Compositions of the Decade 9 - Maximus

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A Review by Philip Earis - continued

12-bell ringing has enjoyed a strong decade. Single-method ringing has continued its advance towards better methods and better compositions, but the developments – although significant – have often felt more like evolution than revolution. With spliced maximus, though, a real step change for the better has taken place.

Bristol cream

Turning first to single methods, the decade has seen a pleasant trend to more coursing-dominated (ie more musical) methods. Towerbell peals of Bristol over the decade are up 14% to 572, with Bristol becoming the most rung single maximus method for the first time. This is a very welcome development, and a tangible sign of ringing progress. Conductors have responded accordingly, with a plethora of delightful Bristol compositions, almost universally incorporating considerable little-bell music.

In a demonstration that continual evolution leads to revolution, anecdotally it seems that very few poor Bristol Maximus compositions are rung. I don’t have statistics, but would strongly suspect that at least 90% of rung Bristol Maximus compositions date from the 1990s and present decade.

Towerbell peals of Yorkshire are up 11% to 471, whilst Cambridge is down 5% to 520. If these trends continue, Yorkshire will overtake Cambridge in the coming decade.

Out with the old, in with the new…

At the dodgy-method part of the spectrum (and sadly it’s a big part), it is of some comfort to see peal numbers in some “nasties” decline. The usual pantomime villain duo of Lyddington and Belvoir have happily dropped off a cliff, with two and one peals rung dis-respectively. The trio of mediocre London-over methods Newgate, Barford and Londinium have seen a collective 56% drop to 34, whilst peals of Pudsey have had a similar decline.

There have been a significant number of new methods rung for the first time, many of them rather nice. Interestingly, the good methods have sometimes resulted from new spliced compositions.

Spliced surprises

Indeed, it’s with spliced peals that the statistics become perhaps most striking. Now the total number of towerbell peals of spliced maximus over the decade seems pretty constant at around 340. However, what has been rung in peals of spliced has changed dramatically.

In the 1990s, 88% of towerbell peals of spliced maximus were in just spliced treble-dodging methods (and most of these just spliced surprise). However, in the 2000s that proportion falls considerably, to around 61%. The number of peals of “mixed” spliced rung (incorporating different treble paths, and so on) is up 187%, and provides some evidence that composers are using the best methods for the job much more frequently, rather than sticking to tired conventions.

Big advances in spliced composition – led by David Pipe – have driven this transition. A simultaneous boost has been given by the early adoption and active commissioning of new ideas by Tony Kench and his peal band. Cyclic compositions, including 12-parts, have become widespread. New musical concepts, including the mega-tittums coursing effect, have also been developed.

Some much done, how much left to do?

Composing spliced maximus involves a vast search space, meaning predominantly manual input and logic is required for the best results. Computers have played a large part in the much more constrained search spaces of tenors-together single method peals, though, again with SMC32 leading the way.

Indeed, the nine and a bit courses of tenors-together maximus is sufficiently small that David Hull published complete composition collections for methods like Cambridge over the decade. If people want to do new things here, they’ll have to broaden their horizons.

It will certainly be very interesting to see how maximus ringing develops. Perhaps discrete blocks of changes, each giving a different musical effect, might be the way forward. We shall see…

1) Classic cyclic 11- and 12-parts using a link method approach – David Pipe – (November 1999 / September 2000 / August 2001)

I’ve selected the “Pipe Classic” 11-part here in view of its considerable influence on the decade’s ringing and subsequent compositions. Whilst admittedly it was first rung on handbells just before the decade’s start, the first tower-bell performance was in August 2001.

As with David’s (later) analogous royal peals, the basic idea is a cyclic 11-part construction to deliver both continuous run music and the all-the-work property. The composition has no calls – the link method Slinky is used to move the bells between cyclic parts.

