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The 2015 MusicXML Community Meeting at Musikmesse

Thank you to all who attended our third annual MusicXML community meeting at Musikmesse! We had 42 attendees who signed in. This year’s meeting focused on framing the future for MusicXML development. Our agenda proceeded as follows:

  • A brief introduction to MusicXML. Nearly everyone attending was already familiar with MusicXML, so we covered this quickly.
  • MusicXML community progress over the past year since our last meeting, focusing on the 25 new applications that have added MusicXML support in that time.
  • An update on the Standard Music Font Layout (SMuFL) project, presented by Daniel Spreadbury from Steinberg.
  • Future directions for MusicXML: content and governance, presented by Joe Berkovitz from Noteflight.

The presentations took 90 minutes, followed by 30 minutes of focused discussion on the future directions for MusicXML. This was followed by an hour-long reception sponsored by Hal Leonard / Noteflight.

The MusicXML presentation material from all three presenters is available at:

The 2015 MusicXML Meeting

The attendee list and a summary of the meeting discussion is available at:

Report from the 2015 MusicXML Community Meeting

Nicolas Froment from MuseScore made a video recording of the meeting, including the presentation and the discussions. If you have not attended one of these meetings before, here is a great opportunity to see and hear the faces and voices behind the names.

To summarize the discussion, most people who spoke at the meeting were favorably inclined towards Joe’s proposal to move MusicXML to a World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Community Group. There was support for adding more notational semantics to MusicXML – not just the what, but also the how and why behind notation layout. Joe showed an example of how MusicXML could evolve to use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) technology that intrigued many people.

The meeting met my goals for getting a better sense of the MusicXML community’s reaction to a possible change of governance to the W3C, as well as some of the general directions for future MusicXML evolution. We will continue discussion of these topics online in the MusicXML forum.

Change of governance is not a simple matter for the companies involved. It seems it would be best for MusicXML and SMuFL to both be transferred together to a standards organization rather than proceeding separately. So there are discussions that will need to happen at MakeMusic, Steinberg, the W3C, and elsewhere. Given the strategic nature of the technologies there is no guarantee that this transfer will happen, but gauging the community’s interest was a key step in this potential evolution.

I would like to once again thank:

  • Hal Leonard and Noteflight for sponsoring the reception.
  • Joe Berkovitz and Daniel Spreadbury for their excellent presentations.
  • The Musicbiz Lounge & Congress and Musikmesse staff for their top-flight support.
  • Nicolas Froment for the video recording.
  • All the meeting attendees for the lively and informative discussion.

As long as Musikmesse makes this Musicbiz Lounge & Congress venue available to us, we plan to keep this as an annual event. Next year’s Musikmesse is from April 7 to 10, with many changes in store. The Friday date seems to work well, so we’ll tentatively plan for the fourth annual MusicXML meeting on Friday, April 8, 2016.

Coming Up: MusicXML at Musikmesse 2015

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I am happy to announce that we now have our MusicXML Community Meeting confirmed at the Musicbiz Lounge & Congress during Musikmesse 2015 in Frankfurt, Germany. We will meet at the same time as last year: Friday, April 17 from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm, with a reception afterwards sponsored by Hal Leonard / Noteflight. The meeting will be in the Workshop room in the Congress area adjacent to Hall 5.1.

Here is the abstract for this year’s meeting:

MusicXML has become the standard interchange format for music notation and digital sheet music over the past 15 years. Since 2013 the community of music notation developers, publishers, and musicians has met each year at Musikmesse to discuss new developments and possibilities for the future.

One topic for this year’s meeting will be future directions for the MusicXML format. Might MusicXML evolve in the future from a document interchange format into a more complete platform for interactive digital sheet music? What might this evolution look like? How could we support interactivity better in the future without disrupting the successful document interchange of the present? How might such an evolution fare under the umbrella of a standards organization, for example the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)?

Other topics to be discussed are future integration of MusicXML and SMuFL, and status updates on new applications supporting MusicXML since last year’s Musikmesse.

Moderated by: Michael Good (MakeMusic, inventor of MusicXML) and Joe Berkovitz (Noteflight)

If you registered with the Musicbiz Lounge & Congress last year, you will be receiving an email soon to reactivate your account for 2015. If you have not registered with the venue before, please do using this URL. Registering helps the Congress with their planning, and helps keep this venue available to us for our meetings:

https://www.b2match.eu/musikmesse2015/registration?locale=en

Please also email me or send me a private message on the MusicXML Forum if you plan to attend, so we know how many people to expect for the meeting and the reception.

