[r-t] History

Richard Smith richard at ex-parrot.com
Mon Jun 9 11:16:07 UTC 2014

Don Morrison wrote, quoting Graham John:

>> change is then not a change, you just do not count it as 
>> a change.
> I'm sorry, but I think this is an exceedingly ill-advised 
> suggestion.

I'm broadly with Don on this one.  Defining the null change 
not to be a change, and therefore not contributing to the 
length of the performance seems wrong to me.  If you ring 
Don's 240 of PB5, it's clearly a 240 not a 238.

I think part of the problem is one of terminology.  We talk 
about the number of changes in a touch or a peal, whereas we 
probably really mean the number of rows.  For a normal round 
block, they're the same, but as Don said "What we ringers 
ring are rows, not changes."  The use of the word 'changes' 
to refer to the length is an anomaly that exists because 
historically the word 'changes' was used to mean both 
changes and rows.

Let's have a definition saying

   The /length/ of a piece of change ringing is defined to be
   the number of rows rung.  [Note: In everyday usage it is
   common to use the term /number of changes/ or simply
   /changes/ or to refer to length.  For a round block, the
   number of changes rung and the number of rows are the

This definition has a number of advantages.

- It goes some way to acknowledging the explanation of the 
term 'true changes'.  It's not the changes that are true: 
it is the rows.

- In Don's 240 of Plain Bob, it still 240 rows long, even if 
you accept Graham's definition with the result that it only 
encompasses 238 changes.

- The 5039 of Grandsire at Garlickhythe would be described 
as a 5040, but not a round block.  This is a more accurate 
description as the whole point was that it included all 5040 

To return to the null change and whether or not it is a 
change, personally I think it is preferable to have a broad 
definition of basic concepts like a change.  I've said 
before that a clear generally accepted list of definitions 
is something beneficial that the CC should be providing. 
But they should be useful for discussion and description, 
rather than just regulation.

For the former purpose, it's pretty clear you want the 
definition of a change to include the null change.  What is 
the null change if it isn't a change?  What term do you use 
to denote a change or null change?  You end up with a 
situation much like the one in the newly-adopted Decisions 
where the cumbersome phrase 'block or non-method block' 
is repeatedly required.

I think a fundamental flaw in the definitions in the present 
Decisions is that they are designed solely for the purpose 
of regulation.  There's nothing inherently wrong with that. 
If I look at a technical standard or an act of parliament, 
it will generally include definitions, and they will be what 
are required for the particular purpose at hand.  But those 
documents are usually careful either to make it clear that 
their definitions are only for that particular purpose, or 
they invent new terms to define thereby avoid redefining 
commonly used concepts.

Were the CC to do similarly, I wouldn't particularly mind. 
For example, they could say:

   For the purpose of determing whether a peal is
   recognised, a /change/ is defined as the progress from
   one row to the next, effected by the interchange of bells
   in adjacent positions in the row.

Or, much better if you want the definitions to have 
applicability outside the purpose of regulating peals, they 
could say:

   An /ordinary change/ is defined as ...

(It's probably possible to find a better word than 
'ordinary', though I think 'ordinary' is fairly 
descriptive.)  That then allows you to define a change as 
broadly as possible:

   A /change/ is the progress from one row to the next.

A jump change is a type of change.  The null change is a 
type of change.  And *if* the 'rows' like 21432 rung in 
cylindrical are deemed to be rows, the changes needed to 
reach the are also considered changes.

   An /ordinary change/ is a change effected by the
   interchange of bells in adjacent positions in the row.

   A /null change/ is the change in which no bells change
   place.  It is not an ordinary change.

   A /jump change/ is a change that is neither an ordinary
   change nor a null change.

This gives a good, descriptive vocabulary that allows us to 
talk about performances outside the norms of ringing.  In my 
opinion, that is one of the main points of having such 

*If* the CC wish only to recognise peals made entirely of 
ordinary changes, it is trivial to do so.  But it shouldn't 
be part of the definition of a change (or, ideally, of a 
peal).  There should be a separate section, after a peal has 
been defined which lists any additional properties that the 
CC believe a peal should have in order to be recognised by 
the CC as a peal.

   A peal will not be recognised if it includes changes other
   than ordinary changes.

Or rather better, they could simply require the fact to be 

   If a peal contains null changes or jump changes, this
   fact shall be recorded in the peal report.

This means we can have a really short, simple definition of 
a peal.

   A /peal/ is a true round block that meets a specified
   minimum length, and is rung to a high standard.

That's a good definition as it is one that any ringer will 
be able to understand, and it captures all the essential 
details.  I'd rather say 'of at least 5000 rows' than 'that 
meets a specified minimum length', but I'm allowing for the 
possibility that we might want to retain the separate 5000 
and 5040 minimum lengths.

I have debated whether or not to include the word 'round' in 
that definition.  On balance, I think it appropriate, though 
somewhat contradictorily I also think that the Garlickhythe 
performance should count as a peal, albeit a rather unusual 
one.  I think the solution is to allow the band to fudge the 

   A performance that does not meet the definition of a peal
   by virtue of not being a true round block may
   nevertheless be deemed to be a peal by the band if they
   believe in good conscience that the deviation from the
   strict definition is necessary to achieve some worthwhile
   compositional objective.  The nature of the deviation
   and its objective shall be recorded in the peal report.

I dare say the wording can be improved, but I think the key 
elements are right.  The long length we fired out at Bow 
last autumn after about 5000 changes does not count as a 
peal because firing out isn't a worthwhile compositional 
objective.  Many people would agree that getting 5040 rows 
of bobs-only Grandsire Triples is a worthwhile compositional 
objective, and if the band wished it to be counted as a 
peal, this would allow it.  What constitutes worthwhile is 
the band's decision, not the CC's, and the CC only get to 
overturn the band's wishes if the CC believes the band are 
not acting in good conscience.


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