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Last modified: February 12, 2006
XML and Music

Markup Initiatives

Several initiatives have addressed the need for a standardized markup-based music notation. Some examples:

SMDL - Standard Music Description Language

SMDL standardization is organized by Working Group 3 of ISO/IEC JTC1/SC34 (Information Association). "The Standard Music Description Language (SMDL), an application of the HyTime Hypermedia/Time-based document structuring facilities, is described. The discussion covers the domains of information that SMDL associates with any piece of music, the timing of cantus events, pitch in cantus events, gamut-based pitches, just-intoned pitches, user-defined functions for pitches, chords and chord symbols, instrumental and vocal sounds, and non-western music." [from Steven R. Newcomb]


Music Encoding Initiative (MEI)

"The Music Encoding Initiative (MEI) DTD is an XML DTD for the representation and exchange of music information. It is designed to be comprehensive, that is, it provides ways to encode data from all the separate domains, i.e. logical, visual, gestural (performance), and analytical, commonly associated with music. In addition, the DTD accommodates bibliographic description that is required for archival uses. It also addresses relationships between elements, cooperative creation and editing of music markup, navigation within the music structure as well as to external multimedia entities, the inclusion of custom symbols, etc. Unlike other music representation schemes, MEI can record the scholarly textual apparatus frequently found in modern editions of music." [description from UVA]

[September 2002] The proposed Music Encoding Initiative (MEI) draws upon the design of the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) and other standards in its goal of creating a markup-based music encoding standard. The project is managed [2002-09] by Perry Roland (University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, USA 22903; WWW). The MEI notation is formalized in a 'Music Encoding Initiative (MEI) DTD' (alpha version .98a, 2002/09/07). "This XML DTD may be used for document representation and exchange of western common music notation (CMN) as used between ca. 1700 - ca. 1935. To paraphrase Gardner Read, the DTD should be used to record 'modern notational practices, not visual representation of archaic or incorrect practices'. If exact visual representation of non-standard music notation is required, digital images should be employed and related to the semantic information captured in the MEI file. Similarly, if a human performance is required, an external digital file should be related to, and perhaps synchronized with, the semantic information. In addition to music notation, this DTD provides the means to transcribe the scholarly apparatus typically found in a modern music edition. This DTD was originally called the Music Description Language (MDL) DTD. However, since there is already an MDL music file format, calling this DTD the MEI will (hopefully) avoid confusion...Users can assume, however, that the MEI DTD will undergo systematic and documented revision from draft stage to proposed standard. Comments and suggestions are welcome." See "The Music Encoding Initiative (MEI)," by Perry Roland (Digital Library Research & Development Group, University of Virginia Library). [cache DTD 2002-09]


MusicXML Definition

"MusicXML is a universal translator for common Western musical notation from the 17th century onwards. It is designed as an interchange format for notation, analysis, retrieval, and performance applications... The musical information is designed to be usable by notation programs, sequencers and other performance programs, music education programs, and music databases... MusicXML 0.8 adds support for chord symbol positioning, stem lengths, and slur inflection points. New link and bookmark elements make it easier to specify XLinks between MusicXML documents and other files. A new supports element clarifies whether absent elements such as beams are missing in the music, or unsupported by the software producing the MusicXML file..."

[October 21, 2002] MusicXML Definition. "Recordare has developed MusicXML technology to create an Internet-friendly method of publishing musical scores, enabling musicians and music fans to get more out of their online music. MusicXML is a universal translator for common Western musical notation from the 17th century onwards. It is designed as an interchange format for notation, analysis, retrieval, and performance applications. We have tried to learn from the mistakes of past interchange efforts by: (1) basing the format on the two strongest academic formats available, MuseData and Humdrum, and (2) testing the format by writing usable software from the beginning. The format is open for use by anyone under a royalty-free license. Today's MusicXML software can convert between several very different music formats, including Finale, SharpEye, TaBazar, Virtual Composer, and MuseData, and can easily be extended to others. This makes MusicXML the perfect candidate as the industry standard interface in printed music. The new book The Virtual Score, edited by Walter Hewlett and Eleanor Selfridge-Field, contains a chapter on MusicXML. A MusicXML tutorial for software developers is available in both HTML and PDF format, including a MusicXML FAQ. This is the easiest starting point for learning about MusicXML."

