I love the sound of bells ringing out in the air. Highly structured ringing sequences were created by ordinary folk in England in the seventeenth century. Their quest was to perform all the permutations—all the different arrangements possible—of seven bells. This is a demanding task because there are 7! (7 x 6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = 5040) possibilities. To ring such a peal in a church tower takes about three hours; to capture it entails writing down, or memorizing, 5040 seven-digit numbers, each one known as a change. I’m not sure why the ringers chose seven bells (not more, not less); most especially, I wonder about their desire to enact a mathematical pattern with their bodies. Ringing the Changes, a computer-generated project for print, reinaugurates this search with code and voices.
Scientific Triples, the pattern rung here, is not a peal but rather a method, a form of ringing used by contemporary ringers. By memorizing rules for generating new changes—and not every single change itself (that very long list of numbers)—method-ringers can plot their course ahead of time. Each sounded row must be unique. In the ringing world, this constraint is called truth; to repeat any row would make the performance false. A method also follows strict rules for transforming one row into the next. These rules are described at the top of the fifth page of text below, in Bell 3. The reader can check that the rules are followed by noting the position changes of the numbers from page to page. Bell 3 has been tinted blue so that its pattern of movement is easy to see.
Code for this project, written in the Python language, acts on the 5040 fixed rows of the Scientific Triples pattern. It also introduces a random element. Each bell is given twenty-three “sounds,” analogous to overtones. Each sound is a voice, a short text to read, or hear, or view as a score. In any run of the code, one of these texts is randomly assigned to its bell—subject to the constraint that all twenty-three choices must be allotted before any are repeated.
Method sequences begin and end with rounds, a row in which all the bells are rung in descending order of pitch. Ringing the Changes begins with rounds (1 2 3 4 5 6 7) and is paused, by my choice, after every one of the texts for a bell has appeared seven times, which occurs after 161 pages. The 5-row (5-page) excerpt from Run 5, shown below, differs in its ordering from the 161-row (161-page) excerpt from Run 13 chosen for the printed book Ringing the Changes, forthcoming from Counterpath Press.
Each of the following authors, briefly sampled and / or paraphrased, contributes a majority of the text for one particular bell: Sha Xin Wei, Simone Weil, Sylvia Wynter, Hito Steyerl, and Yuk Hui. John C. G. Sturdy’s pedagogic hints on bell ringing provide language for the bell-commenting bell. The final source is a medley or mixtape from many people including, in this excerpt, Benjamin Bratton, Aria Dean, Nicholas Mirzoeff, Fred Moten, and Emily Apter. I am deeply grateful for their words.
The rows sampled in Ringing the Changes allude to changes that need to be rung—that is, considered and heard—in our lives and communities. By permuting and realigning the texts, a generated order makes plain how concerns can be variously mapped and, thus, variously understood. By enacting the differences ordering and context make, it helps us to refuse a “canonical” order, or hierarchy, of attention, such as is normally enforced by print presentation, thereafter to be lionized and remediated as “true” or “fake.”
Heraclitean fire (not 1 of 4 elements) is a universal agent of change
of state and the mediator of exchange. Heraclitus’s fire acts
simultaneously upon the cosmos, the hearth, and the furnace; in
other words, universe, home, and technology.
Why would the hurricanes seem to follow the same route taken by
the slave ships? It was said that spirits from the Middle Passage
destroyed New Orleans in their anger over slavery. Why would the
spirits destroy African-American homes over slavery, rather than
those of slavers? They are nonhuman and think differently. They
want to take their human counterparts “back to Africa.” In Kreyol
that connection is called anba dlo (beneath the water).
As a human achievement, it is one of the most complex, requiring the
memorizing of the patterns (called methods), the watching of the
other ropes (ropesight—you do not, on the whole, know in advance
which bell yours will be after), and the manual timing of an
instrument which sounds around two seconds after you pull the
rope, to an accuracy, when done well, of around 20 milliseconds.
Having folded some of its matter into the shape of brains and waited
a few million years, one of the things Earth very recently learned is its
own age, 4.6 billion years. A confident figure for the age of the Earth
came the year that Beckett premiered Waiting for Godot (1953). Was
discovering this fundamental truth worth exhuming hundreds of
millions of years of pre-Mesozoic bio-matter for a two-century fuel
supply and inauguration of mass extinction? What would make it
The violent nature of apprenticeship, that there is no connection
between natural, intuitive actions accompanying a desire for
transformation and effective motions.
