Altova customer Recordare builds MusicXML-based solution


Case Studies

Recordare® is a technology company focused on providing software and services to the musical community. Their flagship products, the Dolet® plugin family, are platform-independent plugins for popular music notation programs, facilitating the seamless exchange and interaction of sheet music data files by leveraging MusicXML. Dolet acts as a high quality translator between the MusicXML data format and other applications, enabling users to work with these files on any conceivable system, including industry leading notation and musical composition applications Finale® and Sibelius®. The list of MusicXML adopters also includes optical scanning utilities like SharpEye or capella-scan, music sequencers like Cubase, and beyond. Dolet increases the MusicXML support in all of these programs and promotes interoperability and the sharing of musical scores. In creating the Dolet plugins, Recordare used Altova’s XML editor, XMLSpy, for editing and testing the necessary MusicXML XML Schemas and DTDs, and the diff/merge tool, DiffDog, for regression testing.

The Challenge

Music interchange between applications had traditionally been executed using the MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) file format, a message transfer protocol that has its roots in electronic music. MIDI is not an ideal transfer format for printed music, because it does not take into account the multitude of notations (e.g., rests, repeats, dynamics, lyrics, slurs, tempo marks, etc.) that convey much of the meaning. MusicXML is an open, XML-based file format specifically created to encapsulate musical notation or digital sheet music data that was built on top of previous formats, MuseData and Humdrum. XML lends MusicXML the power and flexibility to be easily accessed, parsed, rendered, and otherwise manipulated by a wide variety of automated tools, and its general acceptance as a standard makes it an ideal format for scoring using computer technology. Since its original release by Recordare in January of 2004 (version 2.0 was released in June 2007), MusicXML has gained acceptance in the music notation industry with support in over 100 leading products, and is recognized as the de facto XML standard for music notation interchange. These products would not have adopted MusicXML unless it could be used to exchange data with industry-leading applications like Finale and Sibelius. By developing advanced plugins for popular music notation suites, Recordare would be able to deliver to their customers all of the advantages that XML can bring for data exchange and standardization.

The Solution

Below is an example showing the score of the first few measures of Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte, Op. 98 as it is written in sheet music: and a small snippet of the same piece translated to MusicXML: The MusicXML-based Dolet 4 plugins for Finale and Sibelius provide a more accurate and usable representation of sheet music than Standard MIDI translation. For example, the images below show the same piece of music. On the left is a Finale 2009 rendering of a MIDI file exported from Sibelius, and on the right is the same application’s interpretation of a MusicXML 2.0 file exported from the same version of Sibelius.
In the MIDI rendition, vital information like chord symbols, lyrics, slurs, articulations, and even title and composer are omitted from the translation. In addition to providing native support for MusicXML, the recently released Dolet 4 for Finale and Dolet 4 for Sibelius plugins enhance the capabilities of these programs by adding advanced features like:

  • Batch translation
  • More accurate and reliable data exchange
  • More formatting control
  • Support for the MusicXML XML Schema (in addition to the DTD)

In developing the plugins, Recordare was subject to specific requirements dictated by the Sibelius and Finale applications. The Sibelius plugin was programmed in ManuScript, and is one of the largest plugins ever written in that language. Finale, on the other hand, requires plugins to have a C++ core, and Recordare implemented this, adding MusicXML logic in Java and a JNI layer to provide the two-way Java/C++ communication. Recordare’s Dolet plugins are now critical aspects of the music preparation process for many television and film scores as well as new music publications. Errors in translation need to be fixed in maintenance updates, while ensuring that no new errors are introduced into these complex translation plugins. Regression testing of the MusicXML file produced by the Dolet plugins is thus an essential part of Recordare’s quality assurance process. Recordare used Altova’s DiffDog in the development of the Dolet plugins. XMLSpy was used to test and edit their DTDs and XML Schemas, and DiffDog for regression testing the MusicXML files produced by the software. Recordare has several regression test suites covering a wide range of musical repertoire, from baroque to hip-hop. DiffDog allows easy differencing of multiple runs of these test suites, including the ability to ignore differences in XML metadata elements such as software version and XML creation date that always change across test cases. Recordare has used Altova’s XMLSpy XML editor to edit the MusicXML DTDs and XML Schemas, starting with the use of XMLSpy 3.5 (released in 2001) to create the earliest alpha and beta versions of the MusicXML DTD. Version 2.0 of MusicXML added a compressed zip version of the format, similar to what is used in other XML applications like Open Office and Open XML. XMLSpy 2008 Enterprise Edition’s comprehensive support for zipped XML files made it easy to test this new feature together with the Dolet for Finale plugin.

A small portion of the extensive MusicXML schema shown in XMLSpy’s graphical XML schema editor

XMLSpy’s support for XQuery has also contributed to Recordare’s regression testing efforts. In response to a customer request, Recordare now exports XML processing instructions from the Dolet for Sibelius plugin when it encounters a musical feature that it is unable to translate correctly. A simple XQuery execution to search for all the processing instructions in the XML files in a given folder lets Recordare check for the presence of these restrictions within each test suite, and then compare the resulting XML files using DiffDog between runs of the test suite. Recently, customer demand led Recordare to develop an XSD version of the MusicXML format. XMLSpy Enterprise Edition was used to develop and test the schemas. Schema validation, schema restriction and extension, and automatically-generated schema documentation were all able to be tested using XMLSpy’s features.