[November 07, 2000] Historical; see preceding. MusicXML. A communiqué from Michael Good (President, Recordare) reports that version 0.1 of the MusicXML DTD is now available for download from Recordare's web site at MusicXML "is designed to represent musical scores, specifically common western musical notation from the 17th century onwards. It is designed as an interchange format for notation, analysis, retrieval, and performance applications. MusicXML's design is based on the MuseData and Humdrum formats, two of the most significant pre-XML representation languages for musical scores. Humdrum explicitly represents the two-dimensional nature of musical scores by a 2-D layout notation. Since XML is a hierarchical format, we cannot do this directly. Instead, there are two top-level formats: (1) partwise.dtd, containing measures within each part, and (2) timewise.dtd, containing parts within each measure. Two XSLT stylesheets are provided to convert between the two formats. The partwise and timewise score DTDs represent a single movement of music. Multiple movements or other musical collections are represented using opus.dtd. The opus document contains XLinks to individual scores, and will evolve to include more detailed reference and musicological information. This version of MusicXML has been tested with software that (1) Reads from MuseData, NIFF, and Finale Enigma Transportable Files (2) Writes to Standard MIDI Files (Format 1), MuseData files, and the Sibelius and Finale applications. The MuseData coverage is 100% for both reading and writing. The other formats have more partial coverage." The project web site provides several other resources, including examples and detailed description of the MusicXML markup language. For example, see "Representing Music Using XML", Good's abstract for a poster session presented at the International Symposium on Music Information Retrieval October 23-25, 2000 Plymouth, Massachusetts. [cache]

[January 19, 2001] "A Complete MusicXML Example." "Mut" from Franz Schubert's Winterreise, D. 911. "Here is a complete MusicXML example of a classical song by Schubert. As a complete song for voice and piano, this example shows a lot of MusicXML's features, including how multi-voice, multi-staff parts are represented. This example was prepared from the Dover reprint of the 1895 Breitkopf & Härtel edition of the song, in its original tenor-friendly key of A minor. We entered the score into Finale 2001 for Windows, correcting a few errors in the original source. We then converted the Finale file into MusicXML using Recordare's prototype converter program. The metadata at the start of the XML file was manually edited to expand on what Finale provides. The converter then generated the MIDI file directly from the MusicXML file. We also converted the MusicXML file into MuseData format, showing how MusicXML can interchange musical scores between diverse programs and formats. There are different formats available, letting you see and hear the piece as well as how it is represented in MusicXML... (1) The MusicXML version; (2) The text version of the XML - use this instead of the XML with Netscape 6; (3) The interactive Finale Viewer version - requires Coda's Finale Viewer plugin; (4) The PDF version generated directly from Finale; (5) The MIDI version generated from MusicXML; (6) The voice part and piano part in MuseData format..." [cache]



"WEDELMUSIC is a XML compliant format that includes constructs for the description of integrated music objects. Digital music objects compliant with the WEDELMUSIC format are called WEDEL objects. These are focused on a specific music piece or concept. Each WEDEL object presents sections about its: identification, classification, protection, printing, symbolic music (fonts, formatting rules, versions), image score, performance, documents, lyric, audio, video, and color image..."

"The WEDELMUSIC model and language can be considered the XML evolution of MOODS format. With WEDELMUSIC several early problems of MOODS for music modeling have been solved, in addition WEDELMUSIC is a multimedia model. We do not claim to have solved all problems related to music notation modeling, but only to provide an effective framework that includes most music symbols and their relationships, and on the basis of which several new and innovative applications can be built and where some exceptions and several modeling problems highlighted in can be formalized... WEDELMUSIC format presents multimedia capabilities and includes identification, classification, symbolic, visual, versioning, printing, protection, image score, image, document, performance, video, lyric, aspects. It keeps separate visual/formatting and symbolic aspects. WEDELMUSIC format can be profitably used for new applications and as a format for interchanging symbolic description of music scores..."

"WEDELMUSIC allows publishers and consumers (theatres, orchestras, music schools, libraries, music shops, musicians) to manage interactive music; that is, music that can be manipulated: arranged, transposed, modified, reformatted, printed, etc., respecting copyright. It is an innovative support for preparing performances, studying music, analysing music, learning instruments, distributing music at low cost, etc. The same music objects will be available for traditional media and Braille..."


