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"Open Source Bach" Project Completed; Score and Recording Now Online 110

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the refined-free-software-zealots dept.
rDouglass writes "MuseScore, the open source music notation editor, and pianist Kimiko Ishizaka have released a new recording and digital edition of Bach's Goldberg Variations. The works are released under the Creative Commons Zero license to promote the broadest possible free use of the works. The score underwent two rounds of public peer review, drawing on processes normally applied to open source software. Furthermore, the demands of Bach's notational style drove significant advancements in the MuseScore open source project. The recording was made on a Bösendorfer 290 Imperial piano in the Teldex Studio of Berlin. Anne-Marie Sylvestre, a Canadian record producer, was inspired by the project and volunteered her time to edit and produce the recording. The project was funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign that was featured on Slashdot in March 2011."
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"Open Source Bach" Project Completed; Score and Recording Now Online

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  • Wait (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @08:11AM (#40140939)

    Bash is open source... oh.

  • Hopefully these improvements to MuseScore will make it easier to use, because so far I have not been able to get much done with it just out of the difficulty of using it. The interface is really unintuitive. I don't think I've ever found a music scoring program that is easy to use.

    • Re:free != easy (Score:5, Informative)

      by thomasbonte (2021346) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @08:17AM (#40140983)
      Here is a good article by Alexander Prodoukine in which it's explained how MuseScore improved while typesetting the Goldberg Variations: http://libregraphicsworld.org/blog/entry/open-goldberg-variations-mission-accomplished [libregraphicsworld.org]
      • Re:free != easy (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Vintermann (400722) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @08:31AM (#40141049) Homepage

        It seems a little backwards, though. Lilypond may be hard to use, but it's very powerful and produces gorgeous scores - and all the variations are on Mutopia already [mutopiaproject.org].

        • Lilypond does not have MusicXML export, so anything you make in Lilypond is not exportable via the sheet music exchange standard. This is different for this project: you get the Goldberg Variations in MuseScore source format and MusicXML, and many other formats (pdf, midi, ...) So whatever notation software you use (MuseScore, Sibelius, Finale, ...), you'll be able to import the Goldberg score and adapt it to your needs.
          • That seems incredibly short sited. Lilypond is OSS, and ly files are plain text. I'd much rather have something in one format that produces excellent output, than crappy output from 10 different progs.

            • It's open source. Create the lilypond files yourself.
            • by EvanED (569694)

              I can't say I've used MuseScore (though I will check it out), but it has Lilypond export.

              I'm not quite sure what that means though; whether you lose a lot in translation, or MuseScore pushes its defaults so that they're hard to remove, and such.

              • It might be a start. Getting the best out of lilypond will require manual tweaking though. It certainly is a pretty idiosyncratic program, but if you half-way know what you're doing it'll produce output better than commercial packages costing hundreds of dollars. Maybe when I get home I'll typeset 8 bars or so from one of the variations in Lilypond, and also Notion 3 - Notion is commercial software (~$300) but it's much more useful than lilypond for _writing_ music, since it can do live play and enables qui

          • So, what you get is the ability to import it to non-free notation software? And... inferior ones at that? (Or so I hear. I haven't used Finale since its pre-OSX days, but I've heard no one claim it made prettier scores than Lilypond).

            Lilypond does of course give PDF and midi exports as well.

      • by fatphil (181876)
        I'm more interested in knowing how the rendering of the music as a score has changed how an automaton (or a human unfamiliar with the piece) would interpret that score and play the music back. If that's unchanged - has there actually been any progress?

        I also wonder if they have sanity-checking - Just in the first few minutes of listening whilst reading along I noticed a natural modifier to a note which was not sharp (nor flat) according to the key signature, nor which had been modified previously, and there
        • by pnot (96038)

          I also wonder if they have sanity-checking - Just in the first few minutes of listening whilst reading along I noticed a natural modifier to a note which was not sharp (nor flat) according to the key signature, nor which had been modified previously, and therefore did not need the natural sign (e.g. var. 6, bar 16, the middle C). I've not read any music for *many* decades - someone else should have spotted this!

