[r-t] Five Rings Triples

Philip Earis Earisp at rsc.org
Wed Oct 12 14:58:42 UTC 2011

There is a "New Music 20X12 project" in association with the 2012 Olympics, where 20 original pieces are commissioned, performed and promoted.

One of the new pieces is based on change ringing, composed by musician Howard Skempton.

As you'll see from <www.cccbr.org.uk/olympics/<http://www.cccbr.org.uk/olympics/>>, Howard has put together a method "Five Rings Triples":


The method is quite interesting and has elements of an elegant construction, using the appealing "glide" symmetry (like Double Resurrection Cyclic).  It's essentially a simple rule-based construction, with plain hunting on 7 developing into plain hunting on four whenever the treble makes its five consecutive blows (meant to symbolise the Olympic rings) in 3rds or 5ths. Conceptually it's a bit like Single Oxford. So whilst easy to ring if thought about in this way, I suspect it will be something of a challenge for ringers relying on a more limited "blue line" toolkit.

Clearly Howard had some briefing on change ringing, but I was curious to see these construction features, and wondered whether it was essentially designed by an existing ringer.  However, Kate Flavell tells me:

"It was definitely created by a non-ringer.  But a musician.  He had a lot of coaching in ringing - how bells must just move one position at a time and what sort of groupings are considered musical by ringers, but he was very much left on his own to do his own thing"

This is perhaps supported by the fact that the method seems to have been designed without thought given to an extent (neither the treble having a different number of blows in each place in each lead nor 22-change leads are exactly conducive to this, regardless of other falseness considerations), and also the rather delicious fact that a new method coordinated by the CC doesn't conform to the CC's so-called "Decisions", by virtue of the 5 consecutive blows.

Indeed, it is both rather funny and a little bit sad to see the "disclaimer" on the method sheet on the CC website:

"This is not a true "method" in view of the five treble blows in one place. It is a piece of music"

One can only hope that Five Rings Triples will make people question the point or such arbitrary "Decisions".


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