Friday, March 02, 2007

Typographic notes from all over II: Music typesetting

A colleague asked me to provide composition and graphics for an instructional booklet she edited. The booklet will be packaged with a musical instrument, and some of the graphics are short snippets of music.

Music publishing has long been an industry unto itself, with its own history of technical developments. Setting music, if you think about it for a moment, is a much more difficult problem than setting lines of text. Notes have to be clustered into chords of various shapes. These have to be placed at various positions on the staff and then tied to each other with curves pitched at various angles. And so forth. This is not a trivial problem, and in the days of mechanical typesetting, it was not within the capability of standard machines.

Now, of course, it is all done with computers and specifically with music typesetting programs, many of which take their input from an electronic musical instrument’s keys.

Fortunately for me, for the few little snippets I’m responsible for, all I need to do is purchase a suitable font and position elements manually. Phew! Don’t call me for typesetting the score to your next symphony.

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