Enhanced Musical Notation Markup Language (EMNML)

EMNML was the subject of a thesis written by Eric Mosterd. From the abstract: "This thesis covers the issues regarding the transfer of sheet music via the Internet and the lack of a standard way to do so. Its primary focus is on both the need for such a standard and the subsequent development of a new, standard music notation markup language using eXtensible Markup Language (XML) called Extensible Music Notation Markup Language or EMNML. This new language can be used to send sheet music over the Internet without sacrificing its quality or content..."

There have been many attempts over the past two decades to develop a standard way to transmit sheet music via the Internet. Twenty years later, there still is no way to do so effectively and the need for such a standard still exists today... The first step in designing an XML solution for transporting sheet music via the Internet is to develop the Document Type Definition (i.e. language specification). Music Notation Markup Language (MNML) as well MusicML, xScore, and Music Markup Language (MML) serve as guides, in the development of a new music notation language called Extensible Music Notation Markup Language (EMNML). The purpose of EMNML is to offer all that is found in previously mentioned markup languages, yet be easy enough to use for musicians without a special editor or viewer. In EMNML, all of the tags and tag attributes are defined using common music naming conventions and nomenclature... The design goal of EMNML is to keep the musician in mind during the entire development process. In order to assure that this goal is achieved, musicians did usability testing of the EMNML DTD following the development of the initial version of the DTD... Through hours of research and testing, EMNML has proven that it is comprehensive enough to represent most types of sheet music notation. Usability testing has proven that most users find EMNML easy to work with, very readable, and easily learned with little or no documentation. Though EMNML still requires enhancements to its design, the foundations of a comprehensive and easily readable language for transporting sheet music via the Internet have been laid..." []excerpted]


eXtensible Score Language (XScore)

"The eXtensible Score Language (XScore) is an application of the eXtensible Markup Language (XML) for describing musical scores and capturing both their structure and content. Its goal is to provide a standard and generic way to store and transfer musical scores. The [draft version 0.01 document] is a complete description of XScore and its document type definition (DTD) with the exception of information that is found in other documents. An attempt was made to direct the reader to all necessary information found outside this document...A style sheet language must also be developed to fully make use of the extensibility of XScore. At least two style sheet languages must be created. One to describe how to print a score, and the other to convert the score in to MIDI. The MIDI style sheet language would actually be the easier of the two. Copyright: The original idea, and therefor the copyright, of the eXtensible Score Language (XScore) belongs to R. J. Grigaitis. Any person or company is here by given permission to use it with the condition that a copy of all software using this technology is given to R. J. Grigaitis for his personal use.."


OASIS Discussion List for Music Notation XML TC

OASIS has created a public email list for the purpose of discussing the creation of one or more Technical Committees related to machine-processable music notation. According to a draft proposal for discussion, the purpose of the Music Notation XML TC would be "to develop a standard XML format for common Western musical notation. Although there are clearly a number of applications for such an XML standard, the proposed TC would initially focus on an XML standard to serve as an interchange format for score writing, music notation editing, and music publishing products. Many music notation products are already using XML for either interchange or native data storage. For example, interchange between Sibelius and Finale can be done using the MusicXML format. A major goal of the TC would be to minimize migration issues for existing music applications moving to an OASIS music notation standard. The TC would expect to receive and build upon existing music notation XML applications such as MusicXML and MEI as contributions to its work. These applications date back to 2000 and reflect the DTD technology of the time. The work of the TC might include modernizing current applications to improve support for schemas, namespaces, and other W3C and OASIS standards." The discussion list will be active for a maximum of 90 days (through calendar year 2003), during which time the list participants will decide if there is sufficient interest to form an OASIS TC. Public participation in the discussion list is welcome.


