Bristol Major - A Series of Compositions by MBD      


This new website provides a home for my six series of one-part Bristol Major peal compositions, presenting them roughly in the order they were produced, with the rationale and methodology behind each set.

I had dabbled in Bristol composition before, but only in 2004 did I find the targets and techniques to bring forth something new from the method. It is not possible to machine-search for general one parts of Bristol - the range of possibilities is astronomically high - but by the end of 2003 my composition engine SMC32 had been enhanced to support "linkage search". This allowed the computer to be used as a composer's tool, taking blocks produced by human ingenuity and linking them into full touches. With this capability to hand, I made the first steps into the great wilderness of the one part. My goal? To create a new type of Bristol Major composition, different to what had come before.

The infamous composer's notes from one of my first creations, 5026 no.1, sets out my agenda:

Bristol is not a sledgehammer method; the way in which its music develops, although well-known, is clever and subtle. However it seems to me that too many compositions ride rough-shod over this delicacy, hammering home rollups with multiple calls at the course end, and so ignoring the interplay of music between front and back, and lengthening the courses to create great static chunks of work.

Beginning with my 5154, I sought a way of treating the method better, whilst using standard, tenors-together calls. These new peals use blocks of Befores, with very few course-end calls, to give lots of relatively short courses; all these arrangements have twenty courses to the peal.

All six series presented here follow this manifesto; together I call them the "short-course genre". (The courses are really normal length, of course - generally 7, 8 or 9 leads long - but are much shorter than the fat, course-end heavy courses of traditional Bristol compositions). The compositions in Series 1, 2, 5 and 6 are all tenors-together, and follow an evolution of increasing sophistication in composing techniques, and increasing richness of musical output. Series 3 and 4 include tenors-together courses in the same vein, but also introduce split-tenors music in the form of a diversion to cyclic courses. All, I would claim, are good! Click on the links below to explore each series.

Series OneThe birth of the short-course peal
Series TwoThe optimal super-efficient block and that 5056
Series ThreeA little bit of cyclic split-tenors
Series FourQuite a lot of cyclic split-tenors
Series FiveThe no-duffers search and the apotheosis of short-course
Series SixSingles, and the return to 20 courses

Finally, if you're new to the business of conducting peals of Bristol, don't discount these compositions in favour of boring multi-parts. For example, the classic 5056 no.1 from Series Two is ideal for a novice conductor: it is simple and nicely structured, so easy to learn, and the coursing orders follow each other in a natural, unavoidable sort of progression; one might almost say it calls itself. I've written a short postscript explaining how to learn and call it if it's your first peal of Bristol as conductor, or if the conducting duties have landed on you with short notice, and you just need to learn a composition quickly.

A complete index of every composition, sorted by length, is given below. The music counts in the second column list 5678/8765 rollups (front or back), 6578 rollups (back only), and 4-bell little-bell runs ("LB4"), with a + sign giving the numbers of 4567/7654 runs, if present in significant numbers.

5024 no.172, 23, 134Series 219
5024 no.248,   6, 144Series 4split-tenors
5024 no.372, 14, 150Series 519
5024 no.472, 24, 140+10Series 519
5024 no.572, 18, 136Series 620
5024 no.672, 17, 124Series 620
5026 no.172, 17, 120Series 120
5026 no.272, 17, 126Series 220
5026 no.372, 24, 120Series 220
5056 no.172, 20, 134Series 219
5056 no.250,   6, 138Series 4split-tenors
5056 no.372, 22, 138Series 519
5056 no.472, 24, 140Series 620
5056 no.572, 22, 140Series 620
5088 no.370, 23, 134Series 120
5088 no.472, 23, 136Series 219
5088 no.566, 12, 126Series 3split-tenors
5088 no.652,   6, 146Series 4split-tenors
5088 no.772, 24, 148Series 519
5120 no.170, 22, 132Series 120
5120 no.272, 23, 134Series 219
5120 no.368, 18, 120Series 3split-tenors
5120 no.472, 23, 140Series 519
5120 no.572, 18, 148Series 620
5120 no.672, 24, 140Series 620
5152 no.148, 19, 120Series 4split-tenors
5152 no.242, 14, 128Series 4split-tenors
5152 no.372, 13, 138Series 520
5152 no.472, 22, 152Series 519
5152 no.572, 24, 148Series 620
5152 no.672, 18, 144+10Series 620
5154 no.164, 12, 136Series 120
5184 no.164, 20, 128Series 3split-tenors
640052, 21, 152Series 4split-tenors

Note that all these compositions are also available at

2013 update: I have a new series of Spliced Surprise compositions based on the 5056 no.1 Bristol calling. See my spliced page for full details.


MBD July 2010