History of MEI
Seeing the need for a comprehensive markup language in the academic music community, in 1999 Perry Roland of the University of Virginia set about creating an XML schema (DTD) for the representation of music notation. Eventually this DTD became known as MEI because it was influenced by the same principles that guided the creation of the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI). Mr. Roland first presented his work at the first International Symposium on Music Information Retrieval in 2000. Many presentations followed including:
- Musical Applications using XML (MAX) conference, Milan, 2002
- MusicNetwork Notation Workshop, Leeds, 2003
- ISMIR, Baltimore, 2003
- Online Chopin Variorum Edition (OCVE) workshop, Philadelphia, 2004
- Digital Humanities conference, Urbana-Champaign, 2007
- TEI Members’ Meeting, College Park, 2007
In 2005 to help support these efforts the University of Virginia Library offered support for a 2-year pilot project to demonstrate the capability of MEI to faithfully represent a sample of music scores found in Beyond MIDI: The Handbook of Music Codes (Selfridge-Field, Eleanor, ed. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997) , to investigate methods for transforming MusicXML-encoded data into the MEI format, and finally, to ensure that the semantic information encoded in MEI could be rendered as traditional music notation.
In the summer of 2007, Mr. Roland was approached by representatives of the German markup community, regarding the integration of text markup and music markup. This led to a presentation on MEI to the Arbeitsgruppe Musikcodierung in der Akademie der Wissenschaften und Literatur in Mainz, in July, 2007 and collaboration with:
- Stefan Morent of the University of Tübingen to develop features within MEI for the representation of medieval notation; and
- Johannes Kepper and Daniel Röwenstrunk, both from Edirom, to refine MEI handling of score facsimiles and editorial intervention.
Initial results of these collaborations were demonstrated at the conference "Digitale Edition zwischen Experiment und Standardisierung", held in Paderborn, Germany in December, 2007. During a lecture on music editing, they wondered if digitized editorial reports might be easier to understand than those in print format. After receiving assistance from the German Research Foundation (DFG), a prototype for digital music editions was created. In 2005, this prototype, containing Carl Maria von Weber’s Clarinet Quintet, op. 34, was published at no charge as an addition to the printed edition of the Weber-Gesamtausgabe (Complete Works). This was the first complete computer-based scholarly edition of a piece of music from the Common Western Notation period. Due to its wide approval among musicologists and editors, the DFG granted funds for five more years, beginning in 2006. Edirom employs MEI in its prototype-successor software.
During a one-week workshop on "Knowledge Representation for Intelligent Music Processing" at the Leibnitz Center for Informatics at the Schloss Dagstuhl at the end of January 2009, a small MEI study group was founded. One of the main topics during the Dagstuhl discussions was the question of data interchange between different encoding systems. Under the guidance of Andreas Kornstaedt (Hamburg), a list of features currently supported by existing formats was created, the so-called "Dagstuhl Core". This document was used in the discussions regarding the creation of a requirements list for encoding music notation as part of the meeting in Charlottesville mentioned below.
Collaboration between the research being performed in Germany and the development of the standard being conducted in the United States is currently supported by a DFG/NEH Bilateral Digital Humanities Program: Bilateral Symposia and Workshops grant. This one-year grant is providing much needed funding to address the lack of standardization plaguing the representation of music by supporting two workshops attended by an international group of scholars representing musicology, music theory, librarianship and technologists.
The first of the two workshops took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, July 29th-31st, 2009. At this meeting it was decided that MEI held the most promise for an open-source, scholarly standard for music representation. Following this decision, the group quickly turned its attention to development work necessary for the growth of MEI. A list of potential users and uses for the standard was recorded. A functional requirements document was drafted and is currently being revised. Based on the functional requirements, a work plan for the technologists has been developed which includes the revision of the schema and the creation of a tag library. Following the revision of the schema, sample scores selected by the workgroup that illustrate problems in successful music encoding will be encoded in MEI. Perceived by all participants as a great success, this workshop marked the beginning of MEI development as an international community driven effort. Our progress can be monitored at www.mei-c.org.
The second DFG/NEH funded meeting was held in Detmold Germany in March 2010. At this meeting, the group reviewed the finished examples, schema and tag library. In addition, a plan for continued development and dissemination of the results of our efforts was created and will be submitted to the DFG and NEH and implemented by the current MEI Advisory Board. Also at the meeting was a series of reports by people and groups currently working with MEI.