[r-t] New Alan Reading Composition

Mark Davies mark at snowtiger.net
Fri Dec 14 13:18:24 UTC 2012

Ian F writes,

> Moving towards some "unquantifiable music" discussion here.......

"Unquantifiable" is the wrong word, I think. But ringing music does sit 
in an interesting place, halfway between a purely subjective and an 
objective, measurable position.

In every generation there is some metric, be it CRUs or 4-runs, which is 
seized upon by a majority of composers and conductors, and this is I 
think no bad thing, since it provides useful targets, and encourages 
innovation in composition within a fixed framework - something at which 
ringing excels.

Perhaps computerization had taken us a little too far down this route, 
though. The machine drives us towards simple, measurable scoring systems 
to judge the quality of compositions by; quicker sharing of ideas then 
exerts a pressure to standardise such measures. Hence the rise of 
metrics such as 4-runs. But occasionally I think we ought to step back 
and take a wider look at the music we're really trying to achieve.

This particular discussion has, to me, highlighted the kind of 
discrepancy you get when the focus is too narrow: we have a composition 
on a cyclic plan, where the chosen method of measuring music content 
actually disadvantages cyclic music. Something is not right, and to my 
mind it's easy to see what: the 4-run count is not enough on its own. 
Attractive though it is, you can't simply compare the quality of 
compositions based on a single number.


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