OpenScore: Open-sourcing sheet music

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Editor’s note: This post is written by Peter Jonas, software developer and OpenScore project manager for MuseScore, the free music composition and notation software. In this guest post, Peter describes the OpenScore project, which he recently announced and presented at FOSDEM 2017, a gathering for developers of free and open source software.

It is my great pleasure to introduce OpenScore, a collaborative sheet music digitization project by MuseScore and IMSLP. Readers of this blog will be familiar with the many advantages digital sheet music has over its paper counterpart, yet PDF remains the most common format for sheet music distribution. This is something that OpenScore means to address.

OpenScore was announced last weekend at FOSDEM, Europe’s largest open source conference, which takes place every year in Brussels, Belgium. By transcribing the whole of the IMSLP archive into MusicXML format, OpenScore will unlock the great classical works by the likes of Mozart, Beethoven and Bach to be enjoyed by music lovers everywhere, whether they happen to use MuseScore, Finale, Sibelius, or any other notation program which supports MusicXML import.

In addition to MusicXML, the scores will also be available in a range of other formats, including PDF, MIDI, and MuseScore’s native MSCZ format. This enables convenient sharing, editing and playback across a range of devices, including computers, phones and tablets.  Finally, OpenScore is partnering with Music21, an open source music parser, and RNIB, the UK’s leading charity for people who are blind or visually impaired, to make the scores available in accessible formats like Braille and Modified Stave Notation.

Best of all, the scores will be released under a Creative Commons Attribution license (CC-BY), meaning there are no copyright restrictions, so everyone will be free to use them for any purpose. This will be of huge benefit to orchestras, choirs and individuals looking for materials from which to practice music. It will also facilitate a number of uses in research, academia, and education, and help to inspire composers and arrangers in producing new content.

To make it happen, MuseScore is joining forces with IMSLP and a number of partners across the music and tech industries. MuseScore and IMSLP represent the two largest online communities actively creating and sharing sheet music. We want to harness this potential to create the largest, and most accurate, digital collection of public domain scores available anywhere. However, for OpenScore to be a success we will need the help of the entire digital music community.

In the coming months we will launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to fund the liberation effort. You can get sign-up notified about the launch via https://musescore.org/openscore. There are other ways to get involved too. If you would like to help with the transcription effort then look out for more information appearing on the MuseScore website soon!

Comments

  1. Luis

    I’d be interested in knowing whether any use of creative commons music includes using the freely obtained music to make money off of it? Is commercialization a restriction?

    1. Peter Jonas

      Hi Luis,
      There are multiple Creative Commons licenses, some of which allow commercial use and some of which do not. The one we are using (CC-BY) *does* allow commercial use, so you can copy, edit, share and even sell the scores without needing to ask permission. The only condition is that you credit OpenScore as where you got the score from.
      Hope that helps!

  2. Ron Manning

    Very interesting and exciting to think of expanding access to wonderful scores to so many people for so many reasons. Thanks. RMM

  3. Ehler

    I hope that the project will host conversions to .musx and .sib files! Hopefully we’ll learn more as we go along. I would happily download some MusicXML or MuseScore files and convert them to my program of choice if there were a place to share them. This would especially be valuable for educators who want to make SmartMusic files out of the .musx files, or any arranger/engraver who uses either program to have the scores cleaned up from the import process.

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