I look forward to seeing many of you there!

NAMM 2015: eScore Standardization Efforts in W3C and IEC

Each January, the NAMM show in Anaheim brings people together from throughout the music products industry. The MIDI Manufacturers Association (MMA) holds its annual general meeting on the last day of NAMM. This year, the MMA hosted a session on “An Introduction to eScore Standardization Efforts in W3C and IEC.” I presented on the W3C work. Taro Tokuhiro from Yamaha presented on the IEC work led by the Association of Musical Electronics Industry (AMEI). We had about 20 people attending. You can see our presentations at:

My presentation reviewed our discussions on music notation markup at the W3C from the W3C’s October TPAC meeting. At that meeting we explored a proposal for forming a music notation W3C Community Group and transferring relevant standards like MakeMusic’s MusicXML and Steinberg’s Standard Music Font Layout (SMuFL) to that organization. The governing documents could then become W3C Community Group Reports, perhaps co-published with the MMA.

Understanding the potential and pitfalls for current standardization work benefits from looking at past experience. Over the past 20 years, organizations like IEC, MPEG, and IEEE have produced eScore standards that have all failed to be adopted. These organizations tend to be too expensive in both time and money for an industry as small as sheet music and music notation software. Standards produced without the participation of industry experts have little chance of success. In contrast, MusicXML was designed and developed within the industry to work with existing music notation programs, and has been adopted by over 180 applications.

With its free membership and more flexible process, a W3C Community Group might provide a venue that could avoid some of the past pitfalls of previous standards organization efforts. I examined the pros and cons of moving MusicXML into a standards group like the W3C, or maintaining the status quo of MakeMusic ownership for the time being.

Taro Tokuhiro reviewed the work on music notation at IEC TC 100 TA 10 from the past two years. IEC, the International Electrotechnical Commission, is one of the three global organizations (IEC, ISO, ITU) that develops official International Standards. TC 100 is the IEC technical committee on audio, video, and multimedia. TA 10 is TC 100’s technical area for multimedia e-publishing and e-book technology. Japan has extensive representation and involvement in TA 10. AMEI, the MMA’s Japanese counterpart organization, has been working within TA 10 over the past few years to publish MIDI 1.0 as an official IEC international standard.

Mr. Tokuhiro took over the role of leading AMEI’s work with TA 10 last year. AMEI presented on eScore technology at the IEC’s general meetings in Shenzen in September 2013 and in Tokyo in November 2014. Work is now underway on a technical report describing eScore technologies like MusicXML that are currently available on the market. The report draft is due this month and will be published after a voting process.

This technical report is the outcome of a research phase, and a prerequisite for recruiting expert involvement in a standards project. After publication, IEC will address questions such as if international de jure standardization is needed, if IEC is the right place for such standardization, or if the current de facto standardization on MusicXML is sufficient. As a result, digital sheet music may be proposed as a project within TA 10, or it may not – there is no hard commitment yet either way.

I very much enjoyed the opportunity to meet with Mr. Tokuhiro for lunch before the session. We had a detailed discussion of the contexts of the current eScore standardization work within both IEC and W3C which I found very helpful. There was not much discussion during the question and answer session after the presentations. Tom White from the MMA provided some clarifications on the work within both W3C and IEC.

I expect that we will be discussing the potential for MusicXML moving to the W3C or other standards organizations in more depth at our next MusicXML community meeting. Assuming that Musikmesse 2015 provides the same venue for this meeting as before, we tentatively plan to meet in Frankfurt on Friday afternoon, April 17. I will post more details here as we know more about the scheduling and planning.

Dolet 6.5 for Finale Plugin Now Available

Today we released an updated version of our Dolet® 6 for Finale plugin. The Dolet plugin adds some features to the MusicXML support built into Finale 2014, such as batch import and export. It also makes the improvements to MusicXML support for Finale 2014 available to people using older versions of Finale.  You can download this new version as well as our other Dolet plugins from:

http://www.musicxml.com/dolet-plugin/

Version 6.5 runs faster on Macs. It also adds support for exporting scores  whose default music fonts follow the Standard Music Font Layout (SMuFL). SMuFL font support works in Finale 2012 and 2014, with Finale 2014 providing the better experience. The benefit of faster performance should be obvious, but what exactly is this SMuFL support?

Current music fonts in products like Finale and Sibelius use font mapping conventions that date back to the 1980s. These mappings use older, pre-Unicode technology that limits individual fonts to about 200 symbols. Western music notation requires many more symbols than that, so most programs have families of fonts to cover a wider range of musical symbols. Each font tends to use a somewhat different set of symbols, mapped in a somewhat different way. This causes problems when switching fonts in a musical score, or switching fonts when moving between notation and digital sheet music applications.

