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MNML - The Musical Notation Markup Language

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'. 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.


The group's aim in defining the specification was to create a fairly straightforward text based description of music which would be allow Internet users to create, upload, view, download and edit musical pieces. MNML can be developed as a proposed extension of HTML or simply used as a standalone syntax.

A musical score thus coded can be transmitted over a network as a small text file and reconstructed in its entirety at the user's end through (typically) a World Wide Web browser. MNML-aware browsers will display the lyrics, proper notes, and staves in the traditional western music format. Non-MNML-aware browsers will still be able to convey a sense of the music, since the MNML format is readable.

This explicit design for the WWW, and the availability of software tools at an early stage, make this standard an interesting format. It should be noted though, that the standard (as it currently exists) is not fully comprehensive. MNML, as it stands, fully describes the basic melody and lyrics of a piece. Describing fully a musical score can be a complex task and the group's initial target is to "make MNML comprehensive enough to fully describe straight-forward single-instrument musical pieces. A standard musical piece for the piano is considered a straight-forward single-instrument musical piece."


This Group consists of Dr Tan Tin Wee, Mr Leong Kok Yong, Mr Peter Chiam Yih Wei and Mr Kartik Narayan


MNML was presented to top international Internet developers and leaders at the INet'96 Conference at Montreal. INet'96 was held in June 1996.

Delivering Music Notation Over the Internet
Kartik Narayan, Peter Chiam, Leong Kok Yong & TAN Tin Wee
Internet Research and Development Unit
National University of Singapore
  1. The submission text is available here.
  2. The powerpoint presentation is available here.

MNML was also a part of the Asia Pacific Networking Group conference in Singapore in February 1996.


IRDU has to date successfully completed several helper applications and utilities for this project. They are as follows:

Internet MNML-aware display engine
This display engine is used to translate MNML compliant files to musical notes on screen.

An application for creating, editing and saving musical pieces in MNML format. Available for Windows 3.x and Windows 95.


IRDU has come out with two versions of MNML. Click on the links to view the specifications:

MNML version 1.3
MNML version 2.0

Other resources

Music Notation Programs - a list in answer to a FAQ
DejaVu - A Distributed Hypermedia Application Framework
Jacco van Ossenbruggen's page
Anton Eliens's page
Csound, a manual for the audio processing system
Hush - a C++ API for Tcl/Tk (2.0)

Copyright © 1996 Internet R & D Unit.
Tan Tin Wee, Leong Kok Yong, Peter Chiam Yih Wei, Kartik Narayan