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Experience using MusicXML as semantic format?

Moderator: Michael Good

Experience using MusicXML as semantic format?

Postby Jim DeLaHunt » Sun Oct 26, 2014 1:22 am

Hi, everyone:

I'm starting on a project, which I intend will result in a number of public-domain music works from the symphonic/opera tradition being transcribed — into a reusable, digital format which has solid semantic information. The goal is that a corpus of works, in this digital format, in the public domain, will be useful for music analysis, re-engraving into new and useful formats, presentation on electronic screens, and other innovative ends.

Obviously MusicXML is one candidate for this "reusable, digital format". MEI is another. Improvements to the formats might make them even better for the purpose. My general approach to such a choice is "both/and". If a format preserves semantic information robustly, it should be feasible for automation to convert it to another such format.

I'm interested in finding out about experiences others have had attempting to use build a corpus of works in MusicXML format, for semantic analysis and innovative re-use, rather than for interchange between engraving apps. Does anyone know of people who have tried this? Have they written of their experience? How well has MusicXML done as such a format?

There is good background reading in the back pages of this forum. Some of them talk about MusicXML's strengths and weaknesses as an archive format. That purpose is clearly related to the semantic reuse I'm concerned with, but it's not quite the same thing. Also, most of these threads are about how MusicXML might serve the purpose. They are not reports on having actually used MusicXML for that purpose, and how it went.

Also, the links in the Music in MusicXML page are nice jumping-off point for my research. If I can find a corpus of works in MusicXML format, maybe I can find a forum on the same site where I can ask the authors how well MusicXML served that purpose. Sadly, a few of the sites seem to be off the air, or don't have forums which I can reach easily.

So: I would appreciate pointers to experiences in this area. I think I am not the first person to try this. Thanks in advance for any suggestions.
--Jim DeLaHunt,
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Re: Experience using MusicXML as semantic format?

Postby Michael Good » Fri Oct 31, 2014 12:29 pm

Hi Jim,

In addition to the music sites listed on the music page, many publishers use MusicXML in just this way. When you see licensed interactive sheet music in a mobile or web app, it nearly always has gone through MusicXML at some point. I don't know of anything that has been published in this area, but it is a pretty common practice within sheet music publishing.

MusicXML is really the only practical choice given your goals for how you want the music used. MEI is a specialized format intended for scholars and controlled by scholars, and its use is generally limited to that small target audience. MusicXML has always been much more inclusive, aiming for use by all sorts of musicians: performers, composers, publishers, arrangers, teachers, students, engravers, copyists, musicologists, and more. Its vastly more widespread use and tool support reflects this fundamental difference in perspective.
Michael Good
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MakeMusic, Inc.
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