Wikimedia Blog/Drafts/Adding musical scores

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Sound and musical content has long trailed behind other subjects on Wikipedia, but that is beginning to change with a new musical scores extension for MediaWiki, the software running Wikipedia. The Score extension was added to a MediaWiki deployment earlier this year and allows users to render musical scores as PNG images and transform them into audio and MIDI files.

Score utilizes the free music-engraving program Lilypond to produce musical notations and insert them into wiki code. This code is then passed on to a Lilypond renderer, which produces images that can be uploaded onto Wikipedia articles. "This is somewhat similar to the way mathematical formulas are rendered in Wikipedia," said Markus Glaser, a Wikimedian who helped develop the extension and gave a presentation on musical scores at Wikimania in 2012. Glaser said it made sense to use Lilypond because, in addition to being free and open source, "It's text-based, can be easy, but possesses the complexities needed to fit the needs of advanced and professional notation."

Over time, the hope is to expand on this extension and grow it into a viable resource, encouraging music teachers, music historians and the musicology community to come and use Score to share their knowledge.

“Studying music on the Internet is something that remains a bit confusing and fragmented. If you are after a musical performance, you can try and hunt one down on YouTube, Spotify or other similar sites," said Chris Keating, Chair of Wikimedia UK and an amateur violinist, who explained how many of the necessary tools to analyze music still remain largely absent on the Internet. "If you're after free sheet music, you will probably end up looking on IMSLP. And finally, if you want to read about something, say, music theory, you are likely to come to Wikipedia.”

After setup, users can embed simple LilyPond notation into wikitext using score tags.

Using the score extension, Keating added the opening bars to Johann Sebastian Bach's Sonata No. 1 in G minor, BWV 1001 from the Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin series. "It took me about 45 minutes to figure out, from scratch, how to do 8 bars of unaccompanied Bach violin music," said Keating.

Keating said that a Wikipedia article is great for understanding why and how a song was written, for whom it was written and whether it was successful or a flop, well-received or controversial. But, he argued, "It is impossible to convey a piece of music without sound - whether it's Beethoven or Lady Gaga, words will never suffice. If you want to examine a musical theme, or illustrate point of harmony or expression, it's impossible without using musical notation."

Keating pointed to the musical triads article as an example of the process Wikipedians have had to rely on, where they combine musical notation and sound samples together to explain a musical concept. "Editors working on this have had to create the music notation and sounds in an external application, upload them to Wikimedia Commons, and then insert them into the file," he said. "People have done that to good effect. But until very recently it has literally been easier to contribute to the Wikimedia projects in Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs than in the music notation millions of people use every day."

Glaser said with Lilypond notation, editing scores, correcting mistakes and improving musical notation will be easier. "A good start might be to replace images of musical notation with scores," he said, but "it needs to be considered be whether Wikipedia editors will find this ok. Better drop a note on the discussion page first."

Lyrics can also be added, as shown above.

Another issue that Score addresses is copyright. Many recordings are under restrictive copyright and cannot be added to Wikipedia. That includes recordings of public domain compositions. "Recordings of a particular public domain piece may be available, but they may not be in the public domain themselves. For some pieces, there may be no recordings at all, as that can require resources up to, and including, a full orchestra," said Wikisource contributor Adam B. Morgan. "A computer generated performance, as created by Score, may not have the full versatility of a human performance, but it is free of copyright. This might be the only way to freely hear some pieces of music."

Morgan noted that Score would be nice for the British national anthem God Save the King (as it was in 1917), but it would be even more valuable for pieces that are not nearly as easy to find, such as the anthems of now defunct nations like Imperial Japan or Tsarist Russia.

Morgan hopes the new resource will transform the types of contributions that editors can make to Wikimedia projects. "The score extension opens up new possibilities for Wikimedia," he said. "As part of making the sum of all human knowledge available to all, Wikimedia can now make the the sum of all human music available as well."

