Mudcat Café message #1136982 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #67811   Message #1136982
Posted By: Mark Clark
15-Mar-04 - 10:17 AM
Thread Name: Tech: ABC notation
Subject: RE: Tech: ABC notation
Neil, Jon, Yes, that is the crux of the matter all right. I doubt there will ever be an electro-mechanical or mathematical means to “play” a piece of music from a symbolic representation so that the performance is indistinguishable from a skilled human performance. The problem isn't one of representation, it's the nearly infinite number of minute variables that make a musical performance beautiful instead of mechanical.

Having said that, I strongly feel that the primary goal in systems of symbolic representation such as ABC, MusicXML, et al., must be to represent and retain those elements that allow a complete, correct score or lead sheet to be printed with all the nuanced markings a skilled musician needs to correctly perform the music.

We already have ways to perfectly capture and transmit a particular musical performance. Analog and digital recording techniques do this amazingly well as does MIDI when the events are captured in real time from an actual performance. The MIDI playback won't retain the sound quality or waveform of the original, but it has the capacity to retain the feel of the music with respect to tempo, timing, volume and so forth.

The technology to derive a complete score from a performance representation is improving. I'm confident that algorithms will one day be available to do the job quite nicely. For the purposes of folk musicians, midi2abc already has a good start though the result may still need a lot of cleaning up before an accurate score can be produced.1 Still, the goal of capturing a performance is entirely separate from the goal of documenting the details needed for performance. I see no reason why the nuances of performance and the details of documentation need to exist in the same representation scheme.

Jon tracks the 2.0 standard development better than I do but my sense is that the process is fairly well controlled. People like Guido Gonzato, Jean-François Moine, Seymour Shlien, John Chambers and many others, together with Chris Walshaw, seem to have this well in hand. I see no disagreement between these people with respect to the developing standard. Of course any developer who so wishes may alter the ABC representation in any way he wishes for the purpose of producing software but I see nothing to suggest that these private aberrations affect the standard in any way. The best way to deal with those people is probably to refuse to download, buy or use their software and to let them know that we would support their efforts if they stayed within the devloping standard.

      - Mark

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1 I'm anxious to try Neil's new version of Harmony, capturing a MIDI performance directly.