Choose Names Based on the Application Domain

Wherever possible, MusicXML chooses the names for its elements and attributes based on musical terms, not terms specific to computers or to a particular computer application. Of course, the names of terms differ across different languages. In the case of music, the terminology for note durations is very different between the English used in the USA and the UK. MusicXML’s names generally use terms as expressed in English from the USA.

However, MusicXML is representing symbolic music for use with computer applications, and sometimes computer terminology is unavoidable. MIDI is particularly pervasive for playback of music in symbolic format. In some cases, MusicXML adopts MIDI terminology directly. More often, though, the musical concept is defined a bit more broadly, but with reference to how this corresponds to the MIDI version of the same concept. This generality has already paid off in application adoption. The Notion program is one of the first symbolic music programs not to use MIDI internally for playback. It became the first program to support MusicXML ahead of MIDI, in part because MusicXML mapped more closely to Notion’s key application concepts than MIDI did.

MusicXML represents musical pitch with a <pitch> element, measures with a <measure> element, and so on. Compare this to SMDL’s usage of foreign terminology like cantus and gamut, or NIFF’s focus on the graphical elements of notation rather than the musical elements – so much so that NIFF includes no direct representation of musical pitch (Good, 2001).


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