W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-xg-audio@w3.org > December 2010

RE: Music Notation on the Web

From: Cutler, Roger (RogerCutler) <RogerCutler@chevron.com>
Date: Sat, 11 Dec 2010 14:54:29 -0600
Message-ID: <74D099405487FD48AEBE947AC287EB725C8B0D@HOU150NTXC16M.hou150.chevrontexaco.net>
To: "Joseph Berkovitz" <joe@noteflight.com>
Cc: <public-xg-audio@w3.org>
I may be demonstrating my ignorance here, but I have not personally had
good experiences with MusicXML.  I recall that I tried to use this
format to transfer some music between Finale and Sibelius (I've
forgotten which way, but probably toward Sibelius) and I had a LOT of
trouble.  The bottom line was that it basically did not work.  It is my
impression that neither Finale nor Sibelius support MusicXML in a very
complete fashion.  I also think (but am not positive) that MusicXML
attempts to model features of the music that are involved with
formatting as well as the content of the music.  In fact, I think, but
am not sure, that this was probably the source of the problems I had
using it.  I would have been perfectly happy to start with a bare bones
version of the music (that is, the notes in the proper rhythms) and do
the formatting in the new environment, but I seem to recall that it
tried to pull across a bunch of very complex stuff associated with
formatting that didn't really work and got in the way of using the
information at all.


I believe that there are other possible objections to using MusicXML as
a starting point:  


1.       One of the responses I got at the TPAC was a very strong
opinion, which I initially was skeptical of but eventually found
convincing, that a music representation scheme used on the Web should be
capable of practically supporting use by hand for simple tasks.  ABC is
an example of a markup for music content that has this character.  My
impression is that MusicXML does not in that it is, in all
representations, quite complex and bulky.  Note that the illustration
shown by Hakon Lie at the TPAC of a music notation markup being used in
HTML 5 used ABC.

2.       My impression (again, perhaps showing my ignorance) is that the
takeup of MusicXML on the Web has been extremely limited.  Certainly
none of the sites that I go to in order to get music offer anything in
MusicXML.  The most common offering is a PDF file, which has obvious
limitations.  What I REALLY want is a format that allows me to import
the notes into Sibelius or Finale and handle the formatting there. 

3.       I speculate that it might be easier to get whole-hearted
participation from the majors (Finale and Sibelius) - and my impression
is that their implementations of MusicXML are either not whole-hearted
or that it is extremely difficult - if the markup standard confined
itself to the CONTENT of the music and not the formatting.  I say this
because I get the impression that these vendors consider their
competitive advantage to involve formatting AND because I also get the
impression that some of the formatting they do is extremely complex and
difficult to represent as anything but an image.


In summary, it seem plausible to me that if one looks hard at the
requirements for a Web music notation that there may be no obvious
solution on the ground, or there is that it is not the "obvious"
solutions of either MusicXML or the ISO standard SMDL, which was
suggested as "obvious" by someone else.  And if indeed there is an
"obvious" solution - then what can be done to get people actually to USE


From: Joseph Berkovitz [mailto:joe@noteflight.com] 
Sent: Friday, December 10, 2010 8:20 PM
To: Cutler, Roger (RogerCutler)
Cc: public-xg-audio@w3.org
Subject: Re: Music Notation on the Web


Hi folks,


As a creator of web-based music notation editing software, I welcome a
discussion on this topic, but with a large caution on its breadth and
depth. Semantic representation of music is such a complex area that it's
very likely to occupy the full bandwidth of any group that takes up the
challenge, and then some. I believe that music notation, if addressed by
the W3C, will almost certainly consume the full attention of a single XG
or WG.  I would of course be very pleased to participate in the
discussion or in groups that spin off.  


It's also necessary to mention that my fellow Audio XG member Michael
Good has devoted much of his career to successfully developing and
promulgating the MusicXML standard in industry and academia. There are
few people as qualified than Michael to be part of this discussion. So
there are at least two folks on this group with a strong interest, and
there may well be more.


