Music Notation by Computer Music Notation by Computer by Donald Byrd

Comb-bound, soft cover - 258 pages, Reprint. PhD thesis, Department of Computer Science, Indiana University, August 1984.

A fascinating work containing a thorough analysis of music notation, a unique set of music examples illustrating its extremes and a description of the inner workings of the author's music notation program, which led to the commercial product Nightingale.

From the Abstract...

Producing CMN (conventional music notation) output is most generally viewed as having three aspects: selecting the symbols to print, positioning them, i.e., deciding where to print them, and actually printing them. The positioning aspect is the core of the problem: it is essentially a question of formatting, analogous to formatting natural language text, but much more difficult. A solution to this aspect of the musicians' problem, that of automatic music formatting, would not only be very valuable to musicians, but would also be quite interesting and nontrivial from the computer scientist's viewpoint.

I argue, and give examples by major composers to show, that "fully automatic high-quality music notation" is not merely nontrivial but in general impossible without human-level intelligence. Since current work in artificial intelligence is far from this level, one must compromise, and three ways are possible: compromise in degree of automation, in quality of output, or in generality of input. Most workers on the problem have primarily sacrificed automation. The present work, in contrast, primarily sacrifices generality of input, partly due to historical accident but partly on philosophical grounds. A major chapter of the dissertation documents my program as so far implemented. The dissertation concludes with a discussion of the central unsolved problem of automatic music formatting.

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