Music and Lyrics Markup Language (4ML)

[March 03, 2001] A communiqué from Leo Montgomery describes current development of 4ML for music representation: "4ML is an XML-compliant Music and Lyrics Markup Language; development is supported on the SourceForge forum 'fourml', which provides a collection of example applications using the 4ML language." The design goal is to create "a single, flexible, platform-independant way to describe music and lyrics that can be used by musicians and programmers alike." 4ML is formally specified in an XML DTD. The developers envision a range of applications that might make use of music encoded in 4ML, for example: "(1) A song could be written on a standard musical staff; (2) The lyrics to a song, with accompanying simplified guitar chords, could be the output; (3) The song could be played over a speaker; (4) A MIDI file could be produced; (5) A song could be written as guitar tablature; (6) The lyrics could be shown on the screen, with a kareoke-syle bouncing ball." The developers welcome reviewer feedback on this XML application.


Music Markup Language (MML)

[September 2002] Music Markup Language (MML). "Music Markup Language (MML) is an attempt to mark music objects and events with an XML-based language. Marking such objects should enable managing music documents for various purposes, ranging from music theory and notation to practical performance. This project is not complete and a work in progress. The first draft of a possible DTD is available and a few examples are provided of music pieces marked with MML that result in well-formed as well as valid documents. The approach is modular. Many modules are still incomplete and need more research and attention... If a piece of music is marked by using MML it should be deliverable in at least the following formats: (1) Text -- presenting notes as, for example, 1C:4 (i.e., quarter note C in the first octave); (2) Block bars or piano-roll (such as found in computer sequencer software); (3) CWN: Common Western Notation (either on screen or on paper); (4) MIDI-device -- i.e., played on a synthesizer, or controlling music processors. With MML it should be possible to 'sequence' a piece of music without having to use expensive software... MML is not intended to replace MIDI, but to add value to it. MIDI is not human-friendly except through a friendly user interface. MML at least uses human language elements so it is easier to understand than MIDI. MML is envisaged as a universal layer supplying a common language that can be understood by different devices, including MIDI devices... See the XML DTD (also in HTML format). [cache DTD]


FlowML: A Format for Virtual Orchestras

[April 10, 2000] FlowML: A Format for Virtual Orchestras. Bert Schiettecatte (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) reports on the development of an XML-based format for musical notations - 'FlowML'. "FlowML is a format for storing audio synthesis diagrams, as used in various software synthesizers. It offers a way to store synthesis instruments as a graph of reusable synthesis blocks (defined in the format specification). It differs from existing languages for audio synthesis like CSound, because it is not a programming language, but a data format. The format is also interesting for hardware synthesizer companies, it would allow prototyping of synthesizers at no cost." FlowML is described in an online document which proposes this "format for storing synthesis diagrams and their supporting mechanisms. Such a standard format is necessary to allow exchange of virtual musical instruments between several (non-)realtime software synthesizers, and to publish synthesis diagrams on the WWW." See the QOrchestra project on SourceForge. [cache]



[April 11, 2000] MusiXML, from Gerd Castan. A communiqué from Gerd Castan describes an experimental implementation of MusiXML -- a music notation format that is based on XML. Gerd writes: "I made an experimental implementation that uses XML schema (draft of 25-February-2000); it works with Oracle's experimental parser implementation in java (version 0.9 alpha) [It represents] a non trivial hands-on application of XML schema. MusiXML could be helpful for others who need examples [of XSchema]." The MusiXML web page references the XML DTD and a corresponing example instance. There is also an XML schema and an example instance. [cache]



'A Musical Application Standard Using the XML Language for Intelligent Manufacturing of Music for CDs, DVDs, Web'. The IPC (D. Baggi) and the RPC for Europe (G.Haus) have proposed to the Standard Activity Board (SAB) of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers 'Project Authorization Request 1599', "Definition of a Commonly Acceptable Musical Application Using the XML Language", which was approved by IEEE SAB on September, 2001. "The Standard proposes the realization of a universally accepted way of encoding sound, music, symbolic representation of sound and music, music notation and the like, thus satisfying acute needs for WEB and network distribution, CD-ROMs, DVDs, etc. Moreover, it will serve to describe and process all different layers of music information. While there exist de-facto Standards for some particular layers only -- such as MIDI for performance, NIFF for notation, and some proprietary formats -- none of them can be applied to other layers. The XML language will be used as meta-representation, description and processing tool for music information in a multi-layered environment, to join layers corresponding to structural, symbolic, score, MIDI, digital sounds, and as an integrating tool for already defined and accepted common Standards for music representation. In practice, within the Standard, several new applications will be developed that will be open, extensible, intelligent and capable of integrating existing technology. This will require a lot of effort and time, since the work on this Standard is not about definitions, but about realizing new software..." [from the IMS Program Abstract]

