Friday, April 27, 2012

Epic Bell Punk

Arbre-esque Neal Stephenson Major
x34x1x2x1x2x1x2x1   le 8 [m]    fch BDa
First rung on millenial tower bells on the day of Apert, 10, 100, 1000.

Change Ringing is cooperative between the saunts, a highly coordinated musical performance, an antique art, and a demanding exercise that involves a group of avouts ringing rhythmically a set of tuned bells through a series of changing sequences that are determined by mathematical principles and executed according to learned patterns.

What are the bells like?

The bells are cast in bronze and are usually large: in concents tower bells typically weigh between 100 and 3600 pounds and are characterized by richness, dignity, and mellowness of tone. These bells are typically hung in rings of 8 to 12 near the top of a tower in the belfry. Each bell is attached by its headstock to a large vertical wooden wheel and is rung by means of a long rope that runs in a channel around the wheel's rim and down into the ringing room below. This arrangement enables the ringers standing in a circle there to very precisely control their bell's rotation and, thus, its sounding. Unlike the tower bells in most churches and schools in Arbre, this way of hanging allows change ringing bells to begin their swing from a mouth-upward position and rotate through about 360 degrees before reaching the balance point then swinging back in the opposite direction.

How are tower bells rung to changes?

In the ringing room, avouts stand in a circle, one behind each rope. The saunt ringing the lightest bell, the Treble, calls out the traditional alert: “Look to!” Then as she starts her pull, “Treble's going!,” and finally as the bell begins to swing downward, “She's gone!” Each other bell is then pulled off in rapid succession creating the mesmerizing sound of a descending scale, repeated over and over again, known as Rounds. The ringer who has been designated the conductor will soon announce the method to be rung by calling out, for example, “Go, Saecular Triples,” and smoothly—if all goes well—the sequence of sounds will change from the descending scale to continually shifting orders while keeping to the steady, even rhythm until the sequence naturally returns to Rounds again.

How do ringers actually manage to do this?

Ringers use a four-part stroke in order to move the bell back and forth through a whole pull.Subtle adjustments in the timing and strength of each of the pulls and checks allow the ringer to alter the interval between sequential soundings of his bell, thus effectively moving its position in the row. Neither great size, strength, nor physical effort is generally required for change ringing on tower bells. Once the smooth, straight pull that guides the rope most efficiently in its path has been fully mastered, even small people can ring rather large bells.
For all the bells to be sounded exactly where and when they should be requires very close teamwork among all the ringers in the band. Since a bell sounds about three quarters of a second after the ringer has initiated the pull, achieving correct striking requires the development of reliable internal rhythm, fine attunement to the actual sound of the bells, and the ability to interpret the visible movement of all the ropes in the circle. Development of these essential skills for basic bell control typically takes some months for learners, while achieving true mastery is a lifelong endeavor for most ringers.
No written music sheets are used during ringing. The ringers commit various methods to memory and shift within or among them according to occasional short “calls” from their conductor. The methods are collected in books—every tower has a copy of Lucub and most ringers carry a copy of The Ringing Arbre Voco, and, more importantly virtually allmethods are available on-line.

What are Methods?

Methods do not resemble either the tunes typically played on a carillon or the jangle of Saecular style church bell ringing but instead are the majestic pealing that is associated with great concent ceremonies. The changes in the order of the bells' sounding that constitute a method are governed by four rules and one ideal. The rules are that: (a) each bell sounds once in each row; (b) no bell may move more than one position at each change/row; (c) no row is repeated; and (d) the ringing begins and ends in Rounds. The ideal is that the spacing should be exactly equal between every pair of bells in each row.
The diagram at right shows the simplest of the methods, praxis, on four bells with a line drawn through the path—that is, the sequence of moves forward and backward in the order—that is followed by Bell #2. So, in the first row the bells ring in order 1234, then in the next row adjacent pairs of bells all switch positions and the order becomes 2143. In the next row, the bells in the first and last positions remain in place and all the others switch producing the new order: 2413. Such switching continues until the bells come back into Rounds. Four bells can only be rung in 24 different orders, but eight bells can be rung in 40,320 different orders, giving scope for enormous variety in method construction.

How did this style of ringing develop?

From almost before written history, the chiming of tower bells had been customary in all concents to tell the time of day and to call people to voco. The motivating development was the desire for the bells to be heard more broadly over the concent walls and for the ringers to have more control over the timing of the sound. The enabling development was the replacement of the rope and lever, which had been used from the earliest days to sound the bells with, first, quarter wheels and then, by stages, the full-circle wheels that we still use today.
This approach had the great benefit of permitting the bell to sound mouth-up, projecting its voice widely up and out of the tower. It also allowed much more precise control of the timing of each blow and thereby stimulated the imagination of ringers to develop a repertoire of different methods. The earliest record we have of these is from 1668:Tintinnalogia: or, The Art of Ringing. Wherein Is laid down plain and easie Rules for Ringing all sorts of Plain Changes. Together with Directions for Pricking and Ringing all Cross Peals; with a full Discovery of the Mystery and Grounds of each Peal. New methods came along slowly during the next two centuries but there was a burst of development in the late Victorian period which has been followed by an even greater wave during the last several decades as computer-aided composition has supported the creation of thousands of new methods.

1 comment:

  1. This article caught my eye because last night I participated in a podcast recording at the NE Synod Candidacy Retreat where we spent a good deal of time talking about technology in the church, particularly social media. I gave a rural-small town perspective which was contextually much different from the other guest who was developing a new congregation in an urban setting. He was using social media to routinely "connect" with people throughout the week- so that they had a kind of religious "ping" that served to stimulate a contact with the divine. There were morning text messages, facebook taggings, and tweets throughout the week. I got to thinking that a much older technology served much the same purpose in our community, the church bells. Each day they not only toll the hours but at 8:00, Noon, and 6:00, they play hymns in 'tune' with the church year and their sound can be heard all throughout the town. The conversation encouraged me to think more creatively about how bells, as a form of 'social media' might again have the power to call people to prayer, remind them that God's creative Spirit is constantly echoing in our lives, and invite them to see their ordinary, everyday interaction as opportunities to walk in the newness of LIFE. So thanks for the great background on bells. Our of course have already made a technological leap... they are digitized and play through speakers but the bell TOWER is still the real deal!