[r-t] Little Bell Music

Michael Foulds foulds at reaystreet.freeserve.co.uk
Wed Sep 29 09:02:06 UTC 2004

Sorry if this is old hat, but I've been busy of late and am only just
catching up with reading message boards.

I'm troubled by the assumption here that rows containing runs of adjacent
notes in the scale are "more musical" - presumably meaning "sound nicer" -
than those rows not containing such rows.  No one seems to have challenged
this, but the concept of measuring the "musicality" of a peal composition by
counting the number of such qualifying rows seems to owe its validity to
this assumption.  Can anyone tell us upon what it is based?

To say "the row 43216857 sounds nicer than 41326857" seems no more valid
than saying "chicken dopiaza tastes nicer than fish and chips".   Surely the
judgement is entirely subjective, and even with one individual, subject to
mood.    Think of a tune you like, eminently singable or whistleable, one
you can't get out of your head.  Could be from the top ten, an old Beatles
hit, or from a Beethoven or Schubert symphony.  Whatever.  I bet it's not
got a run of four consecutive notes in the scale in it.  Ha, but you can't
compare conventional music with change ringing, because in change ringing
you can't repeat the same note, you never get two notes sounded together,
and all the notes are crotchets, no dots or tails (if only!).   OK, what is
the origin of the popular call change sequences, Queens, Whittingtons,
Tittums, etc?  Why are they popular?  Because they sound nice(r than other
sequences)?  Is it significant that they contain no runs of adjacent notes
in the scale?   Why did the BBC use Bow Bells ringing Whittingtons?   Why
not 5960871234 which is clearly "more musical"? (try it!)

It may be that "most ringers" would agree that rows containing runs are
pleasing in peals. There's been no survey to confirm that, though, so it's
hardly a valid assumption.  Even if it's true, there's the question of
conditioning.  My parents' generation would have no doubt that fish and
chips tasted nicer than chicken dopiaza, becasue they had been told from
birth that Indian cuisine was "foreign muck".   Our culinary horizons are
now broader.    Should we be encouraging narrow horizons in peal composition
by acceptance of a mere count of rows containing runs of four or more
adjacent notes as the yardstick of musical quality?

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