Do you still need to understand why software should be open source?

So, apparently, Sibelius is being put into deep freeze. That’s this one, the composing software not this one, the composer, who’s been beyond the deep freeze for a few years now.

Apparently composers really like it and there’s a deep sense of regret. As seems to be the fashion there are calls for a petition and a plan to pester the board of the parent software company. I remember it running on the Archimedes computer as a complete system with midi this and midi that costing several thousands of pounds but now it’s for sale it runs on general purpose PCs for the relatively modest price of £99.95. However, it’s closed source and don’t lose the registration key.

Good luck to those hoping to change the decision but as the proverb has it “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me”

I always thought “nothing can come of nothing” came from Shakespeare’s” King Lear but in a relevant and amusing piece of recursion apparently the Roman poet Lucretius got there 1600 years earlier:

But only Nature’s aspect and her law, which, teaching us, hath this exordium:

Nothing from nothing ever yet was born.

and 500 years earlier the Greek poet, Parmenides, opined similarly.

The relevance, for those of you still reading, is that the whole Acorn/Archimedes project was born out of the ecosystem surrounding the BBC Computer and no doubt assisted by the good reputation of the BBC itself.

Just in case you were still thinking “yes, but what about the composing?”, Avid themselves suggest:

Get your ideas into Sibelius First by scanning printed sheet music, transcribing audio, or playing MIDI instruments—and transfer music between applications via MusicXML interchange

Of course, that will be your ideas and not the Chiffons and apparently not Vince P’s (me neither, BTW).

Then there’s musicXML. Luckily the format is unencumbered though the copyright owners retain some rights over how the name is used. The format itself seems to have earlier origins but in any event there do not appear to be any barriers to including it in the versatile productivity suite made from Open Source Software, Calligra.

Apparently there are around 150 programmes that support musicXML but for no particular reason I’ll focus on Musescore:

MuseScore is a free cross-platform alternative to programmes such as Sibelius, Finale and Capella. With it you can print beautifully engraved sheet music or save it as PDF or MIDI file with features including:

  • Easy and fast note entry with keyboard, mouse, or MIDI keyboard
  • Integrated sequencer and FluidSynth software synthesizer
  • Import and export of MusicXML and Standard MIDI Files
  • Available for Windows, Mac and Linux
  • GNU GPL licensed

Though I also quite like the old school Phillip’s Music Writer also originally developed on the Archimedes.

And if these programmes don’t have what features you want, you could always ask, collaborate or add them yourself. No dongles, no activation… free to use forever and it will only get better.

— Gerry Gavigan, Chair, 23 August 2012

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