Re: What about musical notation?

From: William Overington (
Date: Thu Feb 22 2001 - 07:12:48 EST

Having been advised recently about accessing 21 bit unicode characters using
an example from musical notation, following up on that advice I have found
the document that details characters in the range U+1d100 to U+1d1ff,
entitled Musical Symbols.

I began wondering about how one would use unicode to display music and
searching back through my mailbox I found this thread which has answered
some questions and prompted some more.

Am I right in thinking that in the days when hand set metal type on printing
presses was the only method of printing that there were fonts of musical
type? I have never seen any font of such type myself, though I have seen
fonts for such non-text matters as chess sets and crossword puzzles.

The chess set fonts are great fun because in order to produce a setting of
the 64 squares of a chess board one needs type sorts for all permutations of
each type of piece in both colours of piece and on each colour of square.
So a chess font has many more pieces than does an ordinary chess set. The
white squares are blank and the black squares are diagonally hatched.
Producing a sequence of two prints that are a knight's move apart means
taking out the knight sort from the setting and replacing it with an empty
square of the same colour of square and taking out the sort that is at the
destination square and replacing it with a sort of a knight of the same
colour on the same colour of square as the destination square had in the
first place. The sort used for the knight in the second picture cannot be
the same sort as used for the knight in the first picture as a knight's move
always ends on a different colour square from the colour on which it
started. Moving a king, a queen a rook or a pawn may use the same sort or a
different sort for the chess piece depending on the move made. A bishop
will always use the same sort for a move. Castling is something else, both
King's side castling and Queen's side castling being interesting type
setting exercises.

I realize that the setting of music from music type might not be as
straightforward as is the setting of a position in a chess game as the sorts
in a chess font that represent the squares and the chess pieces upon them
(that is, all the items of type except the border pieces) are of the same
size and are square.

So, I am left wondering as to how unicode will be used to set music. It
does seem to me that if printers from long ago could have fonts of metal
music type and produce good results that it should be possible to have a
method using a straight sequence of unicode characters that can produce a
representation of a skilful setting of music.

While on the subject of specialist settings, could someone say how one
expresses a mathematical formula using unicode please, or is it, as it
appears music is at present, beyond the scope of what unicode can presently

I find myself interested in the possibility that unicode could be used to
encode as a sequence of characters a representation of the contents of the
composing stick of a hand set metal type printer, including the various
items of spacing material of which the viewer of a finished print is not

One application at present would be so that fine quality type set
illustrations of music and mathematics could be produced by placing that
sequence of codes in the param statement of a java applet in a web page.

Does anyone know of any details of metal music type please?

William Overington

22 February 2001

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