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Bell-ringing - music or auditory maths?

theleveller 08 Jun 11 - 06:47 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 08 Jun 11 - 07:01 AM
theleveller 08 Jun 11 - 07:18 AM
Musket 08 Jun 11 - 07:31 AM
GUEST,Doc John 08 Jun 11 - 08:15 AM
treewind 08 Jun 11 - 08:26 AM
Musket 08 Jun 11 - 08:59 AM
theleveller 08 Jun 11 - 09:14 AM
Richard from Liverpool 08 Jun 11 - 12:12 PM
GUEST,FloraG 09 Jun 11 - 07:58 AM
GUEST,Judith Reading 09 Jun 11 - 04:46 PM
GUEST 09 Jun 11 - 10:53 PM
GUEST,Jane Ann Liston 10 Jun 11 - 07:27 AM
Musket 10 Jun 11 - 10:00 AM
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Subject: Bell-ringing - music or auditory maths?
From: theleveller
Date: 08 Jun 11 - 06:47 AM

Is change-ringing music or auditory mathematics? It's a question that I posed on another board a few years ago but it was brought back to mind by the lines from Philip Larkin's poem, Bridge for the Living:

"Tall church-towers parley, airily audible,
Howden and Beverley, Hedon and Patrington,"

I often stand in Howden marketplace on a Sunday morning and listen to the wonderful peal of bells from the Minster - and the bells of Beverley Minster and the almost unbelievably beautiful East Yorkshire churches of Patrington and Hedon are equally evocative. So is it music or, if not, what?


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Subject: RE: Bell-ringing - music or auditory maths?
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 08 Jun 11 - 07:01 AM

Whatever the intention, music is entirely a matter of perception - as was Cage's intention in 4'33" - I once saw a performance with was entire made up of cathedral bell ringing! As for intention, then yes, very much so, same as any other written music, which is no more or less mathematical than any other....


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Subject: RE: Bell-ringing - music or auditory maths?
From: theleveller
Date: 08 Jun 11 - 07:18 AM

I've no idea how you would go about writing a piece for change-ringing. Is there a formula; is is just pure composition; does it depend on the partioular peal?


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Subject: RE: Bell-ringing - music or auditory maths?
From: Musket
Date: 08 Jun 11 - 07:31 AM

My wife is a bell ringer and although I have never indulged, I have taken the time to understand it a little more.

Yes, it is mathematical. It is correctly called change ringing or ringing the changes, as bells swap places as you ring from high to low, in a methodical manner, (the different "tunes" are called methods.)

There is an excellent website

Learning to ring

Now, is it music? As music is an abstract idea in the first place, its a debate I for one wouldn't want to go down!


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Subject: RE: Bell-ringing - music or auditory maths?
From: GUEST,Doc John
Date: 08 Jun 11 - 08:15 AM

I live in a village with poor bells and even poorer ringers. They practice for several hours every Monday evening and often other evenings too. One Saturday there was a ringing contest in the village and we had bell ringing for at least six hours without ceasing. But I dare not complain about what to me is a selfish hobby: I receive the same response as I do when I complain about the cruelty of fox hunting. I don't understand the country, village life etc. However I'm not alone: in recent times bell ropes have been cut, ringers locked in their ringing chamber (rather self defeating that!), injunctions taken out by those who have had enough of of this disturbing noise.


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Subject: RE: Bell-ringing - music or auditory maths?
From: treewind
Date: 08 Jun 11 - 08:26 AM

My wife is a bell ringer too. I'm always amazed when she can listen to bells for a few seconds and tell me what method they are ringing, or if they're doing called changes or "just ringing up".

I've learned to tell how many bells there are, and can tell a good band from a bad one when the difference is obvious.

Doc John: get a life!


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Subject: RE: Bell-ringing - music or auditory maths?
From: Musket
Date: 08 Jun 11 - 08:59 AM

Funnily enough, I have been asked to judge a striking contest and although I cannot ring, the musician I reckon I am (others can judge...) can follow a method and strike rate, or tempo as it could also be called.

