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Re: Alternative music font

From: Jan Nieuwenhuizen
Subject: Re: Alternative music font
Date: Mon, 19 Oct 2009 20:49:54 +0200

Op maandag 19-10-2009 om 15:33 uur [tijdzone +0100], schreef Simon
Jan Nieuwenhuizen <address@hidden> wrote:

> 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).

Great.  Are you willing to spend more time on this, to finish it?

> 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.)

Possibly.  Then again, we started off by using someone else's font and
replace the note head by our own.  As an aside, I found the note head
much too round, almost as round as Gonville's ;-)

FWIW, the point sizes thing is not what took most of that time.  Have
you looked at our font sources?   See for example in

    fatten := number_design_size * h + b;

you can do that!

> 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.

Probably you're right.  But send us a patch then, tweak some things,
But to redo the whole font!  Man, that's just cruel!  ;-)

> I may yet make another attempt at redesigning the multiple flags.

Ah, good.

> 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.

Yeah I remember Han-Wen found that all flags need to be designed as a
whole and have a different curvature; after trying to do what Sonata
did, just stacking flags.  Unfortunately, I do not see anything about
that fact in the sources.

> They're all currently 'the same thickness' in the sense that every
> flag covers the same vertical length

That may be so, but have a look at the blackness of the single 8th
up-flag in the third measure and compare it to the two 16ths to the
right of that.  The 16th flags cover a triangle with about or over 50%
of the rectangle it cuts between the staff lines.  In contrast the
single eight only has a small black wedge?  Possibly the staff line
plays a bit unfortunate here, but eh, you'd have to count with having
a staff lines here and there, I guess.

> > 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...

Okay.  So why not work on a patch to hook it up to LilyPond -- best
chances to get some feedback.
> 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' :-).

Yeah well, anything to get the young, fashionable new on-storming
generations hooked to LilyPond, I guess.

> 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.

Well, you'll just have to go look for some of those then?  I mean, if
Gonville looks like most music you ever saw, such music cannot be hard
to find?  I mean, not that you /must/, but it would help you to
describe the musical practice or culture the font is based on.  It
would help others that would like to add or change glyphs very much if
they could go look for publications that have such a font?  And how
can we send bug reports if we have nothing to compare it to?  :-)

> 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.

That would be a bug.  How many degrees would you need to rotate it to
get it straight, in your opinion?
> You'd be welcome to include it if you wanted to

Sorry, I don't think it works that way.  But you can always send a

> - I was under no illusions that you'd instantly prefer it to the
> font you've carefully tuned to the criteria you consider important!

Of course I do.  But others using LilyPond may not?

> 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 :-)

Good idea, send a patch :-)

> Would a patch implementing that (which shouldn't change the current
> behaviour for anyone using Feta) be likely to be accepted?

If it looks good and makes sense, of course.

> 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.

Good!  Feta has been tuned together with all line thicknesses and I'm
not sure that changing those will still produce nice output.

> Indeed, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to get a font
> with different metrics to work at all.  I was able to use the
> unmodified Lilypond binary, and all I had to change was the fonts
> subdirectory of $LILYPOND_DATADIR.

Yeah, but that's not a nice or robust solution.  You'd really have
to look into setting (font-family . feta) / (font-family . gonville)
or so and picking up the right file from a directory that contains
all fonts, feta and gonville alike.


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