The Results

The Dolet plugins are extensions for common industry software that harness the built-in capabilities of the MusicXML format to make musical scores truly interchangeable across disparate systems and toolsets. These plugins have the capacity to render accurate and meaningful musical notation based on the powerful MusicXML specification. The leading XML Schema editing capabilities in XMLSpy and the strong XML and directory differencing support in DiffDog enabled Recordare to write and polish the MusicXML schemas and perform regression testing on the Dolet plugins. The resulting high quality of the schemas and software has made MusicXML and the Dolet plugins a key element of the toolkit for composers, arrangers, publishers, copyists, and engravers throughout the industry wherever printed music is used. Try XMLSpy, DiffDog, and the other Altova MissionKit tools for yourself with a free 30-day trial.

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New MapForce Online Training – Code Generation


I’m pleased to announce that the next module in the Altova Online Training Series on the MapForce data mapping tool is now available. MapForce Code Generation is an advanced-level course that provides step-by-step tutorials for generating program code (including C# , C++, Java, XSLT, and XQuery) based on graphically defined data mappings and integrating that code into your own applications (royalty-free). Detailed tutorials also walk you through how to add custom XSLT and XQuery functions, add function libraries, and process mappings with multiple files.The MapForce Code Generation module is available on-demand, so you can learn when your schedule allows, and, like all Altova Online Training courses, there is no fee or registration required. Please let us know what you think of MapForce Code Generation – comments and suggestions are appreciated.

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Free Online Training Module: Intro to StyleVision


We’ve just released a new Altova Online Training Module: Introduction to StyleVision. This free training module provides an introduction to the StyleVision stylesheet design tool interface and functionality as well as interactive tutorials for transforming XML and database content into eye-catching HTML pages, RTF documents, PDF reports, Word 2007 (OOXML) documents, and intuitive Authentic® forms. Detailed tutorials will help users create an effective StyleVision design and insert dynamic and static content. This module also explores how to format the components of the StyleVision design and create global templates. IntroToStyleVision Check out the full list of free Altova Online Training modules, all of which are available in a convenient, on-demand format. As always, please share your feedback and suggestions about Altova Online Training with us, either by using the survey included in the training module or by leaving a comment on this blog.

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Altova MissionKit and DatabaseSpy Named Jolt Award Finalists


JOLT We received an exciting piece of news that brightened a cold winter day when snow was in the forecast: The Altova MissionKit has been selected as a finalist for the 2009 Jolt Award in the Development Environment category. And it gets even better: Altova DatabaseSpy as a standalone application has also been selected as a Jolt Award finalist in the Database Engines and Data Tools category. The 19th Annual Jolt Award winners will be announced at the SD West Conference in Santa Clara, CA in March, 2009. The Jolt Awards are designed to “recognize the most innovative, trend-making, ahead of the curve products,” according to Dr. Dobb’s, the award sponsor. Even before the winners are announced, it’s an honor to be selected as a Jolt Award finalist, since the judges select five finalists in each category from the literally hundreds of development tools and apps available in today’s fast-moving marketplace. The judges are all noted software industry leaders with experience across a wide range of development technologies and projects. We’re pleased that Altova continues to be recognized in such acclaimed company. XMLSpy was a 2003 Jolt Award winner in the Languages and Development Environments category, MapForce was a 2004 Jolt Award winner in the Business Integration and Data Tools category, and UModel was a 2006 Jolt Award finalist in the Design Tools and Modeling category. You can see the entire list of this year’s Jolt finalists at http://www.joltawards.com/finalists.html.

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New Altova Solutions Center


Take a look at our new Solutions Center design! miki_box Not only does it look great (thanks to the Altova Art and Web Development teams), but it also gives a clear breakdown of Altova MissionKit tools and how they can help you be prepared and well-armed to approach common business and technology challenges.As always, we’d love to hear from you about how you use the Altova MissionKit in your organization – we are always looking for great case studies!

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New Demo Video: Intro to DatabaseSpy


We’re expanding our Flash video series to cover DatabaseSpy, Altova’s multi-purpose database utility. Available to view now, the first DatabaseSpy video is a two-minute introduction that quickly highlights many DatabaseSpy features and shows off its elegant and fun-to-use interface. Database tool demo If you have ever wondered how a multi-database query and design tool can help with a range of database analysis, design, and editing tasks, check out this quick tour. You’ll get to see the DatabaseSpy Quick Connection Wizard, Database Browser, SQL Editor, data editing functionality, and the Graphical Design Editor that lets you visualize, create, or modify database tables and relationships without writing SQL commands. Find out for yourself why DatabaseSpy has received such high acclaim – and look for more Flash videos coming soon in the DatabaseSpy series!

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Voting is Open in the Developer.com POY Awards


The US presidential election might be over, but your votes are still needed! Altova DatabaseSpy and Altova XMLSpy are finalists in the 2009 Developer.com Product of the Year Awards. We’d like to ask for your vote to help show your support for Altova tools. image Please cast your vote for Altova DatabaseSpy in the “Database Tool or Add-in” category and Altova XMLSpy in the “.NET Tool or Add-in” category.The polls close soon, so please vote today. As always, we thank you for your support!