MetaBrainz sponsored Music Hack Day London 2014 and we had agreed to provide a prize for one of the winners. We thought that Thomas Bronte from MuseScore had the best hack and offered him a choice of a few prizes that were appropriate for hack day winners. Thomas declined and instead asked if he could pen a guest blog entry on our blog when they were ready to reveal their new project. We immediately agreed to do that, since open source projects need to stick together and help each other out. Finally, this is the blog post that Thomas and crew penned—read on to find out about their excellent new project!
OpenScore is a new crowdsourcing initiative to digitise classical sheet music by composers whose works are in the public domain, such as Mozart and Beethoven. Massive crowdsourced projects like Wikipedia, Project Gutenberg and OpenStreetMap (not to mention MusicBrainz!) have done wonders for the democratisation of knowledge, putting information and power in the hands of ordinary people. With OpenScore, we want to do the same for music.
OpenScore’s aim is to transform history’s most influential pieces from paper music into interactive digital scores, which you can listen to, edit, and share. This will be of huge benefit to orchestras, choirs, ensembles, and individuals looking for materials from which to practise music, but it doesn’t end there! All OpenScore sheet music editions will be freely distributed under Creative Commons Zero (CC0). This means there are no restrictive copyright terms, so everyone will be free to use the files for any purpose. We want to maximize the benefit to music education and research, and inspire composers and arrangers to produce new content.
The advantages of digital sheet music are huge. OpenScore Editions will be available in the popular MusicXML format which can be read by most music notation programs. The files can also be parsed by software tools for research and analysis, and can even converted to Braille notation for blind musicians. Digital scores can also be easily adapted into non-standard forms of notation for use in education, accessibility, or gaming; or turned into artistic visualisations. The works will be stored in an online database, accessible via a REST API. Each work will be associated with its composer’s MusicBrainz and WikiData IDs to enable cross referencing with existing online content.
OpenScore is the result of a partnership between two of the largest online sheet music communities: MuseScore and IMSLP. Since 2006 the IMSLP community has been searching for out-of-copyright musical editions, scanning and uploading them to create one of the world’s largest online archives of public domain sheet music in PDF format. MuseScore has a dedicated community of millions of people around the world, who use MuseScore’s website and open source notation software to compose, arrange, practise and share digital sheet music. OpenScore will harness the power of these communities to transcribe the IMSLP editions, which are currently just pictures of pages, into interactive digital scores by typing them up, one note at a time, into MuseScore’s sheet music editor.
OpenScore starts with a Kickstarter campaign to liberate 100 of the greatest classical pieces. This will help us to start developing the necessary systems to scale up to liberating all public domain music. Backers can help pick the pieces to be liberated, so if you love classical music and you wish to liberate a composer or a specific work, make sure you support the Kickstarter campaign and help spread the word about OpenScore and digital sheet music!