The main block of the composition has the 2nd and the tenor of that cyclic part (so bells 5 and 6 in the first part) alternately ringing “pivot leads”, ie the leads where they are the pivot bell. The consequent palindromic structure is both very elegant, includes all available leads in the part, and provides a super balance of forward and reverse runs in each part.

The methods used are very well-chosen: a mix between the established Ariel, Zanussi and Maypole (concentrated Bristol), and the newly-designed Phobos and Deimos, both of which deliver blockbuster leads in the composition.

Phobos is a tidy l-group method with two fishtails either side of the leadend, and plain hunt on the front six around the half-lead. The music flows well, and includes complete wraps of reverse rounds.

Deimos is the real music-box regular method of the decade in its application here. It is one of a very small number of good methods on more than six bells that has 3rds made at the half-lead (normally the kiss of death). However, by skilful use of successive plain hunting on three at different places in the row, and adding dodges whenever there are runs, marvellous wall-to-wall music is delivered throughout the chosen leads.

5016 Spliced Maximus (6m)
234567890ET Slinky Differential Little Treble Place
4523ET90786 Deimos Alliance
534T20E8967 Phobos Surprise
24E5937T608 Maypole Alliance
3T504826E79 Ariel Surprise
E29475638T0 Zanussi Surprise
T038564729E Zanussi Surprise
9E72648503T Ariel Surprise
08T637594E2 Maypole Alliance
796E8204T53 Phobos Surprise
8607T93E524 Deimos Alliance

The decade saw many variations on this plan, which are nicely chronicled on Roddy Horton’s website: [1]

The Pipe Classic composition has methods with odd-numbered pivot bells (3 in Deimos, 5 in Maypole, 7 in Zanussi, 9 in Ariel, 11 in Phobos). As an example of a later variation, John Warboys produced a composition in “red” methods on a very similar plan, but where the methods had even-numbered pivot bells instead.

Of course, with a cyclic construction there’s a strong case to be made for all 12 bells to be involved in the runs, rather than a fixed treble creating an artificial musical “block” that disrupts the runs.

As such, David soon developed a 12-part composition on a similar plan. Being a regular double method, the plain lead of Bristol / Maypole in the 11-part structure contains the row eg 234567890ET1 when the 2nd of the part is pivoting. As all other cyclic rotations of this row occur in different parts, and rounds itself is a cyclic rotation of this row, Bristol needs to be replaced with a different method to preserve truth. Here Glazgow Little Surprise is used:

5040 Spliced Maximus (6m)
Lynx Diff      64523T10E897
Deimos A       653412ET9078
Phobos S       624T503817E9
Glazgow LS     6315E4927T80
Ariel S        6T204857391E
Zanussi S      61E39574820T
Zanussi S      60T827495E31
Ariel S        6E91738504T2
Glazgow LS     6807T92E4153
Phobos S       697E8103T524
Deimos A       67890ET12345
12-part.  1152 Ariel, Phobos, Zanussi S; 864 Deimos A; 576 Glazgow LS; 144 Lynx Differential.  119 com, atw for all 12 bells.

2) The Rise of Mega-tittums – Philip Earis, David Pipe, Philip Saddleton, Rob Lee et al – February 2006

The possibilities given by all consecutive bells coursing have already been mentioned in the royal article. Suffice to say, the effect becomes better and more pronounced the more bells there are.

I think I first wrote about the possibilities in this February 2006 message to this list: [2]

There was quick collaborative progress at developing the concept, developing ways of getting from rounds into all consecutive bells coursing as quickly and elegantly as possible.

David Pipe soon realised that a sequence of different bobs in the same position could be used for this. A 10ths place bob 'out' turns the coursing order from the plain course 324 to the tittums style 432. This effect is repeated with appropriate bobs every course until mega-tittums is obtained. The effect is then reversed with the inverse bobs in the second half:

3984 Bristol Maximus
O   I   234567890ET
10      342567890ET
18      453627890ET
16      564738290ET
14      675849302ET
    14  2345T6E7089
    16  234567T8E90
    18  23456789T0E
    10  234567890ET
The figures refer to the type of bob. O is an 'out' for the tenor, I is an 'in' for the 2nd. Ideal for handbells - all pairs are either in their home position or coursing.

