[r-t] The 5056

Mark Davies mark at snowtiger.net
Mon Dec 3 17:35:20 UTC 2007

I've discovered a composition with, I think, a claim to being the most
elegant possible arrangement for Bristol Major. A bold claim, I know! Let me
try and justify it.

Elegance is to some extent subjective with respect to your definition of
good music. However, given that we are interested in music X, Y and Z, then
I think "elegance" can be defined in terms of these criteria:

1. An elegant composition will have some structure and symmetry to it. If a
one-part, on the surface it may look relatively complex, but it should have
the property that, the closer you look at it, the simpler it becomes, as its
internal structure is revealed.

2. An elegant composition has difficult musical goals, but achieves all of
them, and appears to do so with some degree of ease: for instance, using few
calls, using few types of calls, avoiding poor transitions, and in a minimum

3. An elegant composition is exciting to ring, for example by distributing
different types of music evenly thoughout, so that there is always interest
as course follows course. "Ringable" features like starting with easy
courses and saving difficult ones for later - or saving the plain course for
the middle of the peal - are good.

4. It also helps if the composition is one of a kind, with no direct

So here's my contribution to the "most elegant" composition award for
Bristol Major, a 5056. The background is: we are aiming for lots of runs, in
particular 5678/8765 front and back, and little-bell runs like
1234/5432/3456 etc, again front and back. The 6578 rollups off the back are
also considered worthwhile. We are keeping tenors strictly together. The
desire to have music off the front as well as the back means that we need
lots of courses, with relatively few calls around the course-end; that's
good I think, and means no-one gets stuck on the back or the front for very
long - nice and dynamic.

The 5056 achieves all its musical goals: all 72 5678/8765 runs available
with tenors together; all five LB5 courses (53246, 64235, 35642, 24653,
53462); both the "Bristol LB6" courses (23564, 46532); 20 6578 rollups; and
the rest of the peal filled with other little-bell music - with, crucially,
"no duffers" - that is, no mid-course leads in poor coursing orders. Every
transition is good!

But the arrangement is I think also supremely elegant. It uses bobs only,
and very few of them (34), whilst still maintaining the seamless
"duffer-free" transitions from course to course. And the internal structure
is fascinating: simple but interesting, proto-palindromic in outline. The
peal starts and finishes with the two "56 home" courses, 52436 and 54326,
with the plain course embedded in the middle. The first half of the peal
contains the "5 Befores" block from 64235, and the last half is balanced by
the "5 Befores" from 53246 - but this rung in reverse, using W/M
transitions. Between these two blocks, forming the heart of the peal, is a
perfectly palindromic block which delivers all the LB5 and back-bell courses
missed from the 56-home courses and the two "5 Before" blocks, like so (in
coursing orders):

  56234 B
  56342 W
  53462 H
  25346 B
  23456 H
  34256 W
  63425 B


Here's the peal (use a fixed-width font):

5056 Bristol Surprise Major
Composed by Mark B Davies

  23456  M B W H
  42356        -
  54326      -
  54263    -   -
  32465  - 5   -
  26354    -
  43652  -     -
  43526    -   -
  24536      -
  43265    -
  45362  2     -
  63254  -   -
  52436  -   -
  34625  -   -
  26543  -   -
  64352  -   2
  23456  -     -

  72 5678/8765 front and back
  20(23) 6578 back
  134 LB4
  40 LB5

You can find it, along with some other good but perhaps not *quite* so 
elegant arrangements, on <http://www.compositions.org.uk/>. Comments and 
criticisms welcome.


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