Compositions of the Decade 1 - Introduction

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A Review by Philip Earis

The end is nigh - the year draws to a close, and a new decade will soon be starting. In a contemplative moment, I feel that now seems like an appropriate time to reflect on the key ringing developments of the past ten years.

Over the coming days I will be posting sections of an article which I’ll call “Compositions of the Decade”. This is intended to feature what I think are some of the best, tangible developments in ringing theory in the past decade. The article will be divided in separate sections for each stage from doubles to 16+.

The list is not meant to be exhaustive. Rather, it is intended to capture some of the great new things that people have produced in recent years.

For selection criteria, I will concentrate mostly (but not exclusively) on new compositions rather than new methods. My selection criteria are naturally personal and subjective. My preferences are biased towards excellent use of innovative new concepts, and step-changes with existing problems, rather than more incremental advances.

Some of the things I’ll select have rarely if ever been rung. I make no apology for that – for far too long in ringing there has been a worryingly large gap between what is good and what is oft rung. Sometimes it takes time for great ideas and concepts to become widespread.

Still, there has been considerable progress in ringing attitudes over the decade. No serious composer now sticks to the dodgy dogmas that have blighted previous generations. Composition twenty years ago was a cruise. Now it runs.

I am sure there are great compositions which I have overlooked. Any insulting omission is probably unintended. I welcome debate. Let me know what I have missed.

My brief research is also far from meticulous, and I may have inadvertently included some things which pre-date the past 10 years.

Taking the long view is interesting, and I think the early years of this century may well come to be regarded as a golden age of ringing theory. Increased computer power has helped enormously here, evolving from simply a tool for proving compositions to become a powerful means for developing and optimising ideas. Given the vast, vast search spaces, though, computer power is usually just a tool that needs a clever mind to produce a great result. Intelligent design, one could say, is what differentiates composer from monkey.

Along with computers and a number of clever minds, advances have sometimes come from direct competition. Competition always spurs progress, and should be encouraged. But coupled to competition, the internet has facilitated collaboration and information sharing on a scale not previously seen. Composers working together competitively has had real benefits.

It is also of concern that many of the compositions I will include are hard to find, and in quite a few cases do not appear on the web, even on a fleeting medium like a personal website. It is hoped that efforts at producing a stable, central online repository for compositions will yield tangible results soon.

Next: Compositions of the Decade 2 - Doubles

See Also