"The Inter Regional Secretariat has advised that abstract 02002 MUSIC-XML has been unanimously endorsed by all the IMS Regions in accordance with the procedure agreed upon by the IMS International Steering Committee... Music-XML is an unusual project for IMS. It's purpose is to develop a musical application standard using XML for intelligent manufacturing of music media, for example CDs, DVDs and Internet web sites. With this project, IMS will contribute to a world-wide standard for the manufacture, distribution, and use of e-Music in all its forms: sound, music, symbolic representation of sound and music, music notation, as well as joining and integrating layers corresponding to structural, symbolic, score, MIDI, and other representations of sounds and music, processing and manufacturing. This standard will enable the supply of music on-demand in many forms while protecting the intellectual property rights of the creators and owners of the music..." [summary 16-December-2002 from IMS Canada]


ChordML, Actos, and ChordQL

"ChordML is an XML application for representing music synoptically. ChordML is human-readable and stores chords, lyrics, repetition and metainformation about a music. ChordML does not intend to be a notational format that describes a music completely. Instead, it narrows its objectives essentially capturing music chords. It suits the need of musicians that need just an abbreviated notation, and tools that can operate with such information. This simplicity encourages the utilization of the standard by different applications. It also allows the analisys of certain aspects of music, like chord progressions and patterns... Actos is a a Peer-to-Peer (P2P) application developed in Java that uses the JXTA open platform. ChordML was conceived as a means to document music in a standard, portable, non-proprietary and scalable format... ChordQL, also an XML language, is a query language for querying chord sequences. ChordQL queries are interpreted by a query processor. The query processor compares a query with a (ChordML) music and responds either with a match or a no-match answer. ChordQL allows the users to express queries of chord sequences using the key names (A7, F#/A#, etc) or grades relative to the key, represented in roman numbers (I, ii, IV64, etc). Internally, Actos' chord query processor transforms the query to Regular Expressions using XSLT and applies it to each music instance returning either a 'match' or 'no match' answer. Besides performing exact chord matches, queries can contain attributes that instruct Actos' chord query processor to disregard chord inversions, major/minor modes or other chord suffixes in the notation..."

[January 14, 1999] Gustavo Frederico wrote a simple XML DTD for ChordML - "The purpose of it is to define a way for people to exchange simple music with simple lyrics and chords." [XML-DEV posting]



"XChords is utility for converting XML guitar chord definitions to SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) images and then further to JPEG/PNG/TIFF/PDF documents. Project includes XML Schema and/or DTD. It uses XSLT as the main engine (XSLT->SVG)..." License: GNU Library or Lesser General Public License (LGPL).

"[Some] technical aspects about XChords: (1) Application accepts XML in special format — XChords XML. DTD is written, XML Schema is written; (2) The XChords XML is processed by XSLT processor three times; (3) First two transformations do translation into semiformat known as XChords Draw XML; (4) Third transformation is straightforward from semiformat into SVG, could be further customized for really different graphic styles for instance; (5) Resulting SVG graphics has also some CSS styles, so it can be also customized a little...."


Notation Interchange File Format (NIFF)

NIFF (Notation Interchange File Format) is a "data-description standard for musical notation. It is the result of more than two years collaboration between major music software publishers and experts in the field of music notation/representation. The standard is open and non-proprietary. NIFF (.NIF) files allow for accurate exchange of music notation pages between various music software programs, independent of computer platform type. NIFF files include graphical object and page layout as well as MIDI performance information... Up to now, MIDI files have been the de facto standard for exchange of music data between programs. For playback, that is fine..." []

Notation Interchange File Format (NIFF) - "The NIFF (Notation Interchange File Format) was completed in the Autumn of 1995. It is a standard digital format for the representation of musical notation. NIFF allows the interchange of music notation data between and among music notation editing and publishing programs and music scanning programs. NIFF aims to be the notational equivalent of the Midi file standard. It is a non- proprietary format available without licensing fees. Its design is a result of combined input from many commercial music software developers, music publishers, and experienced music software users. As of the date of publication of this specification, a European Community music library project currently underway will result in a bridge between SMDL and NIFF."