Regarding locking people in a tower, Henry VIII wouldn't get much sympathy these days and hopefully the police and courts deal with the criminals who did it, as well as cutting the ropes. Criminal damage or vandalism, it still puts the perpetrators outside of decent society. Must be awful living in a village with such despicable criminals in it.

I reckon it can be a bit of a din when a competition is on and sometimes, as with many hobbies, people can be blinkered to the effect their hobby can be having.

However, there is room for everybody in this world. I moan when the airfield up the road have people practicing taking off, swinging by my house and landing again, repeat.. But a) I bought a house near an airfield, b) it is not a 24/7 problem, and c) it doesn't last forever each time. I don't contemplate criminal activities nor indeed talk as if I did.

I sang in a marquee at a festival a few years ago and the police said there had been complaints from the nearby village. We can all make too much noise, we can all complain about other peoples' noise and hopefully we can all live and let live once in a while. (Yes, they COULD have been just complaining about my set but the rock band on after me beat me hands down in the decibel stakes.)


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Subject: RE: Bell-ringing - music or auditory maths?
From: theleveller
Date: 08 Jun 11 - 09:14 AM

I know nothing about the intricacies (but I'm even more impressed having looked at Ian's website link) and probably couldn't tell good ringing from bad, but the idea of using an entire building as a musical instrument and the sound that it produces is spell-binding.

(BTW Doc John - with you on the fox hunting. I get the same response about not understanding the countryside despite having lived in it most of my life)


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Subject: RE: Bell-ringing - music or auditory maths?
From: Richard from Liverpool
Date: 08 Jun 11 - 12:12 PM

Bell ringing is part of the aural landscape of this country, it's a beautiful thing to hear because it grounds those who do it and listen to it in the locality (the bells are markers of a particular place, in a particular village church) while at the same time raising the listeners mind and hearts beyond the particular time and place they stand in (the bells are calls to prayer).

Rooted in place and yet transcendent. I wish that all music could reach that goal.


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Subject: RE: Bell-ringing - music or auditory maths?
From: GUEST,FloraG
Date: 09 Jun 11 - 07:58 AM

I just thought bell ringing was the original heavy metal.


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Subject: RE: Bell-ringing - music or auditory maths?
From: GUEST,Judith Reading
Date: 09 Jun 11 - 04:46 PM

I am a ringer as well as a musician. The aim of ringing composers is to include as much 'music' as possible when designing ringing methods and peal compositions. Some changes are regarded as being more musical than others, particularly if they contain 'runs' of bells such as 8765 or 5678, these are called 'roll-ups'. Other specific changes out of the thousands of available permutations which are regarded as particularly musical are 'Queens' (13572468), 'Whittingtons' (12753468) and 'Titums' (15263748) which have a certain symmetry to them. Each change (permutation) may only appear once in a piece of ringing, so composers (who have a tendancy to be mathematicians) employ complex maths to maximise the music, and see a mathematical beauty in the unfolding of the changes as they are rung. So yes, I think it is music and a ring of bells is a musical instrument. It is very hard to master though, and you can't practice in your front room, so unfortunately the public can be subjected to a lot of lousy ringing as people try to improve. A peal of bells rung really well is a joy to listen to.


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Subject: RE: Bell-ringing - music or auditory maths?
From: GUEST
Date: 09 Jun 11 - 10:53 PM

If any of you are mystery fans as well as ringers, I heartily recommend Dorothy L. Sayers's "The Nine Tailors."


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Subject: RE: Bell-ringing - music or auditory maths?
From: GUEST,Jane Ann Liston
Date: 10 Jun 11 - 07:27 AM

I second that. Early on in the book the difference between the English change-ringing tradition and that of carillon in other European countries (including Scotland, by the way) is explained. It is an excellent book .Now all I need is to find out what Kent Treble Bob sounds like.


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Subject: RE: Bell-ringing - music or auditory maths?
From: Musket
Date: 10 Jun 11 - 10:00 AM

Hi Judith!


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