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: Mon, 13 Dec 2010 10:58:07 -0600
Message-ID: <74D099405487FD48AEBE947AC287EB725C8B6D@HOU150NTXC16M.hou150.chevrontexaco.net>
To: "Tom White (MMA)" <lists@midi.org>, <public-xg-audio@w3.org>
I'm sorry - I didn't really mean that all I care about is pitch and
rhythms.  Music notation carries a ton of other stuff too.  However,
it's not clear to me that subtleties like the exact positioning of a
crescendo wedge are necessary.  I agree that there is meaning in that
positioning, but my instinct is that's going "too far" for a Web display
technique.

 

I agree with a previous poster that the thing to do is to talk about the
requirements and desires before looking at the solutions.  However, I
have to say that every instinct I have and whatever knowledge I have of
the field - which is obviously much less than that of some of the
posters - tell me that midi and similar solutions are very useful but in
a different field than what I'm interested in.  Perhaps articulating
really clearly why that is so, assuming I'm correct, would be useful.  I
really thought that the exposition two notes down was pretty clear and
convincing, but maybe there's more that could be said. 

 

Incidentally, it is by no means clear to me that ABC is not capable of
handling multi-part polyphonic music.   But again, that's talking about
solutions.

 

From: public-xg-audio-request@w3.org
[mailto:public-xg-audio-request@w3.org] On Behalf Of Tom White (MMA)
Sent: Sunday, December 12, 2010 3:21 PM
To: public-xg-audio@w3.org
Subject: RE: Music Notation on the Web

 

Joe,

 

I do concur with your assessment of MIDI's usability for notation
purposes... though I prefer to focus on how it works just fine where the
issues you mentioned do not apply, such as in the case of a lot of
contemporary music, as well as any situation where the user is not
concerned about absolute accuracy <g>.

 

But I don't think that is what Roger was asking about... I think he was
asking how to separate the music performance itself (the pitches and
rhythms) from how it is displayed on the screen or in print, which is
why I mentioned MIDI... MIDI represents the pitches and rhythms of a
performance without specifying how they should be notated.

 

That said, I can't say for sure MIDI will do what Roger wants, because
I'm not clear what he's trying to do. 

 

Thanks,

 

Tom White

MMA

 

	 

________________________________

	Hi Tom, 

	 

	I'm sure we both agree that MIDI is an essential and widely
adopted standard, and that that it serves an admirable purpose in the
music world in capturing performance data that is playable on nearly
every device or platform.

	 

	However, communicating the information found in a notated score
has never been a primary goal of MIDI.  Thus, it's not a criticism of
MIDI to observe that it does not perform  very well as a music notation
format except in some very simple cases.  MIDI has a few optional
features bolted on that capture things like key and time signatures, but
otherwise it does not communicate the same kind of information that is
found in a score file.  I think this is fine: it was not intended to do
so, and it would be a much worse performance data format if it tried to
cover this base.

	 

	Consequently, when Sibelius, Finale, Noteflight or any other
notation program imports MIDI, the application must invent from whole
cloth much of the notational data in the resulting score.  Much of that
invented information is musically incorrect, and amounts to the best
possible assumption that can be made without a lot of missing
information.

	 

	A few salient examples:

	 

	- MIDI does not distinguish between enharmonic notes, such as D#
and Eb. In a score, and to a performer, these are very different. The
key signature doesn't suffice to figure these out; only the composer
really knows.

	- MIDI does not distinguish between different ways of writing
the same rhythm, such as a quarter tied to an eighth versus a dotted
quarter. These are likewise very important to performers.

	- MIDI does not distinguish articulatory variants that look
identical in performance data, say, between a staccato quarter note and
a full-value 16th note. On many instruments these yield completely
different sounds in live performance.

	- MIDI does not distinguish between notes in different staves or
voices of the same instrumental part, which are essential to correct
interpretation.

	 

	That list could be a lot longer if we include all the various
types of expressive markings that are an important part of score writing
and which capture the composer's intent.

	 

	Importing MIDI is thus one of the most difficult tasks faced by
a music notation developer, since the code must synthesize reasonable
approaches in these cases and numerous others. The best one can hope for
is "reasonable" output for very simple music.  For more complex music,
the resulting score is usually not acceptable at all and require a lot
of manual fixup after conversion from MIDI.

	 

	Best,

	 

	... .  .    .       Joe

	 

	Joe Berkovitz

	President

	Noteflight LLC

	84 Hamilton St, Cambridge, MA 02139

	phone: +1 978 314 6271

	www.noteflight.com

	 

	On Dec 12, 2010, at 1:59 AM, Tom White (MMA) wrote:

	
	
	

	But "Standard MIDI Files" store pitch and rhythm information for
every note in a musical performance, from which it is possible for
computer programs (including Sibelius and Finale) to create a musical
score (one that is lacking in some formatting)... is that not what you
are looking for?

	 

	Tom White

	MMA

		 

		
________________________________


		From: Cutler, Roger (RogerCutler)
[mailto:RogerCutler@chevron.com] 
		Sent: Saturday, December 11, 2010 3:56 PM
		To: Tom White (MMA); public-xg-audio@w3.org
		Subject: RE: Music Notation on the Web

		As Mr. Berkovitz says, Midi is pure performance data for
electronic instruments.  Quoting from Wikipedia, "it sends event
messages
<http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Event_message&action=edit&red
link=1>  about pitch <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pitch_(music)>  and
intensity, control signals for parameters such as volume, vibrato
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vibrato>  and panning
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panning_(audio)> , cues
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cue_(theatrical)> , and clock signals to
set the tempo <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tempo> ."  That's very
different from a music score and serves a different purpose.

		From: public-xg-audio-request@w3.org
[mailto:public-xg-audio-request@w3.org] On Behalf Of Tom White (MMA)
		Sent: Saturday, December 11, 2010 4:42 PM
		To: public-xg-audio@w3.org
		Subject: RE: Music Notation on the Web

		Roger,

		You say you are interested in exchanging the "notes in
the proper rhythms" and doing the "formatting in the new environment"...
and you want to "import the notes into Sibelius and Finale and handle
the formatting there".

		Is there some reason you can't use MIDI?

		Tom White

		MMA

			
________________________________


			From: public-xg-audio-request@w3.org
[mailto:public-xg-audio-request@w3.org] On Behalf Of Cutler, Roger
(RogerCutler)
			Sent: Saturday, December 11, 2010 12:54 PM
			To: Joseph Berkovitz
			Cc: public-xg-audio@w3.org
			Subject: RE: Music Notation on the Web

			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
it????

			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 make

				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.

			best,

			... .  .    .       Joe

			Joe Berkovitz

			President

			Noteflight LLC

			84 Hamilton St, Cambridge, MA 02139

			phone: +1 978 314 6271

			www.noteflight.com

	 

	 

	 

	 

	 

	 

	 
Received on Monday, 13 December 2010 16:58:50 UTC

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