Now, as Michael stated in his response, that there is already a widely
adopted standard in the notation world, namely MusicXML which his
company Recordare owns. It is the de facto interchange standard today
for most music notation applications.  One might even take the position
that MusicXML's status on the ground in the community is such that a
separate W3C standards effort is unnecessary. Personally, I would not go
that far: my opinion is that a W3C standard for music notation could
possibly be a good thing, but that such a standard would do very well to
look at MusicXML as a starting point (and as a potential ending point
also, in that W3C could bless MusicXML as the standard itself and carry
its evolution forward). Whatever the potential of a new standard might
be, MusicXML reflects a lot of information and wisdom accumulated over
its lifetime and is pretty well burned into the ecosystem today.


Insofar as this group is concerned, I would very much like to see the
work on the Audio API be completed before commencing a challenge as
substantial as music notation. It would be great to start to discuss it,
but we should all be aware that some of the ratholes will be miles deep,
and the implementation mountain will be miles high. Let me explain
further by way of commenting on a few points from the thread that Roger
just posted:


	Wouldn't it be nice to be able to publish music in a way that
the CONTENT, as opposed to the formatting, could be picked up and used?
Isn't that kind of in the spirit of the Web?  And isn't it also kind of
in the spirit of the Web to worry about the content before you start
messing around with binary streams and images?


I share this enthusiasm for representing semantic musical content on the
Web -- it's my mission too, and what my company is all about. However,
it is not the case that binary audio streams are necessarily a
"formatting" of such content, any more than pixels are necessarily
"formatted text".  Audio is a primary medium, much of whose content can
not be derived from semantic notation by either a human or a machine.
Much music is never notated in the first place. Although I am a musician
with a traditional conservatory background, I strongly believe that
supporting pure sound generation on the Web is a valid and essential
musical enterprise in and of itself.  Programmatic audio and music
notation content are complementary, and it's not at all a
cart-before-the-horse situation.


Furthermore, audio support will help music notation take many important
steps towards becoming a first-class citizen on the web. While music
notation viewing could (with considerable effort) become somewhat
standardized in browsers, music notation editing is likely to remain a
diverse space with many disparate approaches. Any Web-based notation
editor will absolutely require good programmatic audio support in order
to be at all functional (and one of my primary motivations in working
with the Audio group is to allow the Web to support such editors).


	[NOTE - There ARE companies involved with music notation and
publishing, but they are not in the W3C.  I'd really like to reach out
to them and try to involve them in this effort, and I have some ideas
how to make that attractive, or at least how NOT to make it UNattractive
- Roger]


At least *some* are in the W3C, already ;) 


	Getting support for maths in Web content was similarly backed by

	centuries of cultural heritage; but that alone wasn't enough to

	it a major priority for all browser-makers... [snip]


The effort involved in properly rendering even a basic subset of
conventional Western music notation is unreasonably large, for a number
of issues that aren't appropriate to go into here.  Music notation has
accreted from centuries' worth of experimentation across various
cultural shifts, shaped by the quirks of human visual cognition. Due to
the implementation effort, I share this concern that browser-makers
might simply ignore this area, unless there's a strong case that music
notation on the Web will have a broad audience comparable to that for
the other modern browser feature sets. 


On the whole I'd like to see a Web standard for music notation emerge,
when it can do so successfully with strong backing from the industry and
from the W3C.  Development of such a standard would probably fertilize
the software/music ecosystem for a very long time to come, if the
standard achieves a high level of acceptance. Let's just proceed
carefully and thoughtfully, with respect for the effort level required,
and the history of past efforts, and do it right.




... .  .    .       Joe


Joe Berkovitz


Noteflight LLC

84 Hamilton St, Cambridge, MA 02139

phone: +1 978 314 6271







Received on Saturday, 11 December 2010 20:55:07 UTC

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