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A new public domain score and studio recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations - set the Goldbergs free!
A new public domain score and studio recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations - set the Goldbergs free!
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Open Goldberg Variations driving MuseScore development

MuseScore co-founders* Werner Schweer and Thomas Bonte came to Cologne, Germany recently to meet the Open Goldberg Variations pianist, Kimiko Ishizaka. In addition to enjoying some good German beer, they also examined several historical scores of the Goldberg Variations, and discussed how this project is driving the pace of development for the MuseScore software. *Nicholas Froment is the third MuseScore co-founder.

Here is the summary of changes happening in MuseScore, as explained by lead developer Werner Scheer.

Bach's Goldberg Variations are a complex piece of music. The score has up to four voices per staff and makes heavy use of cross staff beaming. Some parts are also very dense and all this makes the Goldbergs a good test case for MuseScore.

During the preparation of an initial version of the score I saw several defiencies and possible enhancements of MuseScore. This has influenced further development of MuseScore a lot. Many issues are already fixed/implemented on the fly:

  • Missing features and enhancements:
    • Extended the internal auto-beaming table for 12/16 time signature (variation 11.)
    • Ties are now possible between notes in different voices; this gives more freedom in voice allocation.
    • Slurs can anchor to single note; this allows for slurs at the end of an repeat (example is variation 4 measure 16.)
    • Allow more than one clef at the same tick position (variation 16 measure 1.)
    • Added some missing articulation marks (which were already available in the lilypond feta font.)
  • Bug fixes:
    • Some cross staff beamings were rendered wrong.
    • Various misceleneous small bugs.
  • Usability enhancements:
    • Added a feature for transcribing which allows for side by side display of a scanned picture.
    • Added a "multi drop" mode to easily attach articulation marks (e.g. staccato dots) to a bunch of notes.
    • Extended the possibilities to change the voice of a note.
  • Better rendering quality:
    • The implementation of clef spacing was reworked. Clefs now make better use of the available space which looks better and may allow denser scores.

What's still missing?

  • There is still a special case were MuseScore renders a cross staff beam wrong
  • MuseScore cannot yet handle systems with different time signatures (variation 26: 18/16 and 3/4)
  • Lots of small enhancements will be possible to further enhance spacing and layout quality

We're also improving playback a bit with respect to ornaments and articulations. Playback may also become user configurable to get the desired playback.

There is also some work in progress to be able to add an audio file to a score, and to implement a special mode to play this audio file instead of using the internal synthesizer along the score. This requires a special tempo track to synchronize playback and the score's cursor, as well as a user interface to create and edit this tempo map. The Open Goldberg Variations recording could be a good test case for this feature!

Photos: Werner and Kimiko studying a score; Robert Douglass, Werner Schweer, Kimiko Ishizaka, Thomas Bonte.

  • Image 38076 original.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
  • Image 38077 original.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1

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