[r-t] Shades of truth
richard at ex-parrot.com
Wed Sep 30 17:59:45 UTC 2009
I've been thinking back to the long discussion here last
summer when we tried (and utterly failed) to come up with a
new set of decision that we could all agree on. One of the
bigger stumbling blocks was the meaning of truth, in the
context of a piece of ringing.
The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that the
key realisation is that there is no single
unambiguously-correct definition of what constitutes a true
piece of ringing. Instead, what I think we have is a
variety of different definitions that are used in different
For example, we might start by saying that a true round
block is one which:
[U] includes every row at most once; and
[R] starts and ends with the same row.
(The initials are for 'uniqueness' and 'round block'
At a single stage on eight or more bells, that's sufficient.
While touches that have intentionally satisfied only one (or
neither) of these are sometimes rung (e.g. a short service
touch of spliced that the conductor knows to be false), I
imagine few people would want to describe them as in any way
But the idea of a complete extent is clearly also relevant,
as, on lower numbers, it's fundamental to all long touches.
For reasons that will hopefully become clear shortly, I'm
going to define an extent as a touch that in addition to
satisfying [U] and [R], also:
[C] includes every possible row an equal non-zero number
(C is short for 'complete extents'.)
If we drop down to triples, the vast majority of peals
satisfy all of [U], [R] and [C]. But there are interesting
cases of peals (or things claimed as peals) that satisfy any
two of these.
- Long lengths clearly cannot satisfy [U], but they are
required to (and do) satisfy [R] and [C].
- The College Youths recognise a 5014 of Grandsire rung in
1862; likewise apparently the St Martin's Guild
recongise a 5026 (or 5025?) of Grandsire rung at a
similar time. Clearly they did not satisfy [C]. I
don't know whether the compositions have been recorded,
but I strongly suspect they would have satisfied [U] and
[R] much as a peal of major does.
- And wasn't there a bobs-only peal of Grandsire rung in
the Birmingham area in which all 5040 rows were rung
(if the opening rounds are counted), but that did not
return to rounds at the end? If so, that satisfies [C]
and [U], but not [R]. Even if such a composition hasn't
been rung, something similar is an interesting enough
idea and definitely would be noteworthy.
Today, for a single stage peal to be true it must satisifies
[R], and either (on major or above) [U] or (on triples and
below) [C]. But historically this hasn't been sufficient.
Multi-extent blocks are a recent innovation -- originally a
peal with several extents had to be comprised of single
extent blocks. Specifically it
[S] is completely divisible into one or more
non-overlapping blocks consecutive rows such that each
block individually satisfies [U], [R] and [C].
The impetus for relaxing this restriction came with Bankes
James' 2160 of treble dodging minor. This 2160 can be
divided into three 720s each of which contains every row
exactly once, but does not produce rounds at the end of each
720. I don't know precisely how the CC decisions were
changed to permit this, but the notes at the end of the 1961
minor collection suggest that [S] was not initially dropped
entirely: rather it was weakened to only require the touch
[B] is completely divisible into one or more
non-overlapping blocks consecutive rows such that each
block individually satisfies [U] and [C].
(S and B stand for 'single extent blocks' and 'Bankes James
blocks' respectively.) Even now that neither [S] or [B] are
required, it's not unusual to choose to ring compositions
that satisfy them. For example, the standard 41 minor
cannot be rung in an ordinary length while satisfying one of
these, but a peal in all 41 that additionally satisfies [S]
is somehow more elegant than one that 'merely' satisfies
Similarly, when multi-extent touches which are only [U], [R]
and [C] are rung, it's not uncommon to want some other,
additional structure. For example, it is sometimes claimed
that there are only three true 240s of Grandsire Doubles.
But what's actually meant is that there are only three true
240s containing each row once at each stroke. Likewise
there is a tricky 10,080 of Stedman Triples by Rod Pipe with
this property. I'd argue that this is just another,
stricter form of truth. As the archetypal composition with
this is Morris' 240, lets call this [M] are require that the
[M] includes every possible row an equal non-zero number
of times at each stroke.
And I can imagine someone might go further and, say, look
for a 30,240 of Erin Triples where each row appears once in
each position in a six, or a bobs-only 30,240 of Stedman
Triples where each row appears once in each position of the
If there are lots of ways of achieving a particular effect
it seems natural to add an additional restriction so that
that is not the case. That's not just true when it comes to
truth, but also methods (we allow arbitrary blows in one
place in minimus, as many as four in doubles, but rarely
desire more than two at higher stages) and compostions (c.f.
the desire for bobs-only extents of various triples
But equally, if it's impossible to do what we want within
the constraints, we tend to relax them until it becomes
possible. For example, the desire of quarter peal ringers
to be able to ring convenient lengths leads to a weakened
version of [C] in quarter peals:
[Q] there exists an integer n such that every possible row
either occurs n times or (n+1) times.
Another example is Little Bob which I'm sure is sometimes
rung in quarter peals without either splicing it with an
alliace method or using variable treble. But equally, I
would guess an attempt to ring a 'true' quarter is still
made -- effectively by adopting a get-out clause:
[L] in a little method, rows with the principle hunt bell
outside of the positions visited in its path are not
deemed 'possible rows' for the purpose of [C] or [Q].
When this topic was discussed last year in the context of
replacement decisions for peals, I think we made a
fundamental mistake -- instead of trying to describe
existing practice we tried to produce a single prescriptive
definition. When previously discussing methods and
compositions, I think we have largely been in agreement that
such an approach was wrong. Shouldn't the same be the case
with truth? Far better to simply categorise existing
practice and try to provide a flexible vocabulary that
allows us to talk about the truth of corner cases.
Inevitably there will be dissention as to what constitutes
and acceptable degree of truth for peal, and I think it's
likely that if the CC ever recognises quarter peals, the
standard of truth there will be different. Personally, I
can't imagine ever wanting to play the [L] get-out-of-jail
card in a peal, but can imagine ringing a quarter that was
only true with [L]. But equally I don't think it's any of
my business (or the CC's business) to tell others that they
mustn't ring [L] peals.
At present, if I ring a peal that doesn't conform to the
decisions, in theory, at least, the CC includes it in their
analysis but identified as non-compliant. (In practice, it
doesn't always work like that because the RW sometimes
refuses to publish them as peals and the CC is not required
to then include them in the analysis, but that's a separate
We've rehearsed many times the reasons why this stifles
innovation -- and one major problem is the tarring of
everything different with perjorative term 'non-compliant'.
If instead the CC simply recorded against every peal in what
way it was true, this could be different. This would be
especially the case if 'normal' peals, at any given stage,
fell into several different truth categories. And in this
respect, retaining something similar to [S] and [B] would be
helpful. A significant minority of peals are not currently
[S] or [B], including most complex peals of minor. Once it
becomes accepted that, at a given stage, there are different
classes of truth that are all accepted by ringers in
general, perhaps it will become more accepted to ring more
I haven't made any effort to draft these into a form that
could be slotted into last years' attempt at a revised set
of decisions on peals. But I think that this is the right
way to head. Clearly the case of peals on multiple extents
needs thought too. But by adopting multiple definitions,
and treating them as descriptive rather than prescriptive,
we can hopefully avoid last year's problem that we couldn't
agree where to draw the line between true and false.
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