          If you've not read any music in decades, I suppose you can be forgiven for not knowing about courtesy accidentals.

          But also, if you've not read any music in decades, perhaps you shouldn't be so quick to condemn others' painstaking work purely on the basis on your personal judgement.

          • by fatphil (181876)
            Well, thank you for the forgiveness. I indeed think that I've *never* encountered courtesy accidentals not in brackets. I suspect I wouldn't have flinched if the brackets had been there.

            I ran off to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accidental_(music) which expresses what I think should be the ideal: "Cautionary accidentals or naturals (in parentheses) may be used to clarify ambiguities, but should be held to a minimum." Looking back at the document, it seems it also likes to cancel accidentals in different octa
            • by EvanED (569694)

              It's funny, I was just playing around with a different music editor (Denemo) transcribing some written music. And that piece had a bunch of accidentals that were unnecessary and unbracketed. But it seemed to be somewhat arbitrary; some advisory accidentals were normal accidentals, some were in brackets, and some places I would have expected them based on other uses were missing.

              There were advisory accidentals that crossed both barlines and octaves. Dunno if I saw cancels of cross-bar, cross-octave accidenta

            • by EvanED (569694)

              However, it does at least appear to be consistent, which is the most important thing, so its preferences could be considered a publisher's house style and just something you have to get used to.

              Actually one other possibility strikes my mind, which is that the style of accidentals in that copy were actually what was used in Bach's time, and the current norm arose later (and was typically retroactively applied to earlier works). If that's true, then this effort could be an attempt to be "true to the original"

            • by pnot (96038)

              Well, thank you for the forgiveness. I indeed think that I've *never* encountered courtesy accidentals not in brackets. I suspect I wouldn't have flinched if the brackets had been there.

              Strange, I think I've seen them more often without brackets than with. Grabbing the first score I could find (Beethoven, Piano sonata no. 8, ed. D. F. Tovey, published by ABRSM) I see that none of the accidentals are bracketed. But doubtless it varies between countries, genres, publishers, and so forth.

              I ran off to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accidental_(music) [wikipedia.org] which expresses what I think should be the ideal: "Cautionary accidentals or naturals (in parentheses) may be used to clarify ambiguities, but should be held to a minimum."

              But do note that Wikipedia presents this as an "alternate system" contrasted with the "tradition [which] is still in use particularly in tonal music".

              Worse than that - they're cancelling accidentals in different octaves in different bars in different staves from where they were applied (var. 14, bar 17) - that's just excessive.

              I admit that that one seems pretty bizarre to me too. For

              • by fatphil (181876)
                I think we're mostly on the same track.

                My $DAYJOB is mostly code review, and I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist before I am prepared to add my Acked-by:. And that includes what might be "trivialities" like style issues. I was explicitly employed in this role to be a pedant, in fact. And I like to take my job home with me...
                • by eyenot (102141)

                  Problems similar to that are what plague me. The software has too much of a conventional hand so to speak; a heavy-handed tendency towards some or another convention by which it excises justice onto the paper based on what you input according to the manual.

                  I think there are many undocumented features to the program, that mainly fall within the demarcation of musical conventions. I know that scoring a fairly simple piece of music, Purcell's "Air in D Minor" (including eight more measures I tacked on "In Memo

            • by mako1138 (837520)

              I don't think usage is as consistent as WP would imply. In pieces with key signatures with lots of flats or sharps, you tend to get naturals without parentheses because it would be too cluttered to put them in.

              • by fatphil (181876)
                > In pieces with key signatures with lots of flats or sharps, you tend to get naturals without parentheses because it would be too cluttered to put them in.

                You misunderstand the nub of my point - the ones I'm complaining about one could completely do without as they are redundant.
    • by pnot (96038)

      Hopefully these improvements to MuseScore will make it easier to use, because so far I have not been able to get much done with it just out of the difficulty of using it. The interface is really unintuitive. I don't think I've ever found a music scoring program that is easy to use.

      Have you tried Sibelius?

