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Re: Is Lilypond right for me?

From: Beton, Richard
Subject: Re: Is Lilypond right for me?
Date: Tue, 11 Mar 2003 11:02:54 +0000
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.0; en-US; rv:1.3b) Gecko/20030210

Alexander Basson wrote:

I'm wondering -- will Lilypond allow me to combine math and music
typesetting into a single document?  Can I install and use it on my Mac
(again, running OS X)?  Do I need a different TeX implementation?

In an ideal world, you can do this easily using MusicXML, MathML and XHTML. These are all flavours of XML and can be combined easily using the powerful XML namespace mechanism. However, tools to support this combination are essentially non-existent yet.

A related demonstration is available, should you wish to see how technology might progress according to the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) aspirations. Have a look at and in particular the Amaya browser. If you try Amaya, their startup page shows a combination of XHTML, MathML and SVG, a good demonstration of namespace integration.

XHTML ( is widely supported and is a fully usable descendent of HTML.

MathML ( is partially supported - web browsers such as Mozilla provide some support. Many mathematical tools are evolving to give good support to MathML (e.g. MathCad, Mathematica) so it probably has a significant future.

SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics is still emerging but seems to have a lot of work going on. Again, there are some big vendors pushing it (Adobe, Corel etc).

MusicXML (, on the other hand, is in its infancy. IMHO, is should be an important way forward. However, the major software vendors to be grudgingly supporting it and the open source community is moderately small. I wish this were not so. Project Xemo ( seems to be the major open source MusicXML activity and it's only a couple of guys at an early stage in the project. One chap is writing a MusicXML to SVG converter to fill the gap; this is attempting to reproduce for XML something Lilypond is very good at for TeX.

Where does Lilypond fit in? Not at all in an XML framework, but it's a very competent music formatter. It has some quirks and a shortage of GUIs, but otherwise it is undeniably very good. I expect it will have users and developers for some time to come. Are there converters to/from MusicXML? I don't know; there should be. In the longer term, TeX will give way to XML I think. But if you've tried writing raw XML text, you'll already know that XML is only really useful when you have the right tools.

I haven't answered the original question, but hopefully raised some broader topics.

Rick :-)

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