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Re: Alternative music font

From: Jan Nieuwenhuizen
Subject: Re: Alternative music font
Date: Mon, 19 Oct 2009 16:27:23 +0200

Op maandag 19-10-2009 om 15:05 uur [tijdzone +0100], schreef Simon
> (I hope this reply to the list works.

I think not, you'll have to subscribe.

>  I had to post my previous
> message through the Gmane interface, but if I have to post this one
> the same way, I won't be able to get the In-Reply-To header to work
> properly.)

> Jan Nieuwenhuizen <address@hidden> wrote:
> > Wow.  You created a full font?  That must have taken quite some time!
> > I think Feta took Han-Wen and me something between one and two
> > man-years of work.
> This one has only taken me a couple of months (including some
> initial thought about how to get nice-looking curves without an
> excessive amount of manual specification). But then, it's very
> likely that a lot of yours is better thought out in many ways that I
> didn't pay much attention to. (Just for a start, I haven't
> implemented your subtle variation between the different point sizes,
> except in the braces.)
> > I feel a bit disappointed because one of my goals was to create a font
> > that would look like the most beautiful music that I have seen.  As
> > one of our explicit goals for LilyPond is for the printed music /not/
> > to distract the player, we evidently failed to achieve this for you.
> I'm afraid so, but then, it doesn't seem surprising to me that one
> answer doesn't satisfy everybody's tastes! I don't think you have
> any call to feel disappointed at not having managed to please
> absolutely everybody.
> > Looking at Gonville it's not so difficult to imagine for me how this
> > could be, as I cannot remember ever having seen music that looks much
> > like it.  For example, the up-flags are much fatter and
> > rounder/shorter than the down flags, is that intentional?
> I may yet make another attempt at redesigning the multiple flags.
> The intention was to have them all essentially similar in shape
> (unlike, say, Feta's quadruple down-flag in which the four flags
> look very different from each other) and bold enough to make it easy
> to see how many of them there were. They're all currently 'the same
> thickness' in the sense that every flag covers the same vertical
> length of stem where it joins on to it; that's something that I may
> re-think later on in favour of a more subjective idea of 'sameness',
> because I've already had one mild criticism of it.
> > What is the status of the font, is it ready for general use, is it
> > finished?
> Initial development is complete. I may make changes, but probably
> not until I've collected some feedback and got a general idea of
> what really does want changing and what's a silly idea I've
> accidentally talked myself into by thinking too hard about it...
> > Up till now we have been advertising Feta as being "the" lilypond font
> > and describing it mostly with general terms as "beautiful" and
> > "designed after the best typesetting traditions".  In some places,
> > possibly the essay and talks, we elaborated on the fatness, eg see the
> > short note of font design at
> > 
> >
> One comment from a friend about the difference between the two fonts
> was that a thing he liked about Gonville was that it looked more
> modern. Feta certainly seems to be striving after a 'traditional'
> look, and perhaps that's precisely what is not to everyone's taste
> (one person's 'traditional' is another's 'old-fashioned' :-).
> > Now that you created a second working font for Lily, it would be
> > nice if both fonts were [more explicitly] advertised as to what
> > they were designed after.  The LilyPond font sources contain
> > quite a few citings of sources of inspiration, eg [...]
> Sadly I don't have anything like that sort of detailed citation
> available. I grew up playing the violin, and in designing Gonville I
> was trying to recall the look of the sheet music I was provided with
> by my teachers, because that was what I was used to reading;
> unfortunately, I don't have most of that sheet music any more, so
> all I can give is vague generalities.
> Ultimately, my design criterion was that it should satisfy my
> personal subjective aesthetic criteria. Feedback so far suggests
> that at least a few other people's criteria are not too far off
> mine, but I don't think I could really give a scholarly analysis of
> where mine came from.
> >     Further, common [text-]font considerations were taken into
> >     account.  For example, a glyph should look balanced out.  It
> >     should not lean backward of forward, inviting the reader to catch
> >     it before it falls over :-)
> It's interesting that you should mention that: that actually reminds
> me of one of my specific issues with Feta, namely that the curved
> centre line of its treble clef _does_ make it look to me as if it's
> leaning over backwards. Gonville's straight-backed version feels
> much more balanced to me.
> > Do you intend to have Gonville included in LilyPond?
> You'd be welcome to include it if you wanted to, but I hadn't
> particularly expected that you would - I was under no illusions that
> you'd instantly prefer it to the font you've carefully tuned to the
> criteria you consider important! I'm perfectly happy to maintain it
> as a third-party accessory, and keep it up to date as necessary. I
> don't even ask for a link from the website, if you don't think
> Gonville is of sufficiently high quality to merit it.
> All I'd suggest is trivial changes to Lilypond to make it easy to
> use an alternative font, and at least not actually _deny_ that such
> a thing exists. (E.g. the documentation for ly:system-font-load
> currently says that only Emmentaler and Aybabtu contain the
> necessary LILC, LILF and LILY tables, which is now out of date :-)
> Oh, and there was one other thing: Gonville's time signature digits
> are deliberately designed to stay clear of the 1st, 3rd and 5th
> stave lines, because I find that makes the numbers much more
> legible. However, Lilypond insisted on squashing both sets of digits
> firmly up against the middle line, defeating my intention. I've
> worked around that for the moment by lying about the digits'
> vertical extent, but that's a nasty hack; it would be nicer if
> Lilypond itself could centre the digits around the 2nd and 4th lines
> of the stave in the case where they're smaller than 2*staff_spacing
> (which I think would also look nicer in the case where a user
> manually selects a small alternative font for the digits). Would a
> patch implementing that (which shouldn't change the current
> behaviour for anyone using Feta) be likely to be accepted?
> > What bothers me a bit is the lightness of the font.  I consider this
> > to be an error frequently made by most post-manual/engraver [read:
> > computer/programmer] produced music.
> Hmm. It probably wouldn't be too difficult for me to redo the whole
> thing with increased line thickness; probably not as easy as it
> would be for Feta (my metafont-like setup is less highly developed,
> which is only to be expected given how much more time you've
> spent!), but doable. I could try it and see how it looks.
> > I think the glyph lookup and handling code is already parametrized.
> Indeed, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to get a font
> with different metrics to work at all. Lilypond's strategy of
> storing in the font file itself the information about where to
> attach stems to the note heads, for example, was extremely useful;
> without it I would probably have had to distribute Gonville in a
> form that included a source code patch to Lilypond. Instead I was
> able to use the unmodified Lilypond binary, and all I had to change
> was the fonts subdirectory of $LILYPOND_DATADIR.
> The only problem was that I couldn't find any easier way to change
> the font throughout than by using an alternative $LILYPOND_DATADIR.
> I don't think I managed to get ly:system-font-load to even load a
> font at all from outside the data directory, and even if I had, it
> wouldn't have been at all clear (if possible at all) how to get
> Lilypond to default to taking _all_ its glyphs from that font
> instead of Feta. Perhaps I could have reconfigured them all one by
> one, but that would need a lot of fiddly Scheme that was different
> for every release...
> Cheers,
> Simon

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