MuTaTeD! - Music Tagging Type Definition

[April 11, 2000] MuTaTeD! - Music Tagging Type Definition. 'A project to provide a meta-standard for music mark-up by integrating two existing music standards.' The project objectives are to: (1) provide a proof of concept for the integration of two existing music representation standards: SMDL and NIFF; (2) to develop an SMDL DTD; (3) to link general structures of music to NIFF elements for display; (4) to develop a web-application as a demonstrator; (5) to provide appropriate dissemination instruments..." Contact: Carola Boehm. [cache]



[March 07, 1998] MusicML - An XML Experience. From: Jeroen van Rotterdam. "A simple MusicML Applet which reads a MusicML document parses it with the microsoft xml parser and then parses the document tree to display it on a lightweight component. . . For fun and research we wrote MusicML . . . MusicML is, for non commercial usage, free available (dtd, java source included) for the XML community." With a DTD for MusicML. Or try: [DTD, local archive copy, docs]


Musical Notation Markup Language (MNML)

The Musical Notation Markup Language (MNML) - "MNML (Musical Notation Mark-up Language) is an initiative of the Internet Research and Development Unit (IRDU) of the National University of Singapore. In late November 1995, IRDU formed the 'Music Group'. This Group consists of Dr Tan Tin Wee, Mr Leong Kok Yong, Mr Peter Chiam Yih Wei and Mr Kartik Narayan. The groups main purpose is to develop a mark-up language like HTML for transferring of musical pieces over the Internet. In essence, their proposed draft Musical Notation Mark-up Language specification is a much simplified version of SMDL." [local archive copy] See also the abstract of the 1996 INet '96 paper (local copy) and the Version 2.0 Syntax Specification (local copy).


General References

  • "Music Notation Application Requirements and MPEG Technology." By Paolo Nesi (DSI, University of Firenze), Giorgio Zoia (EPFL), Pierfrancesco Bellini (DSI, University of Firenze), and Jerome Barthelemy (IRCAM). "Several products are currently available in the market that present some form of integration of music notation and multimedia (see some examples in the following of this document). These products are in the area of music education (notation tools integrating multimedia), music management in libraries (music tools integrating multimedia for navigation and for synchronization), karaoke (mainly synchronization between sound, text and symbolic information), etc. The integration of music notation in MPEG could completely satisfy the requirements of these tools and much more than that, adding: interoperability, portability for i-TV and mobile devices, scalability of complexity, etc., permitting to these tools to integrate the powerful model of MPEG for multimedia modeling, representation, coding and playback... It should be understood that 'music notation' in this document means all kinds of symbolic music notation, including different styles of Gregorian Chant, Renaissance, Classic, Romantic and 20th Century styles, simplified notations for children, Braille and other forms yet to be invented. The importance of a reactivation of writing in music should not be underestimated. The repercussions would have a wide effect on music education and on the development of music as a whole. This, in turn, would be of great long term benefit to the music industry, quite apart from the applications, mentioned in this document, which can be written and sold in the shorter term..." See: MUSICNETWORK: The Interactive Music Network. IST EC Project. Started August 2002.

  • [September 28, 2002] "Framework for a Music Markup Language." By Jacques Steyn. Paper presented at MAX 2002 - International Conference Musical Application using XML, September 19 - 20, 2002. "Objects and processes of music that would be marked with a markup language need to be demarcated before a markup language can be designed. This paper investigates issues to be considered for the design of an XML-based general music markup language. Most present efforts focus on CWN (Common Western Notation), yet that system addresses only a fraction of the domain of music. It is argued that a general music markup language should consider more than just CWN. A framework for such a comprehensive general music markup language is proposed. Such a general markup language should consist of modules that could be appended to core modules on a needs basis... What is lacking is an HTML-like music markup language; one that is as simple, yet powerful enough. Creating such a language has become possible after the introduction of XML, but there is as yet no widely accepted language for music, and those that have been introduced focus only on small and particular subsets of CWN (Common Western Notation). Known attempts of XML-based music markup languages are: 4ML (Leo Montgomery), FlowML (Bert Schiettecatte), MusicML (Jeroen van Rotterdam), MusiXML (Gerd Castan), and MusicXML (Michael Good), all of which focus on subsets of CWN. ChordML (Gustavo Frederico) focuses on simple lyrics and chords of music. MML ('Music Markup Language', Jacques Steyn) is the only known attempt to address music objects and events in general. In this paper I will investigate the possible scope of music objects and processes that need to be considered for a comprehensive or general music markup language that is XML-based. The proposed general music markup language, in this case MML, is a work in progress and far from complete. It is possible that further modules will be introduced, or that the organization of modules change due to practical demands. But even in its incomplete state it presently seems to be the only XML-based attempt to describe a very large scope of the domain of music. Other current attempts at marking music focus on a subset of CWN, which is useful in the early days of an XML-based markup language addressing music issues, but which do not address important issues such as performed music or playlists. Hopefully MML can serve as a basis for future joint efforts to comprehensively describe music using XML as basis..." Also available in printable HTML and PDF. [cache, conference reference]