(Special thanks to Wikimedia volunteers Brian Wolff, GrafZahl, Markus Glaser, Beau, Anja Ebersbach, River Tarnell, Johannes E. Schindelin, as well as Tim Starling and the other WMF staffers who worked on this. You can find LilyPond notation documentation here. Additional thanks to Chis Keating, Markus Glaser, Adam B Morgan, Sumana Harihareswara and Carlos Monterrey for their contributions to this blog post.)

Matthew Roth
Global Communications Manager, Wikimedia Foundation

Tentative title: Adding musical scores to Wikimedia[edit]

    • Chris - start **

"Sound and music have long trailed behind other kinds of content on Wikipedia. However, this new feature has the potential to revolutionize how encyclopedias handle music," says Chris Keating, Chair of Wikimedia UK and a keen amateur violinist.

"Studying music on the Internet is something that remains a little confusing and fragmented. If you are after a musical performance, you can of course try to hunt one down on YouTube or Spotify. If you're after free sheet music, you will probably end up looking on IMSLP. And finally, if you want to read about something - perhaps are trying to understand a point about music theory, technique, or the context to a piece of music, singer or composer - you are likely to come to Wikipedia.

"Part of the reason music is difficult to pin down on one web page is that to understand it, or to describe if, you need a mixture of sounds, words, and musical notation. It's impossible to convey a piece of music without sound - whether it's Beethoven or Lady Gaga, words will never suffice. But to understand why and how something was written, for whom, whether it was global platinum single or caused a riot on its first performance - that requires the written word. Finally, if you want to examine a musical theme, or illustrate point of harmony or expression, then it becomes difficult to do it without using musical notation."

"Wikipedia's always tried to bring musical notation into its article. If you look at the article on musical triads, for instance, there's a great example of using musical notation and sound samples together to explain a musical concept. However, this has until now been really difficult to do. Editors working on this have had to create the music notation and the sounds in an external application, upload them to Wikimedia Commons, and then insert them into the file. People have done that to good effect. But until very recently it has literally been easier to contribute to the Wikimedia projects in Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs than in the music notation millions of people use every day."


    • Chris - end **
    • Markus - start**

so I am more like a sidekick in this whole scores game :) In 2012, Anja Ebersbach and I discovered there's an extension for musical notation for MediaWiki, but it's not deployed on Wikimedia wikis like Wikipedia. So we decided to raise some awareness and submitted a talk for Wikimania [1].

I still think that musical notation is very important, since this is the "language", if you want, for a whole culture and it could up till then only be represented via images. However, a real representation makes it more wiki-like: people can collaborate on it, improve the notation and make some derivative work, e.g. playing it as a sound. Not only on Wikipedia, but on its sister projects. Take Wikisource for example: Why not conserve all the works of the classical masters there? This is perfectly a part of Wikimedia's mission, to share the knowledge of the world.

The score extension, that was already there and originally developed by GrafZahl, is a kind of wrapper. You put Lilypond notation in the wiki code. This is passed on to a Lilypond renderer which gives you back the images we then see in the articles. This is somewhat similar to the way mathematical formulae are rendered in Wikipedia. Why use Lilypond as a format? It's text-based, can be easy, but has all the complexity needed to fit to the needs of advanced and professional notation. And it's open source. And it's a quasi standard. There are two alternatives I am aware of: ABC, which is easy to write but has a lot of limitations on what scores you can write, and MusicTeX. People seem to prefer Lilypond over MusicTeX for its beautiful rendering [2], and because it's easier to read. However, that seems to be a matter of choice, afaik.

Currently, I see very little use of Scores in the Wikipedias, which is kind of sad. It may be that there are still some peculiarities, so every so often, if you use a Lilypond editor like Frescobaldi and copy the scores to Wikipedia, it just gives you error messages. So I think that still needs some improvement. If I do find time, I'd love to look into that myself, but as usual, this is a question of resources ;)

  • Markus - end*
  • ABM - start

Of course, there is more to Wikimedia than just an encyclopedia. Wikisource, the digital library, can use Score to record and disseminate every piece of music in the public domain. Take, for example, God Save the King (as it was in 1917). The British national anthem is made available to any who wish to know the lyrics or tune, to play it for them selves, or just to hear how it sounds. Of course, this piece is widely available. However, what about the anthems of now defunct nations, such as Imperial Japan or Tsarist Russia?

