Orm Finnendahl finnendahl@folkwang-hochschule.de
Mon, 7 Oct 2002 17:26:58 +0200

Hi all,

just some notes on my experience with music notation:

In my opinion, music notation is far too complex to be tackled easily
by any gui. The most flexible systems are also the most awkward ones
to use. I guess it is a still unsolved problem, how to find a good
model for the description of the underlying data due to its nature of
being a mixture of interdependent graphical and musical
information. And though the relational database approach of Finale
might be the most complete, lots of concepts (like the frame concept)
remain unsatisfying.

CMN is very nice in its straightforwardness, meaning it is more or
less a structural symbolic description of the graphical representation
of music with some knowledge built in. In combination with the
possibility of customization its main advantage is its ability to
transcribe algorithmically generated music. I wouldn't concentrate on
the transcription of classical music or any completeness, as that is
taken care of by the myriads of commercial software engineers, who
make lots of effort by contacting big publishing houses to refine
their software with all that intrinsicate layout details which make
the difference between a nice looking score and the standard output of
computer programs (unfortunately including cmn).

What cmn seems to miss (please correct me if I'm wrong) is a more
refined control over the musical spacing (especially horizontal, but
also vertical). I didn't find any hints in the docs on how to specify
measure widths, how to obtain proportional notation, or generally
speaking, whether there is a way to map horizontal positions with the
musical structure.  If this was possible, cmn could be an ideal tool
to generate a score for one or more live interpreters perfectly
aligned to some other graphical information, e.g. of a tape/computer
part, a time line etc. That practical usability would in my opinion
compensate for the lack of graphical beauty.

If it should be necessary to fine tune the events with some gui, I
would also opt for doing this with an external program, like xfig (the
file format is very straightforward). Also eps is fine, though I don't
know of any eps Editor on Unix systems (on Macintosh there is

In both cases I think grouping of graphical objects would be an
important feature (like notehead and stem in one group, next group is
note with accidental, articulation etc.).