Music Symbol Design Grid

There are many cultural music writing systems. Common Western Music Notation (CWMN) is the most widely used system. A univeral music markup language should allow translation of music events and objects between these different music writing systems. All writing systems are approximations of the complexity of music events, and typically serve as cues for memory. Some systems can handle much more complex music than others. Some, for example, can handle only single instruments. CWMN can handle many different instruments in the same song.

It should be obvious that translating between the different music writing systems will be handicapped. For example, if a song is marked with a very simple monotone music writing system, it will be impossible to add nuances of complexity. Scaling up will thus be imposible. On the other hand, if a song is marked with a powerful writing system such as CWMN, auite a lot of informaiton will be lost when translating this into a simpler music writing system.

Translating between systems is, however, not impossible. It is envisaged that MML allows for translating between the different music writing systems.


Translating between different cultural music writing systems via Music Space.

The method used in MML is to base a music markup language's descriptive framework on Music Space, which is an abstract coordinate system. A song described in terms of MML, can be translated into any music writing system by means of a filter system that contains the specific music objects and symbols of the target writing system.

The filtering system contains sets of the symbols of different music writing systems. Presently there is no such system. Unicode does not even include all the possible music symbols of CWMN, let alone those of other writing systems. Adventurous music composers often introduce new descriptive systems. To allow for this, MML introduces a music symbol design grid. It is based on the principles of font design. In order to scale properly, resulting symbols are vector-based. SVG is used.

Each symbols is designed on a design grid, that is coordinate based. In MML, even the size of the Design Grid can be specified.

When designing a new symbol,the user first specifies the dimensions of the grid by defining the size in terms of number of columns and rows. A point is selected as the anchor in order to serve as positioning device for the target parent box.

Different SVG properties, such as line, polyline, and circle can then be used to draw a symbol on the grid.

Child properties such as strokewidth, stroke color, angle, length, and others can be used to change partial properties of the symbol.

The structure of a symbols is thus described. In keeping with good SGML design, the style of a symbol is handled separately by a style sheet. In the application, by applying a different style sheet, the properties can then be adapted and rendered according to the new style specifications. This means that features such as colour, thickness, length, etc can esaily be manipulated by applying different style sheets.

Here are some music symbols that Damon O'Neil designed based on the above approach. In each case the appearance of a symbol is made different by either changing the design grid, or by changing some style sheet features.

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1999, 2000, 2006, 2007 Author: Jacques Steyn