Another thing to consider is that copyright applies to performances as well as the written music. Recordings of a particular public domain piece may be available, but they may not be in the public domain themselves. For some pieces, there may be no recordings at all, as that can require resources up to, and including, a full orchestra. A computer generated performance, as created by Score, may not have the full versatility of a human performance, but it is free of copyright. This might be the only way to freely hear some pieces of music. This might be the only way to hear some pieces by any means.

The score extension opens up new possibilities for Wikimedia. As part of making the sum of all human knowledge available to all, Wikimedia can now make the the sum of all human music available as well.

  • ABM - end


I. What you can do now

a. example - music history, public domain stuff by a famous composer
b. different example - educational, showing the differences between styles?

(Ideas: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Page:A_Dictionary_of_Music_and_Musicians_vol_1.djvu/24 , https://fr.wikisource.org/wiki/Page:Barzaz_Breiz,_huiti%C3%A8me_%C3%A9dition.djvu/641 )

II. How to do it

a. basic notation: "a b c" turns into a stave
b. point to more references

III. What we'd like next

 ?

Better docs, like addition at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style/Music ?

IV. Thanks

Names of volunteers & staff, and links

Notes[edit]

      • Chris - start **

Sound and music have long trailed behind other kinds of content on Wikipedia. However, a new feature has the potential to revolutionize how encyclopedias handle music.

Studying music on the Internet is something that remains a little confusing and fragmented. If you are after a musical performance, you can of course try to hunt one down on YouTube or Spotify. If you're after free sheet music, you will probably end up looking on IMSLP. And finally, if you want to read about something - perhaps are trying to understand a point about music theory, technique, or the context to a piece of music, singer or composer - you are likely to come to Wikipedia.

Part of the reason music is difficult to pin down on one web page is that to understand it, or to describe if, you need a mixture of sounds, words, and musical notation. It's impossible to convey a piece of music without sound - whether it's Beethoven or Lady Gaga, words will never suffice. But to understand why and how something was written, for whom, whether it was global platinum single or caused a riot on its first performance - that requires the written word. Finally, if you want to examine a musical theme, or illustrate point of harmony or expression, then it becomes difficult to do it without using musical notation.

-how the music extension brings this together & complements PD performances - how it helps explain music theory - why all this will make a difference to music students


    • Chris - end **


Aim to highlight Wikimedia's new usage of Score with a WMF blog post that points to specific scores on Wikisource, Wikipedia, and any other project that's using them. I hope this post will also be suitable for circulating to music teachers, music historians, and the musicology community to encourage them to come and use Score to share their knowledge and archives with us. And in this post I'd like to also link to LilyPond notation documentation, and thank volunteers Brian Wolff, GrafZahl, Markus Glaser, Beau, Anja Ebersbach, River Tarnell, Johannes E. Schindelin, and the WMF staffers who worked on this.

Link to https://en.wikisource.org/w/index.php?title=Wikisource:Scriptorium&curid=16060&diff=4403100&oldid=4403088 .

"Adding a music module which would have a text input and could produce scores... This would really help for music articles" https://bugzilla.wikimedia.org/show_bug.cgi?id=189 You might have heard about the progress on this at last year's Wikimania: https://wikimania2012.wikimedia.org/wiki/Submissions/We_want_scores!

(may be a Wikimania presentation this year as well)

The Score extension can render musical scores as PNG images using LilyPond. You can see in the progress of https://bugzilla.wikimedia.org/show_bug.cgi?id=33193

the new way to include musical scores on wiki pages

https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Wikipedia_talk:WikiProject_Classical_music&diff=prev&oldid=551957342

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:MarkAHershberger/Music_Sandbox

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Help:Wiki_markup#Musical_notation

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Help:Score

I would recommend wikisource:Help:Sheet music over this link as it is far more extensive (as may be appropriate, this is more in Wikisource's wheelhouse than Wikipedia's).