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Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, without copyright: a new recording adn digital score, now available at http://welltemperedclavier.org.
904 backers pledged $44,083 to help bring this project to life.

Radically increase the number of musical scores available to blind people

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We are creating the Open Well-Tempered Clavier to make the music of Bach more accessible. The point of waiving copyright and distributing digital scores and recordings is to reach as many people as possible, and remove all of the barriers. We want everybody to have the chance to enjoy and study this music.

Last week, Eunah Choi, a blind pianist from Korea, showed me that music is, in fact, not accessible if you cannot see, unless there is a Braille version of the score. She taught me about the absurd reality that even basic standard repertoire scores are not available as Braille. Case in point: While online print catalogues list over 8,000 scores for Mozart's piano works, searching the Swiss library for the blind shows only 67 scores available. If you're in the United Kingdom and wish to study the Goldberg Variations, you are competing for one of only three print copies available for loan. I spoke with a blind pianist in Florida who is studying a Beethoven Sonata from a Braille score, the only copy of the piece he could find, and it was printed in 1912. That's a score that's over 100 years old. It is the responsibility of the sighted to provide our cultural treasures in formats that can be read by the blind.

The basic goals of the Open Well-Tempered Clavier project remain unchanged, but we're accepting a new challenge as well. Our research shows that is it possible to apply open source technology to the scores in the MuseScore.com library and create Braille scores from them. Not only can we make the Open Well-Tempered Clavier and the Open Goldberg Variations available in Braille, we can make all 50,000 of the MuseScore scores on MuseScore.com available as well. It is within our reach to radically improve the situation for blind musicians who crave access to Braille scores.

There are new stretch goals. First, we want to release the Open Well-Tempered Clavier as a Braille score. With some extra resources we can also release a Braille version of the Open Goldberg Variations score. Then, we want to build a free service for converting any standard-format digital score into Braille. Finally, we want to convert all 50,000 existing scores on MuseScore.com into Braille, and thereby radically increase the number of scores available.

We need substantial financial resources to accomplish this important mission. The MuseScore team will invest in high-level software engineering, accessibility testing, and regulation of the quality of the Braille scores.

There are also new backer rewards. We will create a new work of art, something that both sighted and blind people can see, consisting of a limited edition print of a newly commissioned painting that is also embossed with the Braille rendition of the beginning of the Well-Tempered Clavier. This reward is available at the new $175 level, and is now included in all of the reward levels above that.

The dedication of a prelude or fugue is also now more attractive and meaningful. Your dedication will appear in the Braille version of the Open Well-Tempered Clavier score, personally connecting you, and the person or people you are honouring with the dedication, to the next generations of pianists, sighted and blind alike, who will learn Bach's music from the score that we create together. You will also receive the embossed print of the new painting that we will commission for this project.

The original painting will be available at the $10,000 level, which includes all of the rewards of the $5,000 level, and the painting that will be commissioned for this project.

Help us make this music accessible to Eunah Choi, and other blind musicians. They're depending on us, and we accept the challenge!

Comments

    1. Creator Robert Douglass on October 6, 2013

      Here are the stretch goals: $50,000 lets us make the Well-Tempered Clavier in Braille. $60,000 adds the Open Goldberg Variations to that list. $100,000 enables the automated web service for converting MusicXML to Braille, and $150,000 unlocks 50,000 scores on MuseScore.com.

    2. Creator Rose Vines on October 1, 2013

      Many thanks for your replies, Robert. I better go re-read the project's main page again.

    3. Creator Robert Douglass on October 1, 2013

      Johannes, we're aware of the Freedots, and know the developer. It's unlikely to be developed further, so we're looking at another library from MIT called music21. This research, and possible the maintenance or extension of this library is built into the cost estimates for the goals. MuseScore actually built a webservice based on Freedots once upon a time, but it needs to be greatly improved to be truly useful.

      Rose, to your questions:

      1. Where will the braille stretch goals fit in with your existing goals? I'd like to see at least the first of them be quite high up on the list of stretch goals.

      The stretch goals are now listed on the main project description. The new stretch goals prioritize Braille scores over everything else, though we think we can deliver some of the other goals, like a MIDI version of the recording, simultaneously.

      2. Do you have any costings for these goals? How much to publish WTC in braille, for example?

      The cost estimates are reflected in the stretch goals, plus the estimated costs of delivering the backer rewards. We won't be publishing paper versions of Braille scores, just digital. This is fine, however, since as far as we understand, blind people tend to read from machines like the one Eunah uses in the video.

      3. Do you have any connections to people in braille publishing, who might be able to help with implementing the goals or perhaps help publicize your attempts so more people join the Kickstarter campaign?

      We've got some contacts (to RNIB, for example), and we're building others. We did enough research prior to this announcement to have confirmed that the need is real, and that the benefit will be great. Any help making connections, and publicizing the effort, is appreciated.

      -Robert

    4. Creator Johannes on October 1, 2013

      That's amazing and inspiring. I doubled my pledge straight away.

      In the Youtube comments to Eunah Choi's video someone posted a link to this MusicXML to Braille converter: http://delysid.org/freedots.html It says that "many braille music notation features are not yet implemented" and there hasn't been any active development since 2009. But maybe it's helpful in any way for this project - even if just to learn what mistakes to avoid.

      All the best!

    5. Creator Rose Vines on October 1, 2013

      A few questions Robert:
      1. Where will the braille stretch goals fit in with your existing goals? I'd like to see at least the first of them be quite high up on the list of stretch goals.
      2. Do you have any costings for these goals? How much to publish WTC in braille, for example?
      3. Do you have any connections to people in braille publishing, who might be able to help with implementing the goals or perhaps help publicize your attempts so more people join the Kickstarter campaign?

    6. Creator Rose Vines on September 30, 2013

      Robert, what a wonderful vision (yes, I appreciate the irony) and a wonderful goal. I see that you have so nearly reached your original funding goal; here's hoping this new idea brings in many more backers. I love this project even more!

    7. Creator Jeremie Lariviere on September 30, 2013

      Braille scores would be very nice!
      I wonder if in addition to the ones raised through kickstarter, there are government grants to raise funds for additional braille scores for libraries?