Simon Smith headlines free music engraving lecture [updated]


Note: This event has already taken place. This article has been updated with the video recording of the presentation.

The Super Bowl might have come to a swift end, but a lecture titled “Music Engraving in the Digital Age” sounds like just the sort of event that’s tailor-made to usher into our viewing schedule.

Hosted by Letterform Archive, a San Francisco-based nonprofit center for inspiration, education, and community, this talk will “explore some of the history of music notation and engraving, the current state of play as well as the challenges facing the developers of notation software today,” according to the event page.

The lecture was on Tuesday, February 13, 2024, beginning at 3:00 pm EST (that’s 8:00 pm GMT, or 12:00 pm PST).

It features expert engraver Simon Smith, a pianist, composer and the Head of Engraving at Muse Group, primarily working on MuseScore, and where he is jointly responsible for the development of Leland, its default music notation font that was first introduced in MuseScore 3.6.

We’ve spoken with Simon before on Scoring Notes, shortly after the release of MuseScore 4. He’s an expert engraver and editor who has worked on scores by major composers including Karlheinz Stockhausen, Sir James MacMillan and Sir Harrison Birtwistle. As a pianist he has recorded works by Scottish composers including James MacMillan, Stuart MacRae and Thomas Wilson, as well as the complete piano music of Alfred Schnittke and the piano sonatas of Valentin Silvestrov.

Simon Smith

Here’s the complete description:

Once the province of specialists who had undergone a long training, the widespread availability of music notation software from the 1990s on has given everyone the ability to produce sheet music themselves.

For all the benefits, this has come at a great cost. Not just a few jobs – the dedicated ‘music engraver’ now being now a near-extinct species – but to the state of the art itself. Never well-documented but passed down through the centuries from master to apprentice, engraving is now the additional task of every student, arranger and composer, and any gap in expertise has become the responsibility of the software they use.

But worse, in the move to an all-digital and mostly-automated world, something else is in danger of being lost: the humanity, the soul, the artistry of music on the page.

This talk will explore some of the history of music notation and engraving, the current state of play as well as the challenges facing the developers of notation software today.

Letterform Lectures are a public aspect of the Type West postgraduate program. The series is co-presented by the San Francisco Public Library, where events are free and open to all.

Thanks to my sharp-eyed colleague and typography guru Jeff Kellem for alerting me to this event. Jeff, you may recall, took the Leland font and made a Sibelius-compatible version of it called Lelandia, which you can find on Notation Central, along with Pori, another of his Sibelius font engineering creations.


  1. Derek Williams

    Simon is well known to us here at Edinburgh University where he has premiered many compositions, including one of mine way back in 2011:

    He was also pianist for the Artisan Trio for a while.

    I had no idea Simon was a mover and shaker with MuseScore, and it’s reassuring to see such a fine musician at the helm. Unfortunately, I will be attending an online lecture with the Wagner Society at that exact time, so I hope a recording is going to be made of his lecture so we can watch it afterwards.

    All the best from The North for a successful lecture.

  2. Taran Plamondon

    Darn, I missed it! Still getting used to the New Zealand time zone. I second the hope that a recording will be made available soon.

    1. Philip Rothman

      This article has now been updated to include the video recording of the event.

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