

If we examine any peal which contains some particular extent or some particular qualities, we shall generally find that it has a group of bobs which form the key of the composition. These bobs usually produce a Round Block, and it is they which make possible the extent of the qualities. Let us look at an example of this.

The extent of Bob Major with the tenors together and without singles is fifty-nine courses or 6,608 changes. There are sixty full courses (6,720 changes) to select from, but it is a general law of all Methods that an even number of full courses cannot be joined together by bobs. All this is true of Double Norwich. But, by using three short courses, Mr. Lindoff was able to get a peal of sixty courses in Double Norwich containing 6,624 changes. Here is the key of the composition:-


23456  H. O.
-----       
34256     - 
23645  -    
36245     - 
23564  -    
35264     - 
23456  -    

This group of bobs joins together six courses, an even number, but to do so six leads have to be cut out. When we have got these six courses it is quite easy to add the other fifty-four to them by bobbing “Q sets”. It can be done so as to produce a one-part peal or (since this touch is in three parts) as a three-part peal, and there are many scores of ways in which it can be done.

Now suppose one of my readers sits down and, taking the hint I have given him, writes out some of these peals. The chances are that he will get a peal which has never before been written out. Whose peal will that be? He has got the key of the composition from Mr. Lindoff. If he does not know how to bob his “Q sets”, so as to add the other courses, he can find out from articles I have written from time to time in the ringing papers. According to recognised standards, he could call the peal his own, but, surely, he has done nothing except follow instructions given him by other people. Shall we, then, say that all these compositions are Mr. Lindoff’s, since his peal contains the key of them all? I am afraid that that will not quite do.

I turn to “The Clavis” and I find there a peal of Bob Major. Except that it is a three-part and has the sixty Course-Ends, it is apparently as unlike Mr. Lindoff’s as any peal could well be. We look for the key of it. and we find it in the following set of bobs:-

23456  B. 5ths. 4ths.
-----                
35264  1             
42635      -     -   
56342      -     -   
23456      -     -   

Not very much like the key of the Double Norwich, you may say at first sight, but if you look closer you will see that, allowing for the differences of the bob making in the two methods, one is the almost exact equivalent of the other. They both have the effect of joining together an even number of full and short courses, and they are able to do so for the same reason. Both make peals with the sixty course-ends possible.

Now I do not suppose for one minute that Mr. Lindoff copied his peal from Reeves. Nor, if he had, would he have been doing anything other than competent composers continually do. But I do think it quite possible that a man having found the key of Reeves’s peal might have thought something like it was possible in Double Norwich. And once he started to look for it he could hardly miss it. Anyhow, we do know of these keys in Bob Major and Double Norwich, and we will ask — Are there any equivalents in any of the other groups of Plain Methods? What of Double Bob, for instance? We turn to the tables of lead-ends in “Major Methods” and we do not need to search very long. Here it is:-

23456  B. W.
-----       
52436     - 
23564  -    
62534     - 
23645  -    
42635     - 
23456  -    

To this we can easily add the other fifty-four courses by bobbing “Q sets”. We can do as John Reeves did and try and make our peal as near 5,000 as possible; or we can do as Mr. Lindoff did and try and make our peal as long as is possible. This has not yet been done, so I will leave off writing this article and work it out:-

6,576
23456  B. M. W. H.
-----             
24536        1  2 
25346        1  2 
35642     1  3    
32546     2     1 
24653     1  2    
52643     3  1    
43526     2  1  3 
52436        1  1 
23564  1          

Twice repeated.

The curious may settle, if they can, how far this is an original peal and who the author is, if there be one. Meanwhile, we have a good instance of how compositions, apparently quite dissimilar, are really related to each other.


I could go on giving examples of variation and adaptation almost indefinitely, but it is not necessary. It will be clear, even to those who have only cursorily followed my articles, that the two ideas on which the old standards were based cannot stand. No composition or method can possibly be original in the old sense of the word. Each is related to others in many ways, and even in the case of the most striking and outstanding peals the composition is largely the same as that of other peals. Nor can we say that the composer of the most original peal really creates anything which did not exist before. Peals and methods are the expression of certain mathematical laws, and the job of the composer is to find out how these laws work. It follows that even if a complete register of compositions were possible it would not do away with the difficulty, and certainly such a register is not possible. No one can possibly know what peals have been composed. The old idea was to take into account only those which had been published or rung. That idea is really an absurd one and no one can be sure what has been rung and what not. I was turning over the pages of the “Bell News” of about thirty years ago. In the correspondence column all the leading composers of the day were discussing the originality and qualities of a Method lately published. None of them knew that it had been rung nearly two hundred years before, or that Benjamin Annable had said exactly the same thing against it that Mr. Bankes James was now saying. The conclusion of the matter seems to be that for ordinary peals strict originality need not be insisted on. If a man wants to call a certain class of peal and is able to put it together, I do not think he is bound to go to any great amount of trouble to find out whether or no it has ever been published. He may be pretty sure that it is more or less a variation of an old peal, but that need not stop him using it. Whether he puts his own name to it or not, is a matter in which he would be well to use some discretion. Young composers should remember that it is still true what Jasper Snowdon wrote over fifty years ago, that “A man may put himself to much trouble and make himself the laughing stock of the Exercise by reproducing a variation of some well known peal and putting it forth as an original composition”. In doubtful cases I should not blame the young composer who gave himself the benefit of the doubt, but the best plan would be to put no composer’s name at all. In the early days they did not, except in special cases, and we could very well follow their example. Of course, when a man is able to get something really new like Mr. Law James’s Spliced Surprise he is entitled to call it his own and to have all the credit for it.


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