[r-t] Ben Constant's Yorkshire Royal

Mark Davies mark at snowtiger.net
Fri Jan 16 23:05:08 UTC 2009

Ander writes,

> But a machine can't tell whether a book is something that people would
> want to read, nor whether a block of changes is something people would
> want to ring.

I'm not sure about the latter! Computers are probably used to come up with
musical analyses of compositions more often than they are asked to generate
the compositions themselves. And, most conductors seem quite content to
assess a composition's merit purely on the number of crus, lb5s, 4-runs, or
whatever other quantitive measure seems popular.

I have to say that I do like the ability of a computer to exhaust a search
space, and to tell you that, for the given parameters, yes this is the
absolute best you can do for this type of music. There is some joy in
squeezing out more lb4 than Hull can, for instance, occasionally!! It's also
nice to be able to run through tens of thousands of candidate compositions
in a few milliseconds of machine time, and have the top-scoring one pop out
for you automatically. The Booker Prize judges can't do that, can they.

But on the other hand this does make composition feel all a bit mechanical,
and we lose the benefit of the creative analytic processes that are applied
to other artforms. In what work I have been able to do in recent years, I
still look for big headline music counts, but now I think other more subtle
factors are just as important. Is the composition simple, and elegant? Is
the music well-distributed? Do things come in the "right order" during the

To me, the ideal composition is one that's kind to the band, that's easy to
ring; and yet rewarding, capable of surprising. It's one that looks good on
paper - neat, tidy, as if it should have been invented a dozen times before,
but never has; as if if it was always out there in the search space, begging
to be discovered. It's one that has some structure, some self-
referentiality; perhaps it is a one-part that is so beautifully arranged
that it is as simple to understand as a multi-part. It's one where the music
develops and evolves, rather than just exists. It's a composition that has 

These things are less easy for a computer to understand. Mind you, I'm not
sure most ringers understand either...


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