[r-t] Extension question

Ted Steele bells at tedsteele.plus.com
Wed Jun 29 11:55:59 UTC 2016

On 28/06/2016 23:44, Mark Davies wrote:
> Ted writes,
>> I am not familiar with all the rules of extension but know only that I
>> have often thought they seem very illogical. I also wrote some stuff about Stedman Singles that Robin Woolley responded to.
> MD Said: The rules codified in "Decision G", which I suppose you are referring
> to, ...<snip>... do have some logic to them, ....<big snip>.. (but are) very obtuse, and hard to work with by hand.
> We've debated before whether there is indeed any need for a set of
> method extension rules,.....
> My view is that, for a method to be an extension, you ought to be able
> to demonstrate a rational algorithm which can construct it from its
> parent (or vice versa),

Thank you Mark for a fulsome and informative reply; I think that we 
broadly agree. I have perhaps been a tad disingenuous, (although my 
comment about Stedman was intended to be tongue-in-cheek), in that I 
inferred very little knowledge of the subject of extension. It is true 
that I know very little specifically about the current decisions on 
extension and that I find them confusing but I am not entirely ignorant 
of the underlying problems and issues. My knowledge derives from Alfred 
York-Bramble's "Method Structure in Change Ringing" and his essays 
therein on London Surprise Major and Royal. This is obviously way out of 
date now and it is true that I have not followed the development of 
extension closely since then, so there is indeed much in Decision G that 
I am unfamiliar with.

One of the reasons that I didn't follow the development of the decisions 
was that I felt that the whole thing had rather lost its way; that there 
was some kind of idea that everything should have an extension or 
contraction and all methods should be part of related families. No doubt 
that feeling is far from an accurate description of what actually 
occurred but it is what I felt.

I subscribed very much to the old-fashioned idea that methods are based 
upon principles; not only principles in the sense of them being methods 
but as being clearly stated plans for a method's construction. Thus 
Stedman is intrinsically based upon the principle of the sixes on three 
bells, which makes the singles stage entirely legitimate, although false 
at this stage. At later stages the extra rows available allow the 
principle to produce a true method but it is still Stedman's three bell 
principle at heart. It is this which enables us to say that the 
extension of Stedman doubles to triples is 3.1.3 etc. rather than 5.1.5 
etc. and that the progress is in sixes and not tens. It also means that 
when we see the ultimate place made in singles it does not mean that it 
must become an ultimate place in doubles and upwards, but becomes an 
internal place. Robin Woolley explains that "The singles is unrelated 
decisionwise to all higher stages". I accept that is true of the 
decisions but why should it be so when the singles is the heart of the 
thing? It is as illogical, in my view, as claiming that the extension of 
Plain Bob Minor to seven bells is Grandsire triples, but I had better 
not go into why; I expect it has all been said before.

The point is that methods like Stedman and many others employ a 
principle of construction that is not stage specific but consists of a 
set of rules that apply across the entire method regardless of stage.
But there are also very many methods that do not have a design plan that 
applies across the whole method and which uniquely describes that method 
at multiple stages. Examples are those treble dodging methods where the 
places made when the treble is in 1-2, 3-4, 5-6. 7-8 appear arbitrary 
and unsystematic and where it is anyone's guess what should appear in 
9-10 and 11-12 to provide appropriate extensions.

We recognise of course that there can be several possible extensions in 
such cases and so the whole thing becomes a fudge. I prefer the idea 
that we recognise that certain methods are based upon clear design 
principles that mean they exist as members of a family of stages that 
can extend indefinitely (not necessarily in consecutive stages) and that 
the vast majority do not. We could then allow method designers to 
publish their new methods in families, or not, as the case might be, 
along with a clear statement of the design principle involved and the 
method of extension to be employed if one exists. This might indeed 
produce a free for all but I think it would be conducive to better 
method design as it would lead to an emphasis on why a method has been 
designed in a specific way.

When Sir Arthur P Heywood designed Duffield he described it in detail. 
Had he not done so we might have thought that Duffield Royal was the 
entirely acceptable x38x38x38x38x10. Would we have known that this was 
not what he intended? How do we know that Kent Treble Bob Major 
shouldn't begin with 56pn rather than the accepted 34? Only because 
someone has deemed it so; it is arbitrary and only one of several 
equally acceptable alternatives. We need to accept that there are no 
hard and fast rules unless they are an integral part of a methods design 
and identified at the design stage. For most methods we shall never know 
what the designers intention was and so we have accepted what history 
has brought down to us. We can live with that and stop trying to 
legislate for every eventuality.

So it is true that I have little understanding of the detail and logic 
of the current Decisions but have long ago stopped looking for it. I do 
accept that there must be a system of sorts in Decision G, albeit it 
based on fairly arbitrary assumptions.


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