Project Pickled Egg - Part 3

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In this the 3rd article about Project Pickled Egg, I am going to introduce some criteria for selection of methods to go in this new core group. As I said last week, the current Standard 8 seem to have been largely self-selecting, with CYSL and B being commonly rung pre-war, and then Lincolnshire, Rutland and Pudsey added later.

The 1941 Ringing World discussion I referred to discussed the desirable qualities of a standard method. With the techniques of composition being less well developed, the existence of just a ‘single good peal’ was considered important, as well as methods being musical. At that time, a method was generally considered to be musical if it kept coursing bells together as tightly as possible.

Core principles

The whole point of Project Pickled Egg is that it would be a set of core methods teaching ringers how to ring Surprise Major in a progressive way, with each additional method building on what has come before, and clear reasoning for why it adds value. The methods should also form satisfying groups to be rung together.

I should say at this point who has been collaborating on this. The major contributions from the start have come from Don Morrison, Graham John, Alan Reading, Philip Earis and David Hull. More recently the opinions of Graham Nabb, AJ Barnfield, Graham Bradshaw and Iain Anderson have been added into the mix. There have been some interesting debates, and one in particular that has divided opinion. But more of that later!

The proposal is that considerations for adding a method to the larder are:

It should be musical in the plain course

All the methods will get rung as plain courses or short courses, as the Standard 8 are now. All things being equal, the core method should be musical in the plain course.

It should introduce a useful new skill, technique or concept, and hence be progressive

“You are learning this one next because…”. Also the step from one method to the next should not be too great.

It should not have limiting falseness

The core methods should give freedom for composers to produce decent quarter peal and peal compositions in the method with tenors together.

Some familiarity is helpful

New Surprise Major ringers will not get experience in the core methods if no one else knows them. There is therefore benefit in selecting a least some methods that are generally known.

Other considerations

There were other potential aspects of core methods that were considered, as follows:

1. Extension

Does it matter whether the core methods extend to higher numbers at all? The current Standard 8 extend to a degree, although only the extensions of Cambridge, Yorkshire, London and Bristol have become standard methods on 10 and 12. Apart from Chris Kippin’s one-part compositions, composers haven’t really found a need to produce compositions of 8 Spliced Royal, nor is there much demand for them. The most popular composition of spliced on 12 now doesn’t have any of the extended Standard 8 in at all.

It is therefore probably not necessary to consider the extendability, whilst recognising that formulaic ‘above’ works will get used on higher number with ‘below’ works which are optimised for the number of bells being rung. The Surprise Royal market is a relatively small one, and once bands get capable of ringing C Y L and B, they probably don’t need to rely on just extending methods they already know.

2. Surprise, Delight, Treble Dodging, Irregular

On numbers of bells above six, the distinction between Surprise and Delight is really only of academic interest - it makes no practical difference. In the 1941 correspondence, there is reference to how the term ‘Surprise’ seemed to have been adopted as a catch-all term for any method that was not a Delight or an Exercise! Yet there is an illogical obsession with Surprise. Few composers have dared mix Surprise and Delight, and thus subject their composition to the apparent indignity of being described as ‘Spliced Treble Dodging’.

It is therefore suggested that a method will be considered for the core group irrespective of its nature, and the inclusion of at least one Delight method would be a positive force.

There was less appetite for introducing irregular methods, principally as there didn’t seem to be any inherent advantage of an irregular method over ones with Plain Bob lead ends. However as I write, the core methods are still being considered so it may yet happen.

3. Optimisation for spliced composition

In defining a set of core methods in this way, aimed at achieving the stated aims, it is not likely that the absolute best set of methods for splicing together in all styles of composition will result. However provided that producing touches and compositions of the methods in themselves and together is not overly difficult, that characteristic was considered less important than finding the best methods to further the aim.

4. Short touches of spliced

How important is it that relatively straightforward touches of spliced are possible from the methods as they are learned in order? The Standard 8 gives a very easy touch of spliced including all eight in eight leads, although this was almost certainly more by luck than design.

It would be nice if there were good short ‘practice night’ touches in the methods, oozing with music and interest, but to what extent should this drive the method choice rather than be a consequence? David Pipe’s classic cyclic Spliced Maximus oozes all over the place, but includes ‘designer methods’ not intended to be rung singly.

5. Tower bells and handbells

Graham John raised the early question of whether the core methods would be the same on tower bells and handbells. Lincolnshire may not add value on tower bells to methods that are likely to have gone before, e.g. Cambridge and Yorkshire, but is more useful on handbells.

Whilst not following that train of thought too much, there is scope for having groups of methods branching off the core which adapt better for handbell bands.

So what are the proposed core methods?

Over the next few weeks, maybe after seeing what correspondence flows from these first three articles, the proposed core methods will be introduced one or two at a time. The reasons for inclusion will be presented, but also in some cases the reasons why maybe there is no place for an old favourite.

Homework: take the current Standard 8, put them in a logical order of learning, or the order in which you learned them, and then apply the selection criteria suggested above. How many stay in your larder?