Philip Saddleton claimed independent discovery of this, but expanded the concept to a peal length by combining this structure with a cyclic 11-part plan. This can be very easily achieved by having a single lead of the method in the mega-tittums coursing order before reversing the transpositions:

 33440 Maypole Alliance (or 6072 Crayford Little Bob)
0 1ET907856423
8 1ET907862534
6 1ET908273645
4 1ET029384756
4 1890E7T62534
6 1890ET273645
8 1890ET234756
0 1890ET234567

Rob Lee recognised that mx methods could be useful in the transition between tittums / cyclic courses, and put together a prototype composition:

5104 Spliced Maximus (4m)
      234567890ET   Br
      795E3T20486   Br
      T0E89674523   Av
 14   ET089674523   Or
 16   0E9T8674523   Av
 18   908E7T64523   Or
 10   89706E5T423   Br
 10   ET029384567   Av
 18   0E9T8234567   Li
 16   908ET234567   Or
 14   890ET234567
      11 part.
584 Avon D., Bristol S., Orion S., 352 Littleport Little S., 98 com, atw

I further incorporated similar ideas in spliced maximus compositions using Pipe 11-part plans, but the real crowning glory of such a fusion would take a number of month’s further development…

3) “Jupiter” cyclic spliced 12-part on a mega-tittums plan – David Pipe – November 2007

The aim of this composition was to combine the cyclic runs character of the Classic 11- and 12-parts with some mega-tittums music where all consecutive bells are coursing. A 12-part structure is good because it naturally supports both the cyclic runs and the mega-tittums music.

The first half of each part is aimed at generating runs, whilst the second part efficiently gets to the mega-tittums coursing order, has a principle to exploit this and simultaneously switch to another part, and then reverses the bobs to get back to the part end.

The beauty of this composition is that both these halves have wonderful custom-designed features – features which may not be immediately apparent.

Io LA                 142638507T9E
Chaldene LA           13527496E8T0
Leda LA               1648203T5E79
Callisto LA           157392E4T608
Europa LTP            18604T2E3957
Europa LTP            1795E3T20486
Callisto LA           108T6E492735
Leda LA               19E7T5038264
Chaldene LA           1T0E89674523
Io LA          10 bob 1ET907856423
Plain B        18 bob 1ET907862534
Plain B        16 bob 1ET908273645
Amalthea LA    14 bob 1ET029384756
Amalthea LA           1T2E30495867
Ganymede Diff  12 bob 8907E6T54123
Amalthea LA    14 bob 890ET7162534
Amalthea LA    16 bob 890ET1273645
Plain B        18 bob 890ET1234756
Plain B        10 bob 890ET1234567

As far as I know, in all previous 12-part maximus compositions the methods used were pretty conventional, ie they weren’t designed for the treble to be involved in the runs as much as possible. The result can be more artificial musical “disruptive breaks” where the treble of the part breaks up runs of other bells.

Here, however, the methods in the “runny” first half were tailor-made (with a consequent variety of treble paths) to bring out maximal music in all 12 parts, involving the treble in the runs.

In the mega-tittums second half, an intrinsic problem of the 12-part structure is that the mega-tittums coursing order is the same in each of the parts, leading to potential falseness problems.

David got round this problem by choosing methods which perhaps counter-intuitively give some runs-style music in the mega-tittums coursing order. The principle chosen here is Ganymede, which has elegant mirror symmetry as well as conventional palindromic symmetry.

The real crowning glory, though, is the use of Amalthea. Whilst this is a conventional a-group method, it is not really designed to be rung in its plain course; rather, it elegantly gives some really super runs music in the mega-tittums coursing order. The music is generates is wonderfully plentiful, but also incredibly unexpected. Runs of different types, both forward and backwards, frequently just pop out of the ether. The total effect is magical.

