[r-t] Handstroke-home Cyclic Maximus

Philip Earis pje24 at cantab.net
Thu Aug 18 10:52:49 UTC 2016

Mark: "Recently I've been working with Jack Gunning on some multi-part 
cyclic Maximus peals...Comments, criticisms and suggestions welcome".

There is so much scope for developing spliced maximus compositions. I 
applaud any experimentation, and I am glad MBD has posted his new 
compositions and notes on the design plan and execution. I would like more 
people to do the same.

Mark asked for comments, and I’ll happily oblige.

My brief summary is I think the broad concept could have mileage. However, 
it needs careful architecture and method selection to bring it to worthy 
fruition. I think there’s a lot more development required to produce an 
elegant composition that’s in the same league as DJP’s cyclic 6, the 
acknowledged benchmark here.

Regarding the broad architecture – the difference in the cyclic shunt 
between the MBD and DJP compositions is that MBD’s gets to the full reverse 
cyclic leadhead (12TE09876543 in his first part) at backstroke, while DJP 
gets there at handstroke (15432TE09876).

As Mark says, this gives “the normal succession of cyclic courses, but 
alternating hand and back, and ending up in the reverse of the plain course 
to give a handstroke-home finish”.

The trade-off with this is that you lose the elegant palindromic nature of 
the Pipe framework (with pivot-leads alternating between the 2nd and tenor 
of the part), and all the benefits this brings.

The consequences of the trade-off can be seen when looking at MBD’s #6 
composition (5003 Spliced Max in 9 methods). The composition isn’t atw for 
any of the 9 methods other than Grandsire. Indeed, there are only 5 leads of 
Deimos, Phobos and Strathclyde (and only 6 leads of Fallen Angel) in the 
whole peal. Now non-atw isn’t an intrinsic flaw, but it can be symptomatic 
of a composition that’s an assemblage of leads rather than a sculptured 

Moreover, in terms of the musical count the DJP composition has 9 of the 
possible 24 8-bell run rows of each type, ie:

xxxx567890ET = 9
xxxxTE098765 = 9
567890ETxxxx = 9
TE098765xxxx = 9

As the composition is a perfect cyclic 11-part, there are correspondingly 9 
of each of the run rows involving bells 23456789 etc also.

With the MBD composition, the corresponding music count is:

xxxx567890ET = 5
xxxxTE098765 = 6
567890ETxxxx = 6
TE098765xxxx = 5

xxxx4567890E = 8
xxxxE0987654 = 9
4567890Exxxx = 3
E0987654xxxx = 1

The lack of big run rows off the front here, particularly in half the parts, 
is notable. The cause is, in part, related to the method selection.

My feeling is that cyclic compositions on higher numbers should be 
“architectured”, with the individual building blocks (methods) carefully 
selected to be the most appropriate for their role in the compositional 
structure.  As such, I question the use of methods as gimmicks, or which are 
selected for legacy reasons and aren’t best suited to exploit the desired 

I agree with MBD that Grandsire’s plain course is musical (it is just plain 
bob after all). Regarding “shock value” – this is orthogonal to the main 
question I feel – if Grandsire is the best tool here, by all means use it. I 
think I am persuaded that the use of Grandsire is indeed justified here, 
though simultaneously I am not convinced it is more appropriate than an 
elegant concentrated link like x3x3x3x3x3.

Turning to the main bulk of the methods – the grid of Counter’s Creek is 
pleasant and tidy, though Neptune has an ugly 12 in the notation for too 
close to the halflead for my liking. And as for Deira? Hmm.

Leaving aside the individual methods, I am left with the impression that 
they are far from optimised for the task in hand.  (The use of Yorkshire etc 
in the #5 composition reinforces this).  Why be constrained by bog-standard 
“regular” treble-dodging maximus methods?  One of the triumphs of the Pipe 
classic composition is that it broke out of this mindset, using alliance 
methods to concentrate music.

I can’t help but feel some of the most fertile areas for developing spliced 
cyclic maximus composition are in carefully selecting building blocks, such 
as we see in the Quark compositions.  Even worthwhile design features, like 
ringing cyclic courses alternating between hand and back, can end up as 
compositions that feel a bit derivative if they are padded out with stale 
methods which act as bloated polygonal pegs in round holes.

I realise these ramblings may come across as somewhat blunt.  The intention 
isn’t to be snide, but rather to be forthright.  The effect is interesting – 
as you say, the royal examples are well-crafted.  Some more craft here will 
hopefully result in a tidier and better architecture that can maximise the 
effect, resulting in a composition that could really fly.  I look forward to 
seeing developments.

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