  • Now Seeding (Score:5, Informative)

    by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @08:15AM (#40140961) Homepage Journal

    The MP3 files, along with 45 others or so - http://download.opengoldbergvariations.org/open_goldberg_variations_mp3_24_44.zip?torrent [opengoldbe...ations.org]

    • by BlackPignouf (1017012) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @09:12AM (#40141331)

      The content is f*in great.
      Thanks a lot to everyone involved!

      PS : I want to punch someone in the face each time I see those __MACOSX folders in .zip files.

    • Thanks.

      Bit of a noob question... fairly often in the pieces, there's this noise-- like someone trying to snort a breath through a blocked nose. Example Variatio 24 a 1 Clav. Canone all'Ottava at 2:00

      Is that actually someone who couldn't be bothered to find a kleenex, even though there was a recording going on, or is it some other audio artifact I'm unaware of? The sound of an automatic page turner?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @08:16AM (#40140969)

    Help restore /. to its former nerd news glory, tag stories like this with realslash to tell the editors that we want our favorite site back.

    If you don't think that /. has anything resembling a glorious past, consider this an effort to improve things for the future.

    Thank you for making /. a better place for nerds everywhere!

  • TFA is a bit light. I'm wondering how you review a score? Was it "muse score software didn't display this note properly", or "the music would sound better if you went up instead of down here, or repeated a theme differently"?

    Open source music, now there's an idea. Could be like composing by committee...

    • by pnot (96038)

      TFA is a bit light. I'm wondering how you review a score? Was it "muse score software didn't display this note properly", or "the music would sound better if you went up instead of down here, or repeated a theme differently"?

      I think it would be along the lines of "this acciacatura is too close" or "this slur is too high", with the occasional "wrong note". As to suggesting improvements to the music itself, you might be about 270 years late for that -- at least if you want JSB to sign off on them :-). Still, nothing to stop you forking the score, I guess.

    • by wrook (134116)

      I hope a musician will respond. I don't really know, but my understanding is that old scores are not completely precise. They leave a lot implied based on the way everyone did things during period that they were composed. Since we don't have recordings, we don't know exactly how they were done at that time.

      The problem has been that musical historians do research and make a modern score from the original. The modern score is easy to understand for modern practices. But this new score comes with a new co

      • by Suferick (2438038) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @09:10AM (#40141319)

        Not a musician but married to a composer and pianist.

        Old scores are not precise in the way that modern ones are. A lot depends on little things that were never written down, particularly if the composer performed the work himself; ornaments (trills and the like) would be put in at the performer's discretion, and in the 18th century at any rate, performers were expected to supply a good deal of ornamentation themselves. There is a definite trend over the years of specifying more and more exactly how the composer wants the music to be played.

        Another aspect with something like the Goldbergs is that many players will now play it on the piano, for which Bach wrote nothing. The mechanics of the harpsichord or clavichord are very different, so that the modern score editor has the option, if not the obligation, to insert dynamics or pedalling that are only appropriate to the modern instrument.

      • by Lancey (2650259) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @09:58AM (#40141747)

        Ah... the Goldberg Variations. There is something in it of divinity which the ear cannot distinguish...

        Music notation is not really precise anyway. Interpretation is required for tempo indications, dynamic marks, phrasing, various inflection marks (e.g., exactly how long is "staccato"?), ornamentation and all sorts of other stuff.

        Bach was more precise than his contemporaries in writing ornaments that he required - the aria of the Goldberg Variations is full of ornamentation - and he lamented the common practice of performers chucking in ornaments ad libitum. Even so, it's not always easy to see exactly what ornament is written (I have seen the E minor arpegiando in the first section of the aria notated as both descending and ascending in different editions because the handwritten copy is note easy to read). But he frequently didn't give any indication of tempo (and often when he did, the meaning has changed over time, e.g. a Baroque "presto" was different from a romantic one, and in any case Italian tempo indications are often also not just about tempo but also about affect. He certainly didn't give metronome markings, because the metronome was not invented until later.

        Also, there is a lot assumed in music notation that is cultural.

        Finally, the Goldberg Variations was written for harpsichord or clavichord, not for the piano. Both the harpsichord and clavichord afford the player less fine control over dynamics than the piano but the harpsichord allows a greater range of timbre because they often have various stops. So playing this music on the piano should rightly be considered as a transcription (which is not to criticise it in any way).