The composition is described more fully (including figures for the leads of Amalthea) in this November 2007 message [3]

4) Single Surprise Maximus (b group)

  • 5042 Cambridge - David Hull
  • 5040 Yorkshire - Mark Davies

The decade saw further incremental progress with single-method peals, continuing the leap in attitudes started in the 1990s, and mirroring the developments in Royal compositions that have already been discussed.

Little bells runs continued to be at the fore, and happily misguided ideas such as that all compositions need to contain three whole courses of 65s seem to have been pretty well banished. Calls at 9ths are no longer a novelty, and calls in other places are becoming more commonplace.

Big bobs are around, and look to be here to stay. This is especially relevant for tenors-together b-group methods like Cambridge and Yorkshire, where the conventional length of 5042 almost invariably sees the peal have a big “duffer” section at the end.

The two b-group compositions I’ve selected are both on slightly shaky date ground for inclusion, as they were both in fact first rung in the second half of 1999 (though to other methods, I believe)

David Hull’s Cambridge has a lovely 2-part format, great use of the calls at 9ths (and potentially 8ths), and also well illustrates the musical sacrifices that must be made at the end of a composition to produce a 5042 on the usual plan:

 5042 Cambridge Surprise Maximus (#4)
 Composed by: David G Hull
 2345678    9   M   W   8   H
 54362          S   S       S
 24365     SS   S          SS
 63452          S   S  SS   S
 34256     SS   S           2
 52436              S       S
(32456)             S        
 Omit 1 SS.

Mark Davies’ composition, which he calls "The Cosmic Joker", has the very attractive property that every full course contains both little-bell music and 56/65 rollups:

5088 Yorkshire Surprise Maximus
Mark B Davies
23456  B  M  W  H
45236        -  -
54362  x        s
23465     s     s
43652     s  2  -
43526  x        -
64523  x  -  -
35426     -  ss -
23456        -
x = 18
Includes 83 LB5, 165 LB4, 14 567890ET and 10 657890ET

5) Single Surprise Maximus – Bristol

  • 5090 #4 – David Hull, October 2003
  • 5088 – James Holdsworth, September 2008
  • 5040 #3 – Mark Davies, January 2005

Bristol is a glorious method at all stages. Unlike something like Yorkshire, though, Bristol’s different leadhead groups at different stages mean than very different strategies need to be used on different numbers of bells to get the most of the method.

Happily Bristol Maximus doesn’t have the same intrinsic problem as b-group methods, in that a nice and musical snap finish can be achieved without much difficulty. There are literally hundreds of good tenors-together compositions to choose from here, by many composers – a nice illustrative example would be David Hull’s 5090 #4:

 5090 Bristol Maximus (#4)
 23456   M  W  H
 64352   -     -
 45362      2
 32564   -     S
 64523   S  -
 43526   -     2
(42536)    SB

That said, the method is very flexible. A snap finish isn’t needed or necessarily desirable, and indeed great compositions can even exist in 2-part format.

I was very attracted to the neat simple 2-part James Holdsworth composition that employs whole courses to great effect. However, the accolades have to be reduced somewhat when you realise that DJP produced something very similar in the previous decade. Why neither of these appears in the RW diary would be a mystery if the diary’s selection criteria involved compositions having notable merit.

5088 Bristol Surprise Maximus
J W Holdsworth 
23456    M   9   W   H
64352    -           -
56342            -
54362        -s
24365    s
5088 Bristol Surprise Maximus
23456   M  W  H
64352   1     1 
56342      1    
24365   s  2*   
2 part. 2*=sb.

