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mpdolce - LilyPond

mpdolce - LilyPond

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 1: Introduction 2 1 Introduction This chapter introduces readers to LilyPond and the documentation. 1.1 Background This section covers the overall goals and architecture of LilyPond. Engraving The art of music typography is called (plate) engraving. The term derives from the traditional process of music printing. Just a few decades ago, sheet music was made by cutting and stamping the music into a zinc or pewter plate in mirror image. The plate would be inked, the depressions caused by the cutting and stamping would hold ink. An image was formed by pressing paper to the plate. The stamping and cutting was completely done by hand. Making a correction was cumbersome, if possible at all, so the engraving had to be perfect in one go. Engraving was a highly specialized skill; a craftsman had to complete around five years of training before earning the title of master engraver, and another five years of experience were necessary to become truly skilled. Nowadays, all newly printed music is produced with computers. This has obvious advantages; prints are cheaper to make, and editorial work can be delivered by email. Unfortunately, the pervasive use of computers has also decreased the graphical quality of scores. Computer printouts have a bland, mechanical look, which makes them unpleasant to play from. The images below illustrate the difference between traditional engraving and typical computer output, and the third picture shows how LilyPond mimics the traditional look. The left picture shows a scan of a flat symbol from an edition published in 2000. The center depicts a symbol from a hand-engraved Bärenreiter edition of the same music. The left scan illustrates typical flaws of computer print: the staff lines are thin, the weight of the flat symbol matches the light lines and it has a straight layout with sharp corners. By contrast, the Bärenreiter flat has a bold, almost voluptuous rounded look. Our flat symbol is designed after, among others, this one. It is rounded, and its weight harmonizes with the thickness of our staff lines, which are also much thicker than lines in the computer edition. Henle (2000) Bärenreiter (1950) LilyPond Feta font (2003) In spacing, the distribution of space should reflect the durations between notes. However, many modern scores adhere to the durations with mathematical precision, which leads to poor results. In the next example a motive is printed twice: once using exact mathematical spacing, and once with corrections. Can you spot which fragment is which? � � � � � � � � � � � � � �

Chapter 1: Introduction 3 � � � � � � � � � � � � � � Each bar in the fragment only uses notes that are played in a constant rhythm. The spacing should reflect that. Unfortunately, the eye deceives us a little; not only does it notice the distance between note heads, it also takes into account the distance between consecutive stems. As a result, the notes of an up-stem/down-stem combination should be put farther apart, and the notes of a down-stem/up-stem combination should be put closer together, all depending on the combined vertical positions of the notes. The upper two measures are printed with this correction, the lower two measures without, forming down-stem/up-stem clumps of notes. Musicians are usually more absorbed with performing than with studying the looks of a piece of music, so nitpicking about typographical details may seem academical. But it is not. In larger pieces with monotonous rhythms, spacing corrections lead to subtle variations in the layout of every line, giving each one a distinct visual signature. Without this signature all lines would look the same, and they become like a labyrinth. If a musician looks away once or has a lapse in concentration, the lines might lose their place on the page. Similarly, the strong visual look of bold symbols on heavy staff lines stands out better when the music is far away from the reader, for example, if it is on a music stand. A careful distribution of white space allows music to be set very tightly without cluttering symbols together. The result minimizes the number of page turns, which is a great advantage. This is a common characteristic of typography. Layout should be pretty, not only for its own sake, but especially because it helps the reader in her task. For performance material like sheet music, this is of double importance: musicians have a limited amount of attention. The less attention they need for reading, the more they can focus on playing the music. In other words, better typography translates to better performances. These examples demonstrate that music typography is an art that is subtle and complex, and that producing it requires considerable expertise, which musicians usually do not have. LilyPond is our effort to bring the graphical excellence of hand-engraved music to the computer age, and make it available to normal musicians. We have tuned our algorithms, font-designs, and program settings to produce prints that match the quality of the old editions we love to see and love to play from. Automated engraving How do we go about implementing typography? If craftsmen need over ten years to become true masters, how could we simple hackers ever write a program to take over their jobs? The answer is: we cannot. Typography relies on human judgment of appearance, so people cannot be replaced completely. However, much of the dull work can be automated. If LilyPond solves most of the common situations correctly, this will be a huge improvement over existing software. The remaining cases can be tuned by hand. Over the course of years, the software can be refined to do more and more things automatically, so manual overrides are less and less necessary. When we started, we wrote the LilyPond program entirely in the C++ programming language; the program’s functionality was set in stone by the developers. That proved to be unsatisfactory for a number of reasons: • When LilyPond makes mistakes, users need to override formatting decisions. Therefore, the user must have access to the formatting engine. Hence, rules and settings cannot be fixed by us at compile-time but must be accessible for users at run-time. • Engraving is a matter of visual judgment, and therefore a matter of taste. As knowledgeable as we are, users can disagree with our personal decisions. Therefore, the definitions of typographical style must also be accessible to the user.

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