This diversity in font mappings also creates problems when writing software to export or import MusicXML files. The MusicXML software developer is usually never quite sure what a particular font character means. To accurately interpret what a character number means, you need to be able to tell which font is being used with that character, and you need to have seen that font before to know how it maps that number to a musical symbol.

SMuFL aims to fix these problems. To quote the SMuFL site, “SMuFL is a specification that provides a standard way of mapping the thousands of musical symbols required by conventional music notation into the Private Use Area in Unicode’s Basic Multilingual Plane for a single (format-independent) font.” Using the Unicode Private Use Area allows SMuFL to map thousands of symbols. SMuFL 1.0 currently maps nearly 2400 glyphs.

The SMuFL project was initiated and developed by Daniel Spreadbury at Steinberg. Like MusicXML, SMuFL was opened to community involvement at an early stage. At MakeMusic, Mark Adler and I have been involved with SMuFL even before it was publicly announced 18 months ago. Mark has focused on an updated OpenType version of our Maestro font family that will be SMuFL compliant. I have focused on how MusicXML and SMuFL might work together better in the future. Dolet 6.5 for Finale’s support for exporting files created with a default SMuFL music font is another step towards bringing SMuFL technology to MakeMusic’s products.

We are happy to release the Dolet 6.5 for Finale plug-in together with our Finale 2014d maintenance update. MakeMusic’s new CEO Gear Fisher has posted more information about MakeMusic’s future direction on the Finale and SmartMusic blogs. MusicXML is a key part of MakeMusic’s vision: it is essential for bringing more repertoire into our SmartMusic product, and for people creating music in Finale to share that music with the widest variety of applications in the rapidly changing world of digital sheet music.

In Gear’s update, he mentions how MakeMusic needs to make it easier to publish content into SmartMusic. Many of the challenges that we face in doing that are similar if not identical to the challenges the entire music notation industry faces in moving from printed to digital sheet music. That is what has driven my work with MusicXML, and I came to MakeMusic for the chance to work on these issues on a larger scale.

We made some important foundational steps forward for digital sheet music production with Finale 2014. Having MusicXML as a common exchange format is another part of the puzzle, as is having SMuFL as a common music font layout. There is still much more to do. I am looking forward to what we can accomplish as MakeMusic enters the next step in its evolution.

Music Notation Markup at the W3C

tpac-250 Each year the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has a week of combined Technical Plenary and Advisory Committee meetings (TPAC). The plenary day is conducted in “unconference” style with breakout sessions. For this year’s meeting in Silicon Valley, Joe Berkovitz from Hal Leonard / Noteflight proposed a music notation markup session. Joe Berkovitz and Michael Good presented at the start of the session, followed by a discussion with the 25 or so attendees present. The presentations and discussion summary are available online:

It has always been my plan that MusicXML move from company ownership to standards organization ownership once it achieved enough maturity, following the model of the PDF format. The questions have been which organization and at what time. Ten years ago we explored moving MusicXML 1.0 to OASIS, and decided not to proceed, largely because it wasn’t the right time. This was a fortunate decision. Shortly thereafter we embarked on the MusicXML 1.1 project, a large and rapid expansion of the MusicXML format that ensured the commercial success of both MusicXML as a format and Recordare as a company.

MusicXML 3.0 on the other hand is quite mature. We may need one more major update to a MusicXML 4.0 to incorporate changes in the past 3 years, most notably with the SMuFL Standard Music Font Layout project. But at some point in the not-too-distant future, it seems like a good time to once again explore moving MusicXML into a standards organization. Such a move would be contingent on decisions by MakeMusic and Peaksware leadership, as well as decisions by the target standards organization.

The two leading organizational candidates now are the W3C and the MIDI Manufacturers Association (MMA). W3C is the home of many web standards, including the fundamental XML technologies that MusicXML is built on. MMA is the home of related MIDI standards for the music instrument and software industries that MusicXML is also built on.

Though both organizations are home to related technologies, neither W3C nor MMA has a critical mass of notation company members. Hal Leonard is a W3C member, and MakeMusic is an MMA member. Yamaha is also an MMA member and contributes to AMEI‘s membership in the W3C.

In the past, standards organizations have had a dismal record of failure in music notation by being disconnected from the music notation development, publishing, and musician communities. ISO / IEC, MPEG, and IEEE have all developed music notation standards that nobody uses in practice. The industry is so small that the overhead of the typical standards organization is cost-prohibitive for most who might wish to participate.