        • I'm curious - have you listened to this recording? The Goldberg Variations have been on my must-listen list for a long time, but it looks like this is going to be my first exposure to it. (It's just waiting until I have time to properly listen.) I don't have the finest ear for classical, but I have heard the same piece by different performers, and was surprised at how much of a difference it can make. How is this one?

          At any rate, I'm pretty excited about this project. As someone with only a passing knowled

    • by fatphil (181876)
      Was she just trilling the A, or playing A-G-A-G-A-G as demi-semi-quavers?
      That E briefly before the minim D - was it just a passing note?
      (see the first 2 bars of the PDF score)
      • The "passing notes" you describe appear to be grace notes. [wikipedia.org]

        Some of the markings indicate a turn [wikipedia.org] rather than a trill.
        • by fatphil (181876)
          Yeah, my terminology was wrong. I've never had any formal music lessons, except the crap they give you at school when you're young and not supposed to actually learn anything concrete, and "passing note" just dropped out of a dim and distant memory from several decades back. (To be honest I prefer the term "passing" as I think it better describes what's taking place, "grace" is practically meaningless. Have we been given an additional note to play by someone's good will?!?! Brieve but by the grace of God si
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Well, there's human error like the d-flat in variation 26. Notice that this error requires a subsequent natural sign that ends up scrunching the rest of the notes in the measure together.

      Then there's what I'd assume are automated notation errors originating from the software itself, like:
      * small details-- the disparate time signatures in variation 26 should be center-aligned, not left-aligned
      * distractions-- the spacing in the last measure of the first system on pg. 42, in the first staff-- the grace-note

    • There are many things to consider, including the accuracy of the notes and articulations. But the aesthetic of the placement is also something to be considered. Bach wrote the original by hand (and it's beautiful to look at). So it is very much in line with typesetting and print media. As for how it was actually reviewed, MuseScore.com has a feature that lets you annotate the score in the browser, leaving your comment directly on the place in the music that you're talking about.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @08:32AM (#40141053)

    What's the betting that YouTube immediately starts tagging this work as belonging to a big record label when people use this as background music to their videos?

    When the inevitable story breaks that WMG (Warner Music Group) have taken down some videos that use this work, feel free to link back to this post.

    Videos reinstated on a case-by-case basis (meaning that 95% stay down). I hope I'm wrong.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @09:16AM (#40141379)

      Well, I uploaded a copy of the first mp3 out of curiosity, and ..... surprise!

      Kimiko Ishizaka Bach Open Goldberg Variations 01 - Aria
      Your video may include the following copyrighted content:

              "Ragna Schirmer-Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Aria", sound recording administered by:
              Kontor New Media

              "Audun Kayser-Aria Da Capo E Fine", sound recording administered by:
              [Merlin] Phonofile

              "Remi Masunaga-Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Aria", sound recording administered by:
              IDOL (Independent Distribution On Line)

      What does this mean?

      Your video is still available worldwide. In some cases ads may appear next to your video. Please note that the video's status can change, if the policies chosen by the content owners change. Learn more about copyright on YouTube.
      This claim does not affect your account status.

      Try it yourself and see.

  • ...for Zenph [zenph.com].
    • nah... Glenn Gould's versions are often the first that people hear. Afterwards, everyone else plays it "wrong". (I happen to dislike some of his work for the same reason). People don't buy gold-coated power cords so they can listen to free music.
      • Glenn Gould's versions are often the first that people hear. Afterwards, everyone else plays it "wrong".

        FWIW, I like both the 1955 and 1982 versions.

        I have to admit I jumped the gun with my post. I thought the article was referring software that could score on the fly if you feed it a performance. Never actually heard one, but I find the Zenph "re-performance" concept intriguing.

  • Why don't they use ogg vorbis instead? We don't have software patent here so MP3 is as free as Ogg Vorbis, but if they decided to be as free as possible (CC licensed) then the latter would be better.

