Rev. C.D.P. Davies in his book Surprise Methods (Leeds, 1927) stated "...the method [Cambridge] is so liable to falseness in composition that it admits of but one true peal with the tenors together", and he quotes Sir Arthur Heywood as mentioning "the dismal fact of its having only one essentially original peal to ring". Middleton's peal was first rung in 1873, and up to 1988 all other compositions in the method (including the author's 5090, composed in 1947) have been variations of it, without breaking new ground other than by using short links for Middleton's courses. Now, with the help of computers, there are more peals from which to choose.

The solving of the problem has been particularly interesting, not only because 5000 changes is on the threshold of attainability in the method, but on account of the importance of palindromes in surprise major composition which has been endorsed.

The increase in the number of CRUs in a peal, from 62 of the full Middleton's to 74 in the peal on page 12, is a notable advance.

The project also helps to bring to a head the problem of authorship of compositions. Does the inanimate computer compose the peal? All thinking people will agree that it does not. But another problem presents itself: who composed the peal, the programmer or the person who made use of the program? The fact is that composing a peal is not a creative activity akin to writing a symphony or a poem - there is a strong impression when one watches a palindromic tree search that peals exist as mathematical possibilities and are merely "discovered" - and the problem may eventually be resolved by changing the terminology.

"This is all!"

B. D. Price
19 Snarsgate Street
June 1989

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