SmartMusic Finale Garritan MusicXML

XML for Music

Extensible Markup Language (XML) for Music Applications: An Introduction

Gerd Castan, Michael Good, and Perry Roland1

Reprinted with permission from The Virtual Score: Representation, Retrieval, Restoration, Walter B. Hewlett and Eleanor Selfridge-Field, eds., MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2001, pp. 95-102. Computing in Musicology 12. Copyright © 2001 Center for Computer Assisted Research in the Humanities.


Extensible Markup Language (XML), a subset of the Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML; ISO standard 8879 of 1986), is designed to make it easy to interchange structured documents over the Internet. Musical scores are considered here as structured documents.

This brief introduction describes XML’s general character and strengths, as well as its suitability for representing notated music as a structured document.

Many initiatives to use XML for the interchange of musical data are now underway. Specific implementations (for notation, analysis, and cataloguing of musical sources) are described in three succeeding articles, one by each of the authors.

1Individual addresses are found in the succeeding articles.