Thomas Brodhead on Leland Smith and SCORE


Here are Thomas Brodhead’s unabridged remarks about Leland Smith and SCORE, as provided by Thomas Brodhead to Sibelius Blog.

I began using SCORE in 1993 on the recommendation of publishers (mainly in New York) who insisted on it at the time, when the alternative programs were deemed unsuitable for high-quality publication. Leland Smith’s genius was that he had considered all aspects of notation and broken them into categories, and then considered every possible way that a music glyph might need to be altered. As such, his program allows a user to manipulate each aspect of a musical object independently of all its other aspects, and without interference from a “global editor” that attempts to correct “improper” notation. In part this may have been a product of the memory limitations of DOS at the time that he prepared SCORE for its initial release (1986), but if so, it resulted in a program with such fine control over music graphics that still no other program can rival it, and some projects are still only possible in SCORE. Leland refined SCORE until 1994, when version 3.11 presented the most robust and industrial-usage friendly version of the program. Leland was never afraid of third party developers creating programs that manipulated the output files of the program, and thus a few other SCORE users and I independently developed third party programs that capitalized on the fine controls that were present in the transparent data structure of the output files. (For example, this allowed me to write an original horizontal spacing program that far exceeded the default spacing routine of SCORE in terms of fine control offered to the end user, something Sibelius’s ManuScript language would never support, as it only provides programmers a subset of controls for manipulating notation in that program.) In 2000 Leland released Scor4, again a DOS version of SCORE, but one mainly with enhancements that could be described as “window-dressing” that mainly provided shortcuts to help less advanced users with the program; there was no substantial developments to the program in that release.  In 2008 Leland released a “Beta” version of WinScore, a controversial version of SCORE for Windows that suffered from memory leaks and other problems that kept most of the seasoned users of SCORE away from it (although attracting some new users nonetheless). WinScore remained in a “Beta” at his death some five years later, and was only ever marketed that way.

Leland was never concerned with the commercial success of SCORE, and he frequently joked that if he added up all the hours he spent developing it and compared that with the amount of revenue he made from it, he had only made about 25 cents an hour. SCORE was his creation, his toy, and his joy. He resisted all offers from others to help him with it, except if the offer was to help him solve a specific problem he had at hand; he perhaps feared that if others became involved professionally, the goals and philosophy of the program might be redirected in a different direction than he had intended for it.  SCORE was his reason for waking up in the morning, it might be said. He made countless variant versions of the program (one for me to solve the problem of differently-sized noteheads; another for the Oregon Catholic press, who needed to publish a Vietnamese hymnal, for which he created a special version of the program that would support all the myriad diacriticals needed in that otherwise Latin-alphabet-based script; the list goes on, and no one knows how many variants he truly created).  He loved solving arcane notational problems, and would distract himself from working on WinScore (before its release) by adding features whose requests came out of left field (e.g. he added accordion button notation because Lithuanian accordion players had called him and requested that feature; I scoffed at the feature when I first saw it, but then it proved its utility to me in 2008 when I was confronted with engraving a chamber ensemble piece that included accordion notation that required it.)

SCORE was the first commercially available music notation program, and it revolutionized classical music publishing just as the PostScript language revolutionized typography and commercial (as well as desktop) printing. Leland Smith was in fact revolutionary. At the same time, he was a soft-spoken man who loved conversation, and he always tried to be helpful to anyone who called him for help with SCORE. I’ll never forget the innumerable phone calls I had with him and his anecdotes, and I’ll cherish the times that I met him and spent time with him in person.

— Thomas M. Brodhead

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