[r-t] Ben Constant's Yorkshire Royal

Mark Davies mark at snowtiger.net
Thu Jan 15 22:01:45 UTC 2009

JEC asks,

> Would it be big enough to contain all the stuff on this list and r-c about
> Ben Constant and his Yorkshire Royal?

Now, this leads me on to speculate about something else. On the Other List
you drew a comparison between compositions, and patents and copyright. Most
ringers would I think see a clear difference between the authorship
compositions, and the creation of works of literature, music, paintings, or
patentable inventions. It's relatively easy to convince yourself that all
compositions "already exist", but you wouldn't think the same to be true of
novels, or paintings, or inventions. It seems there is much more leeway and
scope for creative expression in these fields.

But is there? In fact I think that the total number of possible
changeringing compositions is directly comparable to the total possible
number of novels, or inventions, or even works of art. All are countably
finite sets. Take novels as an example - you can represent a novel as a
stream of character codes in some character set. Hence there is a direct
mapping between all possible novels and the natural numbers, a countably
finite set. Patents are expressed as textual documents, so the same is true
of them. Paintings could be reduced to pixels, or some suitably small unit
of description, and mapped in the same way.

Ah, but surely the field of composition is finite, you say - there are only
so many ways to arrange changes on eight bells, or twelve. A very large
number, but a finite number. However restricting ourselves to 12 or 20 bells
or whatever number is like saying a novel cannot be longer than 2000 pages,
or 5000, or some arbitrary limit. If we say there is a limit on the length
of a novel, perhaps the maximum size that can be bound by a publisher, then
the number of novels is finite, too.

So I would say that the sentence "all compositions already exist" is of the
same nature as "all novels already exist" or "all patents already exist" or
"all paintings already exist".

There is a big difference between compositions and everything else, though.
A composition can be determined to be a composition by machine. You can't
give a computer a novel and ask it to verify that it is, indeed, a novel. So
what is the effect of this difference, if any, on the nature of authorship?

(Can you give a computer a piece of music and ask it to verify it is a piece 
of music?)


More information about the ringing-theory mailing list