  • Does anybody have any review/comment on the quality of performance and recording? I know that it cost me nothing (as I didn't know about the Kickstarter project) but I hope for the future of this kind of project that it's topnotch. I'm enthused about the idea of funding a recording session in advance if the result is released under a nonrestrictive license like CC0 and there's a reasonable expectation of good outcome.
  • s'wonderful (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PopeRatzo (965947) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @09:05AM (#40141277) Homepage Journal

    MuseScore and MusicXML (or mXML) are fantastic projects and wonderfully useful products. I use both all the time and donate cash on a regular basis. I've used them for professional, high-end projects and for little personal projects that will never go beyond my four walls. mXML is yet another open source project that was just so smart, so good that all the the big proprietary music editor developers had to incorporate it into their own products, because none of them had been able to come up with a flexible, portable, rich music language or format of their own.

    If anyone who has contributed to either of these is around here, you need to stand up and get a little round of applause.

    I learned about mXML and MuseScore when I was searching online for lead sheets to some jazz standards to learn on my chromatic harmonica, and stumbled upon wikifonia (also a very worthy project). It is a shame that wikifonia is having such trouble staying up lately. I'm sure they're getting the full scorched-earth treatment from music publishers, who have so badly failed at making any good use of new technologies.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Wikifonia is an older project by Thomas Bonte :) He's one of MuseScore developers :)

      • by PopeRatzo (965947)

        Wikifonia is an older project by Thomas Bonte :) He's one of MuseScore developers :)

        I had no idea. Thank you for sharing that bit of information.

        I'm going to try to thank Thomas Bonte personally.

  • This is on a side note. I've been sort of obsessed by the Goldberg variations for years, and of all performers I've heard, I really do recommend Tatiana Nikolayeva (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tatiana_Nikolayeva). To my ears, she's just outstanding compared to Glenn Gould and the others, when it comes to Goldberg. The Goldberg variations were meant to be played at night, easing the long nights of the insomniac Count Kaiserling, for whom Goldberg worked. I've always thought that the music was meant to be pl

    • by HungWeiLo (250320)

      I'll have to give the Tatiana Nikolayeva version a try. I consider the recently remastered 1981 Gould recording to be by far the one to beat.

    • by GlobalEcho (26240)
      OK, I'll bite on the recording, but which one? 2008 or early 1990s?
    • I'll look for the Nikolayeva's interpretation, thanks for the tip. I too am a bit obsessed with the Goldberg. Gould's interpretation is impressive, apart for his habit of humming while he plays....
      May I suggest you Bruno Canino [wikipedia.org]'s interpretation ? I find it really outstanding. I also had the opportunity to hear a live performance of the Goldberg by Andras Schiff, and it was simply mesmerizing, but the recording isn't as amazing as the live performance I had the joy to attend.
  • Lovely. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Demerara (256642)

    Just the thing for this Tuesday morning. Thanks to MuseScore and Kimiko!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Amazing that something like this can come out of a city where most buildings are only held together by the graffiti on their walls, the trains aren't held together at all, and apparently a rather large part of the population consists of ultra-leftists (homeless punks) who get away with everything and are 100% oblivious to the self-irony they project in their actions.
    There's also the new airport that was supposed to open (and immediately and permanently replace Berlin's two older airports) in a couple days,

  • I haven't listened to them all yet, but the Ishizaka's recordings sound really good. I think the Goldberg Variations can tolerate a range of styles.

    I few years back I wanted to know what the Goldberg Variations might sound like "uninterpreted", at least as far as that is practically possible. I downloaded Dave Grossman's midi files [jsbach.net] and the Blanchet 1720 Harpsichord soundfont [sonimusicae.free.fr]. I played a little with the registers and cleaned up the midi files a touch. Then I recorded them with timidity using a dash of re

  • From the Open Goldberg Variations blog: "iPad owners can now enjoy the Open Goldberg Variations, played by Kimiko Ishizaka, while following the score on their iPad. MuseScore has released a free iPad app that is dedicated to the music, the score, and the history of the Open Goldberg Variations project. Have fun!" Link: http://bit.ly/LqR6SQ [bit.ly]

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