[r-t] Little Bell Music

Mark Davies mark at snowtiger.net
Wed Sep 29 20:57:42 UTC 2004

Michael Foulds wrote,

> 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.

Several people have already replied to this, however I don't believe anyone
has spotted Michael's false assumption. It's right there, in the sentence

I think it's a very common misconception that changeringing music is about
what "sounds nice"; where "nice" is usually defined in musical terms such as
scales and thirds and so forth. If you try to apply musical concepts to
changeringing composition, for instance Ian and Ben's idea of intervals, or
Sam Austin's "FISCs", you just get rubbish. Ringing doesn't work that way.

Music in ringing is not a series of changes that sound nice, it's a series
of changes that gives pleasure to the ringers. Sometimes the two concepts
are the same - Queens is a beautiful-sounding change, and if it comes up in
a touch or peal you'll get smiles all round. But mostly, the two things are
not the same.

Michael is quite right that, on paper, as notes on a stave, changes with
little-bell runs in aren't necessarily musical. But, they are fantastic to
ring, I think for three reasons: one, they are easy to recognise - the ropes
all line up, the scale is easy for the ear to hear; two, you can get them
coming up again and again; and three, they are dramatically different to the
"traditional" types of back-bell music that many bands have been forced to
churn out for decades.

To me, that's the recipe for fantastic music in a composition: give the band
cool stuff they can see and hear and recognise. If they don't notice it,
they won't enjoy it. There are two ways to achieve this goal:

1. Make it dramatic. People will probably notice Whittingtons, even though
it's a single change gone in two seconds. They'll also notice if you arrange
for 87s at back during a London fishtail - three backstroke 87s banging out
is definitely a cause for celebration, as is any other distinctly-odd
sounding combination, for example 8567. Finally, order after chaos is often
good - like the course end of Stedman emerging from the random combinations
of the middle of the course. That's drama.

2. Make it frequent. The Tittums position in Grandsire Caters is wonderful
because you hear it all the time - in a short-course composition it
practically never goes away. And again, frequency is something that makes
little-bell music so good. In a proper method like Yorkshire or Bristol,
little bells runs will come up every lead, predictably, obviously,
easily-spottably. You're giving the ear the music that it expects to hear.

A great example of how little-bell music can satisfy the (often conflicting)
requirements of (1) drama and (2) frequency, is given by the coursing order
46532 in Bristol. It produces lots of 3456 and 6543 runs, but with the 2nd
in 6th's place it also sounds splendidly unusual to people used to ringing
CRU compositions. The best thing is, just when the band is getting used to
the four-bell 3456 sequences coming up, the "surprise" run 65432178 appears
out of nowhere. I don't think I've ever rung this course without smiles
appearing all round the circle at that change, and its reverse of course.

How does all this affect people listening outside? Well let's be honest,
there aren't usually very many are there, and those that are generally won't
know their Tittums from their Queens. What is most likely to impress the
outside listener is the quality of the ringing; and if the band is enjoying
the music of the composition, well there's a good chance that'll be high.


More information about the ringing-theory mailing list