Not to refuse modern technology, but rather to look to different
technological futures. Contemporary engineering is not based on the
noncomputable, infinite, and continuous: therein lies the conceptual
and technical challenge and interest.
Touch is entwined and flows in both directions.
Splits (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) come straight out of humans leashed to language.
Produced in processes as rule-governed, if hitherto unconscious, as
spider web spinning. Motivated by neuro-chemically reinforced Life /
Death narrative schemas. Semantic remapping of the opioid system.
Four shifts of perspective: 1 from composer and critic to performer;
2 from tools of analysis to instruments of performance; 3 from
designing sound objects to designing controllers, devices
manipulable as instruments; 4 from designing instruments to
designing the dynamical, material, palpable qualities of the temporal
medium itself, to manipulating stuff as instrumental media, “shaping
sound like clay.” This last constitutes a shift from the perspective of
instrument makers to that of makers of media, i. e., alchemists.
If you get someone who shouts a lot and who seems to think that
you must be getting things wrong deliberately to annoy him or her,
don’t be discouraged; you may well find it worthwhile to look around
for a friendlier tower.
In truth, no other way—no other question: What are you going
However, by putting the black man at the center of the apocalypse—
both the agent of the world’s demise and its inheritor—Busta
Rhymes’s suite of apocalyptic albums resonates more specifically
with the child of these strange bedfellows, black radical thought and
The space-time manifold is a topological space that locally has the
geometry of a four-dimensional space with three spatial dimensions
and a fourth dimension with the opposite signature. This is a local
condition, so that what constitutes the “temporal direction” can vary
continuously as we pass from event to event.
Yuk Hui has proposed that we focus on the question of data as the main
question of the digital.
Split 2 Non-homogeneity of divinely-created Rational Men and
divinely-created irrational animal others: Prospero and Caliban-his-
Other. Prospero seeks to restore the order of the state rather than
wreak particularized revenge. The good of the state requires
Caliban’s enslavement. Reasons-of-state are hegemonic till the end
of the 18th century.
Memory Aids, none are allowed. A serious change ringer must
effectively recite a sequence of several thousand numbers, one every
two seconds, and translate this sequence into perfect bell ringing.
Terms describing damaging environmental practices used for models
of data management: Data Dredging, for data sets too small to draw
valid statistical inferences from; Data Fracking, for data requiring
hidden measures to extract; Drilling Down, for data foraged “deep”
within information systems; Data Exhaust, for information
byproduct, i.e. storable actions and choices often repackaged and
If the laws of nature do not pick out a preferred “future,” perhaps
boundary conditions do.
What is permitted? All that does not gut uninterrupted inward
Your visit will leave a permanent mark.
The space of transformations of a base set of objects is at least as
important as the base set itself.
Probably the earliest examples of serious group theory in action are
the highly structured bell-ringing sequences developed in the early
Red iron oxide granules bound with animal fat and charcoal: 100,000
years ago humans transformed biologic life to symbolic life through
this red paint fictive menstrual blood.
The Earth is on the move. You can’t join from the outside. You come
up from under, and you fall back into its surf.
The wish that poetry might correct all this—may seem a forlorn
dream, but work that transgresses the boundary between thought as
act and thought as content and accomplishes this by suffusion,
resonance, radiation, radiance, microdosing, and the setting of
almost inaudible spells may indeed be the locus where such hope
In the words of Robert Kemp, who speaks, as Thomas R. Nevin says,
“for all Weil enthusiasts in the remark, ‘Comme on voudrait la
rappeler sur cette terre, pour lui dire qu’on l’aime, et pour lui
demander certaines précisions.’”
Is background noise the ground of our being, as every message, every
call, every signal must be separated from the hubbub that occupies
silence, in order to be, to be perceived, to be known, to be
In each row, all the bells sound once. A bell can swap with the one
before it, or the one after it, or stay where it is. The sequences of
these changes are called methods, and these are what the ringers
Transfer from support to supported, in a contact improvisation dance
exercise, creates a shift in the balance of force that may be essentially
indiscernible to an optical sensor.
Events (1, 2, 3) come slamming out of nowhere, one cell, one
quantum hits another, aspects cascade—
To deal with the problem of IPv4 address exhaustion, IPv6 makes
every atom in the world addressable.
By pursuing the illusion as if it were true, we discovered, as a by-
product, that it was false, but the by-product of doing so is that we
made it true.
The discrete drops out as a special case, by the way, so we are not
losing anything of the graph theories (from syntax parsing trees to
actor network theory), but just seeing them in their place would be
Fear is perhaps the sign of the reality of the contact.