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Re: Shape notes

From: J. David Blackstone
Subject: Re: Shape notes
Date: Mon, 18 Feb 2002 17:35:52 -0600

A Long Time Ago (January 19), I wrote:
>Laura Conrad wrote:
>>>>>>> "walkon71" == walkon71  <address@hidden> writes:
>>     walkon71>  are there any plans to  develop any software using shape
>> notes (do re mi)?
>> Not that I know of, but I'd use them if they were there, too.
>   I plan to do this.  Note that I'm referring to the seven-shape system as
> opposed to the four-shape system.
>   Count on it being awhile, though.
> J. David
> _______________________________________________
> Lilypond-user mailing list
> address@hidden

  I've recently been making some small progress towards this.  The first
incarnation will not be of extremely high quality code.

  I see now where to intercept the key so I can save it away and use it
when generating the note shapes.  I can keep it as a note name or a pitch
object.  For the time being I'll probably stash it away in a global
variable somewhere until I decide where it belongs.

  I made some progress awhile back with changing the symbol generated for
each note head based on its vertical position.  I could even have the
system tell me the solfege name for each note (do, re, mi, ... the names
correspond to the shapes) as it parsed them out ... provided I could have
the program assume a key.  Unfortunately I've lost track of where that work
went, so I'm looking for it again.  I think I see what to do, though, based
on what the Notehead::brew_ez_molecule function does to print out numbered
note heads.  (I'm a little concerned that what I did before only gave me
the line or space within the staff, meaning the results were only valid for
the soprano or G clef.  Can't remember just yet.  A means of being able to
tell what staff I'm on, or specifically the pitch of the current note, from
within the Notehead::brew_molecule/brew_ez_molecule/brew_shaped_molecule
function would be extremely useful, if someone could point me in the right

  Once I can compare the pitch of each note to the key, I can pick the
shapes ... once I get a shaped-note font.  (The dependencies just keep
snowballing!)  I've got a friend with a truetype font, but I don't think
that will work with TeTeX.  (Anyone who corrects me will make me very
excited.)  But if that font won't work I'm sure I can learn how to make

  Oh, and another thing.  I've recently become concerned that I'll have to
move the coordinate where the stem attaches based on each note head shape.
For example, the note "sol" is represented with an oval, just like all
notes are normally represented in round note notation.  No problem there.
The stem attaches somewhere around the middle of the right side of the
oval.  But the note "do" is represented as an (almost) equilateral
triangle, flat side down.  The line the do is positioned on goes
horizontally through the middle of it.  The stem, however, must attach to
the point on the right side -- which is at the bottom, not the middle.
Sigh.  If it makes things any simpler, I think there are only three
positions total for the stem to attach to: top right, middle right, and
bottom right.  Oh, wait, you can point the stem down ... *sigh*.  (Seeing
all the issues I'm getting into makes me really appreciate all the work
that's gone into Lilypond.  Han Wen and Jan, you rock my world!  Thank you
for making Lilypond free software!)

  All things considered, though, I'm optimistic this will happen Real Soon
Now.  It is, however, my hobby, not my job, so don't be as optimistic as I
am. :)

  In doing some research on the Internet about shaped notes, I've learned
that the seven shape system I use is called the "Aiken" system.  I know
some people are interested in a four shape system called the "Sacred Harp"
system.  I have very little knowledge of this, and very little interest,
but I have a feeling the work I do will be adaptable to produce Sacred Harp
notation, if someone is interested.

  If I get real lucky and figure out all the above issues to generating
basic shaped notes, I might then look at getting lilypond to run under
Darwin/MacOSX.  (I think I would prefer to start with Darwin because it is
free software and there will probably be little work required beyond that
to go to OS X.)  However, it's probably likely someone will beat me to the
punch by then.

J. David Blackstone

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