This issue is not unique to music notation. To address it, the W3C has recently added Community and Business Groups to provide lighter weight, lower cost alternatives to full W3C membership. Community and business groups produce Community and Business Group Reports, rather than W3C Recommendations. A W3C community or business group on music notation, with MMA as a member and possible co-publisher, might provide a good choice for a future home within the current standards organization landscape.

Our goal for meeting at the W3C TPAC was to start discussions of this proposal and gauge interest within the W3C community. We had about 25 people at the meeting, which far exceeded both Joe’s and my expectations. It was great to see representatives from the W3C’s digital publishing and open annotations projects attending. These are two areas where there is good potential for future two-way interaction between MusicXML and emerging web standards.

A key element for MakeMusic is that work within the W3C to evolve MusicXML will not stray from the compatibility that has marked MusicXML’s evolution from MusicXML 1.0 to 3.0, where all valid MusicXML 1.0 files remain valid MusicXML 3.0 files. This 100% strict compatibility might need to be adjusted in the future to ensure future progress. If so, it needs to happen in a way that neither breaks MusicXML’s use as an archival format, nor emperils the vast library of MusicXML software that has been developed in more than 180 applications that currently support the format.

Whether at MakeMusic or in a standards organization, MusicXML still needs to be maintained on an ongoing basis as the technologies around it evolve. We don’t want to get into a deferred maintenance situation similar to the HTML4 to HTML5 and MIDI 1.0 to HD Protocol transitions.

Our meeting at TPAC, as well as our previous day’s discussions within the W3C Audio Working Group, were a nice start to the process of considering next steps for MusicXML and possibly other related music notation standards. Joe and I look forward to further discussions within the MusicXML, music notation, and web communities as we figure out the next steps. Thanks to Doug Schepers at the W3C for all his work in facilitating these discussions.

MusicXML at W3C and SF MusicTech

In the next month I will be attending two events local to me here in the San Francisco Bay area, and hope to see some of you there!

W3C 20th Anniversary logoThe first event will be the World Wide Web Consortium’s TPAC 2014: the Technical Plenary and Advisory Committee meetings week. Over the years we have investigated how and when MusicXML might be transferred from Recordare / MakeMusic to an industry standards organization. Some possible candidates proposed over the years have been the MIDI Manufacturers Association (MMA), OASIS, and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

Recently, MusicXML community member Joe Berkovitz started serving as co-chair of the W3C Audio Working Group. Given Joe’s more active W3C involvement and the TPAC meeting being local in Santa Clara, this seemed like a good opportunity to start exploring the W3C’s interest in possibly providing a home for the MusicXML format in the future.

We will be having two events at the TPAC. On Tuesday, October 28 we will have a MusicXML introduction during the W3C Audio Working Group meeting. This meeting is open to working group members only with observers approved by one of the co-chairs.

The more general meeting will be a 1-hour breakout session on Wednesday, October 29 during the “unconference” part of the plenary. The topic will be Music Notation Markup and MusicXML with Joe and myself as speakers. If you’re attending the W3C TPAC and are interested in this session, please let the W3C know by editing the Wiki page to add yourself as a possible attendee.

Those two meetings are only open to W3C members. However, Wednesday also includes the W3C20 Symposium on the Future of the Web, followed by a gala dinner. I plan to attend both the symposium and the dinner, and hope to meet more people at both events.

SF MusicTech logoTwo weeks later, I will be attending the 16th SF MusicTech Summit at the Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco on November 11. SF MusicTech is a great way to get a snapshot of the current state of the music technology industry. It brings together musicians, developers, executives, lawyers, and deal-makers of all types into one cost-effective, single-day networking and education event.

At this Summit I will be joined by Peaksware CEO Gear Fisher and Chief Evangelist Dirk Friel. As we announced in August, MakeMusic is joining Peaksware. SF MusicTech is one of the music industry events that Peaksware leadership will be attending over the next few months. We have begun hiring for new positions in Boulder, Colorado in addition to the employees who will be moving to Boulder from Eden Prairie. I will continue to work for MakeMusic/Peaksware here in Silicon Valley.

I hope to meet many MusicXML community members at these events! Feel free to contact me via the MusicXML forum, Facebook, or Twitter if you would like to set up a time to meet.

