Sound and musical content have long trailed behind other subjects on Wikipedia, but that is beginning to change with a new musical scores extension for MediaWiki, the software running Wikipedia and thousands of other wikis. The Score extension was added to a MediaWiki deployment earlier this year and allows users to render musical scores as PNG images and transform them into audio and MIDI files.
Score utilizes the free music-engraving program LilyPond to produce musical notations and insert them into wiki code. This code is then passed on to a LilyPond renderer, which produces images that can be uploaded to Wikipedia articles. “This is somewhat similar to the way mathematical formulas are rendered in Wikipedia,” said Markus Glaser, a Wikimedian who helped develop the extension and gave a presentation on musical scores at Wikimania in 2012. Glaser said it made sense to use LilyPond because, in addition to being free and open source, “it’s text-based, can be easy, but possesses the complexities needed to fit the needs of advanced and professional notation.”
Over time, the hope is to expand on this extension and grow it into a viable resource, encouraging music teachers, music historians and the musicology community to use Score to share their knowledge.
“Studying music on the Internet is something that remains a bit confusing and fragmented. If you are after a musical performance, you can try and hunt one down on YouTube, Spotify or other similar sites,” said Chris Keating, Chair of Wikimedia UK and an amateur violinist, who explained how many of the necessary tools to analyze music still remain largely absent on the Internet. “If you’re after free sheet music, you will probably end up looking on IMSLP. And finally, if you want to read about something, say, music theory, you are likely to come to Wikipedia.”