An interview with Robert Piéchaud about the November font

People

At Notation Central, our online marketplace for music notation technology, we’re thrilled to have for sale November 2 by Robert Piéchaud, praised for years by musicians, publishers and engravers as one of the finest and most vivid fonts ever designed for music notation software.

November 2, used in Finale

This premium font comes with extensive documentation for use in Finale, Sibelius, and Dorico. November 2 was the first commercial font developed for SMuFL (Standard Music Font Layout), and Dorico users will be particularly pleased that switching to it is as easy as clicking a button.

Robert Piéchaud is an invaluable contributor to the music notation software community. If you use Finale, you’ve likely been the beneficiary of Robert’s work in achieving more realistic playback, automation, and more. In addition to creating November, Robert is the creator of Medieval 2 (also available at Notation Central), a comprehensive solution for creating early music in Finale.

Robert is a software engineer, composer, performer, and font designer. What’s more, he’s just an all-around nice fellow. He was kind enough to answer our questions about November and his work with music notation software.

Robert Piéchaud

Q: We last chatted in 2017. November 2 is now up to version 2.2. What are the main new features?

November is a project I started as early as 1998. There have been many updates, but November “2” was a major one, since it was upgraded to Unicode and SMuFL, along with a tremendous (and necessary) expansion of the symbol map. Since we chatted in 2017, I issued a couple substantial maintenance releases, adding a hundred new symbols (mostly for greater Dorico compatibility) and a simple yet useful Finale plug-in: a shortcut to the comprehensive help PDF file.

Q: What are the recent updates to SMuFL and what does it mean for the future of November 2 and other fonts?

SMuFL is now so close to typography and encoding perfection, and I can’t think of any update except to add more rare symbols. It is a steady, reassuring environment to develop music fonts in.

Many music notation apps or frameworks, whether as regular desktop applications or on the web, have adopted SMuFL, and it is still growing. So I do believe that music fonts that are not yet SMuFL-compliant will have to make the leap at some point — or disappear.

Font designers and music notation software makers might be somewhat afraid of SMuFL’s giant pool of glyphs — about 2600 — but they don’t need to implement everything all at once. It is definitely worth the effort in the long term.

As far as November 2, I won’t say it is typographically perfect, although I would be very tempted to say so! Seriously, I don’t foresee “November 3” and I think the future of November 2 lies in a good maintenance plan keeping up with operating systems and music notation programs, and also make sure it can still work with relatively old versions. I really hate the idea of programmed obsolescence and I try to develop my fonts and code with as much backward compatibility in mind as possible.

Q: What is unique about November 2?

That’s hard to answer without showing off! But let me risk giving you some hints anyway: It is a font with a very distinctive warm, inky look that has been designed with the utmost attention to detail. And it is a font with very good SMuFL support, notably in terms of its many glyphs and metadata.

An excerpt from Robert Piéchaud’s arrangement of Charles Ives’ Variations on America, for wind sextet, using the November font

Q: November 2 isn’t just a font, it’s a way of life (chuckle). But seriously, there’s a lot more that comes with the font besides just the font files itself. What can the user expect to find after purchasing November 2?

November 2 comes with a lot of extras. It is a font that potentially targets all major music notation environments, with specific goodies for each platform. It includes comprehensive, multi-language PDF documentation (English, French and German so far), metadata (for Dorico for instance), libraries and templates (for Finale, Sibelius or Lilypond), plug-ins (for Sibelius and Finale), and even legacy fonts (November “1”) for very old versions of Finale.

November is not free, and one might say it is not cheap, but users get free (and permanent) technical support from my publisher, Klemm Music Technology, and all updates of version 2.x are and will be free for registered users.

Q: What styles of music is November 2 best suited to portraying?

I would say any type of “classical” music really, in the broad sense of the word, that is, a music that is graphically rich already. Baroque, Renaissance, and avant-garde music are known to look particularly compelling with November 2.

An excerpt from Robert Piéchaud’s Wittgenstein-Lieder for voice and ensemble, using the November font

Q: You have many varied interests. What else do you enjoy, musically or otherwise, and where do you find inspiration?

I am an active musician, whether as a performer, classical soloist or improviser on silent films, or as a composer for others. Everything going from and to music, my interests range from poetry, languages and humanities in general, to mathematics and analog photography. I always try to see the bigger picture, although I can find inspiration in the sometimes infinitesimal details of life.


November 2 is available at Notation Central in a single-user license, 10-user license, and 25-user license. Also available at Notation Central is Medieval 2, Robert’s comprehensive solution for creating early music in Finale.

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Comments

  1. Ben

    November 2 currently lacks the square brackets that Dorico uses round accidentals; and also the Longa note (but the Maxima is there!).

    I dare say there may be a few other corners in Dorico’s ever increasing functions that aren’t handled yet. November v 2.3 would be very welcome!

    1. Conrad Asman

      Second this – but still amazing font. Well done, Mr. Piéchaud!

    2. Robert P

      Hi Ben and Conrad,

      November 2.3 catching up with Dorico 3.x is definitely on the drawing board!

      Stay tuned ;-)
      Robert

  2. Dan Kreider

    Philip (or maybe Robert, if he reads this),

    Thank you for an interesting interview. Like so many others, I love November 2.

    Any thoughts on the “p”? Has it come up in conversation? Has there ever been a discussion of altering it?

    Thanks,
    Dan

    1. Tyler Eaves

      At least in Dorico it’s easy enough to fix… change Music Font to Nov2 but then change Dynamic Music Font back to Brauvara. It’s a bit of a shame… I prefer Nomvember’s f, but the p is just too hideous to live with.

    2. Robert P

      Hi Dan and Tyler,

      November’s ‘p’ is bit like Marmite
      :-D

      Robert

      1. Dan Kreider

        For the record, I don’t hate the “p”! It’s just a little too whimsical to me. :-)

      2. Conrad Asman

        Definitely agree – good thing I like marmite and adore the ‘p’ ;)

        1. Robert P

          This ‘p’ (together with some other typographical features of November) is kind of a tribute to Universal Edition Wien first era. Universal Edition was founded in 1901 and as we know they quickly became the publisher of avant-garde music: Mahler, Strauss, Schönberg, Berg, Webern, Bartók etc.
          This today controversial, jugendstil sans-serif ‘p’ was very much in fashion in the golden age of modern music! ;-)

          And for the record, Marmite was founded in 1902. No doubt there is a connection.

          Robert

          1. Philip Rothman

            Thanks, Robert! We may have to explore that connection in a future article…

  3. Philip Rothman

    Hi everyone. Thanks for the great comments and questions. I’ve reached out to Robert to see if we can get some further info.

  4. Bill

    Is this the Robert P that created the Finale Human Playback system?

    1. Philip Rothman

      They are one and the same, indeed!

      1. Bill

        I think MM’s biggest mistake ( and that’s saying something) is ending their connection with Robert. HP is one of Finale’s great (and under appreciated) strengths. Noteperformer works with Noteperformer. HP works with everything.

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