Dolet 6.4 for Sibelius Plugin Now Available

Today we released an updated version of our Dolet® 6 for Sibelius plugin. This plugin exports MusicXML 3.0 files from Sibelius 5.1 and later. The MusicXML  format is the easiest and most accurate way to transfer files from Sibelius, either to Finale or any other notation program that imports MusicXML files. You can access all of our Dolet plugin downloads from:

http://www.musicxml.com/dolet-plugin/

Version 6.4 adds support for Sibelius 7.5. Earlier versions of the plugin worked with Sibelius 7.5, but the installers did not support this release. This was particularly a problem for people using Windows systems that only had Sibelius 7.5 installed.

Our Dolet plugin is as complete a MusicXML export plugin as the Sibelius plugin interface allows. Version 6.4 maintains this comprehensiveness for Sibelius 7.5 by adding the ability to export Sibelius’s gap before a measure.

The Dolet 6 for Sibelius plugin provides the only way to export MusicXML files from Sibelius 5 and Sibelius 6. Many people have also told us they prefer the Dolet plugin’s export to the built-in MusicXML export provided in Sibelius 7 or 7.5. This probably depends on the type of music you are exporting and the application that you are exporting to. If you are exporting MusicXML files from Sibelius 7, try our free Dolet plugin as well as Sibelius’s built-in export, and see which works best for you.

MakeMusic Joins Peaksware

Today we have announced that MakeMusic is joining Peaksware. Peaksware is the umbrella company owned by LaunchEquity Partners, the investment company that took MakeMusic private last year. The common thread at Peaksware is the focus on products that, like SmartMusic, help people develop skills and self-expression through deliberate practice.

For MusicXML, nothing will be changing. I will be staying with MakeMusic and continuing to guide MusicXML development and developer support. Both MusicXML and Finale are essential to creating our SmartMusic repertoire  and fit with the Peaksware strategic vision.

MusicXML remains the standard open format for digital sheet music interchange, with support from over 180 applications. We will continue to invest in both the MusicXML format and our own MusicXML software implementations. If you have any questions, feel free to ask on the MusicXML forum.

 

MusicXML Support Tops 180 Applications

Over the past few months, many new applications have added support for the MusicXML format. There are now more than 180 applications supporting MusicXML. The range of applications is widening as well as the number.

Here’s a quick overview of what we have added to the MusicXML software page in the past few days. Some of these are new products or releases. Others may have had MusicXML support earlier, but we just discovered that recently. The software page includes more information and links.

Both reading and writing MusicXML files:

  • Braille Music Markup Language (BMML) converters

Writing MusicXML files:

  • LiveScore music notation editing for Ableton Live (via MaxScore and Max for Live)
  • Melomics automatic composition software
  • MyScript Music SDK for handwritten music recognition
  • Opusmodus for script-based music composition

Reading MusicXML files:

  • Antescofo score-following software
  • Musicista software for computational musicology
  • PhonicScore digital sheet music display and score following software
  • Soundslice Player for web-based notation and guitar tablature

We have also added another site for MusicXML scores to our music page. Visaudio Designs provides designs for marching bands and percussion ensembles, including editable scores.

Do you have MusicXML software or a source of MusicXML scores that we don’t have listed on our site? Please let us know so we can add you to our lists and round out our picture of the MusicXML community. Feel free to post on the MusicXML forum, or contact us via Twitter or Facebook.

MusicXML at SF MusicTech and WWDC

sfmusictech15_siteheaderOver the next few weeks we will be attending two trade shows of interest to MusicXML developers. The first is the 15th SF MusicTech conference on May 20 at the Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco. Twice a year, Brian and Shosana Zisk do a great job gathering together a lively mix of musicians, music technologists, label and publisher representatives, entrepreneurs, lawyers, and business folks. I always learn new things and get an informative update on the current state of the music technology industry.

The attendee list for this month’s meeting so far includes people from MakeMusic, Sheet Music Plus, Alfred, Avid, Flowkey, Smule, Pono, and many other music technology innovators. Each time I go I try to organize a “music notation lunch” during the lunch break. We meet at the top of the stairs in the Hotel Kabuki lobby and then head out to one of the Asian restaurants (usually either Japanese or Korean-style Chinese) in the conference’s Japantown neighborhood.

Tickets are still available for the conference, but prices increase as the event draws closer. If you’re going, it would be great to meet you, whether at the notation lunch or some other time during the show. Feel free to message us on Twitter or Facebook so we can arrange something.

The second show we’ll be attending is WWDC, Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference being held June 2 – 6 at Moscone Center West in San Francisco. We’ll be there seeing what’s new for the Mac OS X and iOS platforms. With five days there should be plenty of time to get together. If you’re attending and would like to meet, please let us know so we can try to set something up.