  • [September 28, 2002] "Towards a Symbolic/Time-Based Music Language Based on XML." By Goffredo Haus and Maurizio Longari (LIM-DSI, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milano, Italy). "The representation of Symbolic Music Information is the fundamental element of Music Information Processing. Among the several approaches developed in history the markupped one seems to be the most promising. Starting from SMDL, some XML proposals are briefly analyzed. We present our approach of layered representation of Symbolic Music Information based on the space-time organization of events. Our model splits music information in layers of representation and takes the symbolic one as the gravity center. Moreover, the symbolic layer contains a space-time structure by means of which all other layers are brought together. Then we discuss other XML standard that can be usefully related to the XML representation of music information, such as security and vector graphics standards. Lastly, we deal with some open problems in the field of music processing that might be of interest for our view of symbolic representation..." See the paper abstracts for the MAX 2002 International Conference (Musical Application using XML). [cache]

  • [September 28, 2002] "The Music Encoding Initiative (MEI)." By Perry Roland (Digital Library Research & Development Group, University of Virginia Library). Paper presented at MAX 2002 - International Conference Musical Application using XML, September 19 - 20, 2002. State University of Milan, Italy. ['This paper draws parallels between the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) and the proposed Music Encoding Initiative (MEI), reviews existing design principles for music representations, and describes an Extensible Markup Language (XML) document type definition (DTD) for modeling music notation which attempts to incorporate those principles.'] "... TEI is mute regarding the 'proper' way to compose text. Even when texts are initially created using the TEI DTD, they are still essentially transcriptions of an ur-text. Similarly, the MEI does not attempt to encode all musical expression, but instead limits itself to the written form of music, i.e., common music notation (CMN). Like the TEI, the MEI must also remain unconcerned with how music is created. It is not primarily an aid to musical composition just as the TEI does not function as an aid in the creation of text. Some may see the adoption of CMN as the basis for encoding as too limiting. Legitimate arguments could be made for an entirely new form of music notation for the purpose of electronic transcription. However, common music notation is applicable to a wide range of contemporary and, perhaps more importantly, historical music. It has been eloquently described by Selfridge-Field as 'the cornerstone of all efforts to preserve a sense of the musical present for other and later performers and listeners'. Given its expressiveness, extensibility, nearly universal usage, and longevity, there seems to be little reason not to adopt CMN as the starting point for the MEI. The fact that the MEI fundamentally conceives of music as notation does not limit its usefulness for encoding performance and analytical information. While it cannot rival a human rendition, a basic performance suitable for many purposes may be mechanically derived from the notation. Of course, any additional information necessary to complete this process may also be encoded. Likewise, descriptive and critical information may be included to assist bibliographic and analytical applications. Ultimately, a limited scope makes the design of a representation easier. For example, both the pitch and rhythm models can be greatly simplified when non-CMN requirements are not considered... Because progress toward an encoding standard for music notation is much more feasible when not locked into constant re-invention of past wheels, large parts of the design of the MEI DTD are drawn from existing standards. On the largest scale, the MEI is modeled upon the TEI. At lower levels, the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) system is used to record pitch information, performancespecific data is encoded using elements which have similar names and functions as those in the Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) standard, most of the mark up for text is designed to be familiar to users of HTML, and TEI header and Dublin Core elements form the basis of the meta-data components. Of course, the Unicode standard underlies the character encoding model for XML, obviating the need to re-invent special character encoding schemes. Finally, while it is not a formal standard, a well-known, authoritative source [Gardner Read, Music Notation: A Manual of Modern Practice, 2nd ed., 1979] has been used as the basis for the grammar for music notation parts of the MEI..." [cache, conference reference]

