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Re: FW: Professional ???

From: Peter Schaffter
Subject: Re: FW: Professional ???
Date: Thu, 14 Dec 2000 01:04:08 -0500
User-agent: Mutt/1.2.5i

Jan --

Your patience in replying to the criticisms inherent in this
thread is AWESOME!  Too bad there aren't more like you out
there in cyberland. :)

One line you wrote caught my attention:
> On Wed, Dec 13, 2000, Jan Nieuwenhuizen wrote:
> I have seen some 20 century music
> that could arguably easiest be typeset using the GIMP.

This, in fact, goes to the very heart of the difficulty of
setting music on a computer.  A musical score, regardless of
the period it comes from, is closer to a picture or a painting
than it is to text.  In other words, it's more like a graphic
than a page of type.  I have often considered that a vector
drawing program (like tgif or sketch or Illustrator--GIMP's
not really the tool) might be the way to go when it comes to
complex scores, even of the non-avant-garde variety.  Right now,
I'm looking at Debussy's _Reflets dans l'eau_.  The notation
is "conventional", but the result is a beautiful "picture"
of Debussy's intentions.  I'm certain that at present, Lily
couldn't reproduce it with anywhere near the finesse exercised
by the engraver who made the score, and such finesse is not,
in this case, a secondary consideration.

So what is it that makes Lily unable to produce scores (like
the Debussy) of such beauty and aptness?  Simply that, at
present, the amount of front and back end tweaking required to
get slurs, ties, dynamics, articulations, etc in _precisely_
the right places, and of precisely the right shape and size,
is daunting.  Furthermore, the tweak/test/tweak/test cycle
required by Lily's text-only entry can add months to the time
it takes to produce a score.  One can't be blamed for thinking
that a GUI that allows one to, say, shape and place a slur
precisely, would be preferable to text-only entry.

The problem with GUIs, of course, is that while they're good for
some things, they suck at others.  In many instances, especially
during the editing and correcting phase of setting type or
music, text entry is superior.  Vastly superior, especially
when one utilizes the full power of editors like vi or emacs.

I've worked for over twenty years as a typesetter.  When I
started, the computers that we used had one mode only: text
entry.  You entered all the coding by hand, phototypeset the
result, and prayed you'd done everything right since the cost of
processing galleys was astronomical.  How, in those days, I
prayed for some way to "see" my work as I was setting it.

A decade later, everyone was typesetting on Macs using Quark
Xpress.  At first, it seemed like a dream, seeing your work on
the screen as it would appear on final output.  You could move
letters, lines of type, images, graphical objects, etc in real
time, giving much finer control over the aesthetics of the
printed page.  However, when it came to making changes (and
graphics designers ALWAYS want changes, the SOBs), real-time,
on-screen editing was a nightmare.  I started pining for the
good old days of clear, precise, editable code.

Then, in the mid-nineties, I had to opportunity to try out
a programme called "Quoin."  Essentially, it was a fully
integrated system of GUI _and_ text entry typesetting.
Both modes co-operated fully, and in real-time.  A change
made in the GUI was instantly reflected in the underlying,
editable code.  And vice versa.  It was a wonderful (or rather
would have been, had it not been a tad buggy).  Users could
use GUI for stuff best handled by seeing it on the screen,
and text entry for stuff best handled that way.

The point of all this is to suggest that if I had a wish list
for a perfect music typesetting system, it would contain just
one item: I'd want it to let me GUI the stuff that needs GUIing
(sorry about the coined word), and "text" the stuff that needs
"text"-ing.  I'd like to enter the notes and note values for
parts as text (the way one does in Lily), maybe even attach
slurs, dynamics, and whatnot.  At the same time, I'd want to
see my work _as I enter it_.  Then, if a slur needed tweaking
(like those slurs in Debussy that cross staves AND change
direction), I'd want to grab a "handle" (as one does in most
graphics programs), and fix the bezier curve so it looked
just right.  I'd click on a dynamic, and drag it to just the
right place between staves.  And so on.

It's just a dream, for now.  I know it would require some
fantastic programming skills (which, sadly, I don't have).  But
it seems to me that it's the direction music typesetting should
go.  And, if the dream is to be realised, I strongly suspect it
will come out of Lilypond, which is almost already halfway there.

Maybe Denemo will provide the other half.

Peter Schaffter
15, chemin Brunette, RR2 CP 406
Ste-Cécile-de-Masham (Québec)

A confirmed GNU/Linuxer. Sorry, I don't do Windows.

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