Music Engraving in the Digital Age

Letterform Archive

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Once the province of specialists who had undergone a long training, the widespread availability of music notation software from the 1990s on has given everyone the ability to produce sheet music themselves.

For all the benefits, this has come at a great cost. Not just a few jobs – the dedicated ‘music engraver’ now being now a near-extinct species – but to the state of the art itself. Never well-documented but passed down through the centuries from master to apprentice, engraving is now the additional task of every student, arranger and composer, and any gap in expertise has become the responsibility of the software they use.  

But worse, in the move to an all-digital and mostly-automated world, something else is in danger of being lost: the humanity, the soul, the artistry of music on the page.

This talk will explore some of the history of music notation and engraving, the current state of play as well as the challenges facing the developers of notation software today.