For a further example of a composition full of little-bell music, with snappy transitions between sections and limited exposure to duffer courses, the Mark Davies composition below also shows the high bar that tenors together compositions have met:

 5040 Bristol Surprise Maximus (#3)
 23456   M  H  W  
(53426)        s  
 54326      s     
 56423   2  -     
 24365   -     -  
(36452)  -  -  2  
 64352      2     
 23456   s  s     
Contains 8 567890ET, 102 LB5, 213 LB4

6) Tenors-together spliced Treble Dodging Maximus (RABS)

  • Alex Byrne – January 2008
  • John Warboys – September 2009

Despite the cyclic developments of the decade, tenors-together spliced in “legacy” methods continues to be rung and developed. There have recently been two simple and very elegant compositions in the four “RABS” methods, Rigel, Avon, Bristol and Strathclyde.

Both are all-the-work, and manage to achieve this using musical courses (sometimes whole courses) throughout the compositions.

Alex Byrne’s composition is a lovely palindrome, whilst John Warboys’ uses a two-part structure. Both are well worth closer inspection.

5184 Spliced TD Maximus (4 methods)
Alex Byrne
M W H 
    - RRRRRR.
- - - R.RRRRR.R.
- - - R.RRRRR.R.

5088 Spliced TD Maximus (4 methods)
John Warboys
23456  M  W  H
43526     2  1   AAAAAAAAAAA-SAB-BRS-
25634  1  1      R-BBASSARSS-A
46532  1     1   SRB-RRRRRRRRRRR-
24365  2  1  2   BRRA-A-RB-SRB-A-
34625     2  1   BBBBBBBBBBB-SAB-BRS-
26543  1  1      R-BBASSARSS-A
35642  1     1   SRB-SSSSSSSSSSS-
23456  2  1  2   BRRA-A-RB-SRB-A-
1296 B,R,S; 1200 A.  53 com; atw.
The full courses of R and S can be swapped if desired.

7) “Winking up” – Ander Holroyd / Adam Shepherd – August 2000

“Winking up” is a great concept that was briefly visited at the beginning of the decade. There hasn’t been much investigation since, but I’m convinced there could be tantalising possibilities here.

In short, “winking up” is a way of extending a method on n bells to a method on 2n bells. So for example what bell number 3 does in a minor method defines what bells 5 and 6 do in the related winked up maximus method.

This doubling lends itself to winked up methods being rung on handbells, but there’s no reason why this has to be the case.

The classic winking “algorithm” is that:

  • If on the lower stage a bell makes a place, then on the winked up higher stage, the corresponding pair of bells will do a double dodge together.
  • If on the lower stage a bell hunts, then on the winked up higher stage the corresponding pair of bells will ring four changes of plain hunt on four.

The practical consequence is that to wink up from minor to maximus, the following place notations map:

Minor       Winked Up Maximus
-           -4589-4589
14          -369-369
36          -470-470
12          -589-589

This notation may not look the most elegant, but the effect can be really excellent. Pairs of bells stay together, hunting around the change like a double act.

There has been one winked up peal rung, Wee Willie Winkie Hybrid Maximus – a winked up London Minor – was rung in 2000, and this contained 1680 runs of 4 or more consecutive bells:

5184 Wee Willie Winkie Hybrid Maximus
Arranged Adam P. Shepherd
- 09TE784365 2
- 567890ET43 1
- 34906587ET 1
- 349078TE65 4
p 87345609TE 1
6 part
Bob = 369-369 for final 589-589

Wee Willie Winkie Hybrid Maximus:
-470-470-589-589 (lh 128734TE6590)

Further applications can be found, I am sure. At the least, such ringing would make an interesting and very different-sounding block inserted into in a more conventional peal composition. The possibilities could be considerable – winking up cyclic methods, or tittums coursing orders, maybe. Or perhaps winky effects could be used with non-adjacent bells.

Of course, it’s not just six bell methods that can be winked up. I have vague recollections of ringing winked up Banana Doubles to create a fruity 10 bell method, as well as the memorable experience of winking up twice plain hunt on three, so it turned into a 12-bell method (the double winking was conceptually a bit tricky, at least at first, except for PABS).

There’s mileage in Shipping Forecast Singles yet…

See Also