Music Notation Community Group reviews progress; discusses future MNX format


The W3C Music Notation Community Group held its 2021 annual meeting online on October 28, 2021 as part of the W3C TPAC Annual Conference.

Michael Good, one of the group’s co-chairs, provided this summary of the meeting to Scoring Notes:

The major discussion topic was the status of MNX, the new music notation format being developed to handle needs such as a standard native music notation format for web-based applications. Last year saw improvements to the overall structure of the specification and the software that generates it. The next major step will be to complete a comprehensive list of issues for version 1.0. This will allow the group to determine the scope of MNX 1.0 and better track its progress, including an estimate of when a full version will be ready for testing.

The group also discussed a proposal from Daniel Ray of MuseScore to develop a new standard for musical instrument data. This would include information such as instrument ranges, default transpositions, clefs, and staves, along with information specific to certain instruments such as string tunings and number of frets. None of this information is secret, but it can be time-consuming to research and encode. Currently each app does this on their own, leading to duplicated effort and inconsistencies. The attendees were enthusiastic about this proposal. The next step will be updating the Community Group charter to include this project, along with updating the descriptions of ongoing work on MNX, MusicXML, and SMuFL.

The meeting ran for nearly two hours, and is available to watch online:

Specific topics starting points are as follows:

  • 0:03:25 – Introduction to the W3C Music Notation Community Group
  • 0:12:23 – MusicXML 4.0
  • 0:20:06 – SMuFL 1.4
  • 0:30:13 – Documentation Generator
  • 0:39:03 – MNX
  • 1:10:40 – New possibilities: Instrument data
  • 1:27:31 – New possibilities: Non-Western music notation
  • 1:33:09 – New possibilities: Updating the group charter
  • 1:38:01 – Planning for in-person meetings
  • 1:47:05 – Questions and answers

The meeting minutes are found at the group’s page on the W3C site, and the presentation slides can be downloaded.

In addition to the forward-looking discussion about MNX, the group spent some time reviewing recent achievements (MusicXML 4.0, SMuFL 1.4, and the new documentation generator for MNX and MusicXML).

MusicXML 4.0 was released in June 2021, and was the the first update to MusicXML in more than 3 years. It included many major new features. It added or greatly improved support for:

  • Concert scores with transposed parts
  • Relationships between score and parts, including a standard way to combine score and parts in a single compressed .mxl file
  • Score following, assessment, and other machine listening applications
  • Swing playback
  • Roman numerals and Nashville numbers
  • XML Catalogs
  • Complete documentation on the W3C site, including examples of every MusicXML element.

Standard Music Font Layout, or SMuFL 1.4 ,was released in March 2021 and was the second to be published under the auspices of the W3C, introduces more than 150 new glyphs across five new ranges of characters, and expands the font-specific metadata format, allowing font designers to specify a set of text fonts that are complementary with the music font design (using CSS font selector syntax), and a number of other design-focused items.

MakeMusic followed these releases with inclusion of both SMuFL support for the first time and support for MusicXML 4.0 in Finale version 27.

More on the Scoring Notes podcast: Michael Good, the inventor of MusicXML

If you’ve ever needed to open a music notation file in a different program, you’ve relied on MusicXML to do it. Michael Good invented this now-ubiquitous established format two decades ago, and on the Scoring Notes podcast, we find out how it happened.

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Michael Good, the inventor of MusicXML


More on the Scoring Notes podcast: Music fonts and open standards with Daniel Spreadbury

Daniel Spreadbury returns to the Scoring Notes podcast to talk about the common set of font specifications known as the Standard Music Font Layout, or SMuFL. We get into the history of music fonts and how we got to where we are today with this essential component of music notation software technology.

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Music fonts and open standards with Daniel Spreadbury


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