  • [April 10, 2003] "Transforming XML Into Music Notation." By Baron Schwartz. A Thesis in TCC402. Presented to the Faculty of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia. In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. April 10, 2003. 130 pages. "This thesis project tested whether an XML (Extensible Markup Language) encoding of musical data can be transformed into printed music notation. The encoding format is called MEI, the Music Encoding Initiative, and is intended to become a framework for encoding musical data to enable storage, retrieval, and transmission. Because music notation requires a superset of the information needed for most other purposes, successful transformation into music notation indicates that the MEI format represents enough information about musical data to be useful for other purposes. The thesis also analyzes the design of the MEI format, and suggests design techniques, such as variations on stylesheet languages, that may result in a more flexible, extensible format." proposal abstract, 'Transforming Electronically Encoded Music': "With the advent of the computer as a tool for information storage and retrieval came the problem of representing data. Satisfactory formats for representing text and other information have been created, but representing music has proven more difficult. Many formats exist, but all are limited and some are proprietary. The success of XML in exibly and adequately representing many types of data has prompted research into using it for music. This project will examine the feasibility of transforming an XML representation of music into common musical notation. The goals are to clarify the separation of content and presentation, and to contribute to the search for a good XML representation of music." Further information at the thesis home page. [cache]

  • "Transforming XML Into Music Notation." Presentation by Baron Schwartz (Computer Science), Perry Roland (Digital Library), and Worthy Martin (Computer Science). 18 slides. Discusses the motivation for the thesis project, the MEI file format and research objectives, and XML and XSLT: Project Motivation; MEI and Research Objectives; XML and XSLT; A Sample Transformation; Results and Conclusions... Here's an overview of the transformation process. I used XSLT, which is a programming language designed for XML transformations, to transform MEI into another format, Mup. I needed this intermediate format because typesetting music notation is very hard. I chose Mup because it's fairly simple, but produces good results. The whole process looks like this: I began with MEI files and a script written in XSLT. I fed these into an XSLT processor, which applied the script to the MEI file and output the result to a Mup file. I then used Mup to generate notation from this file... The result is a successful proof of the MEI concept. MEI can represent notation, which requires a lot of information about music. I have created a formal specification that describes how to translate MEI syntax into Mup syntax. This could also be done with other languages. Since MEI can store enough information to generate notation, it is probably useful for other purposes as well. This is an exciting result. It means that MEI could become the universal format we need. The future might include some changes to the MEI format, transformations to other formats, and transformations to MEI from other formats. MEI could also be used as the native file format for software such as notation editors..." See also the thesis home page.

  • [July 22, 1999] "Common music notation and computers: SMDL, NIFF, DARMS, GUIDO, abc." From Gerd Castan.

  • CMN (Common Music Notation) - "a free western music notation package written in Common Lisp."

Updates: Music Markup Events

Music Notation Workshop: XML based Music Notation Solutions. September 16 - 17, 2003. University of Leeds, Leeds, UK.

  • A workshop is co-located with the Third WEDELMUSIC Conference (2003) and with the MUSICNETWORK Second Open Workshop (2003)
  • "The modelling of music notation is an extremely complex problem. Music notation is a complex piece of information, which may be used for several different purposes: audio coding, music sheet production, music teaching, entertainment, music analysis, content query, etc... Specific new functionalities are foreseen and need to be supported by a suitable Music notation model. This will be a XML model including support for: (1) Structuring music notation for modelling exceptions: main score and parts, music analysis, transposing, etc. (2) Structuring music notation and modelling: score and parts, staves, instruments, transposing, etc. (3) Music notation elements low level: identification of glyphs and single symbols (notehead, stem, flag, beam, barline, clefs, accidentals, slurs); (4) Music notation elements high level: elements groups (note, bars, beamed group, motives, phrases, sections)..."
  • Workshop web site with preliminary agenda. [cache]

MAX 2002 - International Conference Musical Application Using XML. September 19 - 20, 2002. State University of Milan, Italy.

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