Oskar Fried: the Big Bang

It seems the circle is going to close now.
Nearly three and a half years ago Janek introduced himself to the lilypond-user mailing list with this message – and see who were his first two contacts from the LilyPond community ๐Ÿ™‚ .
In the meantime we had several projects, exchanged thousands of emails (not including on-list communication), even talked a few times over Skype – but never had the opportunity to see us in natura (and I think our Avatars aren’t exactly revealing). Now’s the time to change this: On Friday we’ll finally meet at the Musikmesse Frankfurt! Let’s hope the blind date won’t be a disappointment ๐Ÿ˜‰ .

But this isn’t the Big Bang promised in this post’s title. ๐Ÿ˜‰

The Big Bang is that…

… (drum roll) …

This Friday we’ll receive the BEST EDITION 2014 award of the German Music Publishers’ Association for our edition of Oskar Fried’s songs!! ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

Of course we were absolutely thrilled when we heard about the election, and it was hard to keep it private until today. It seems the hard work that we put in this project finally paid off ๐Ÿ™‚ . I think we continued to strive for perfection even after the point when most publishers would have been satisfied with the results – and also when we ran out of budget. We also worked hard to refine our innovative collaborative workflows and to promote them publicly. Considering what I wrote on this blog alone it’s hard to imagine that it was only in the course of this project that I learned about version control with Git and finally decided to use LaTeX.

Thank You!!

This is an opportunity to express our deeply felt gratitude. Towards the people who developed such great tools as LilyPond, LaTeX, Git and also Frescobaldi, but also towards the community that was so helpful for our work. So many issues wouldn’t have been solved without competent assistance on lilypond-user and on StackExchange. Additionally there are numerous tools in our function library that have been created or updated by others on our request. We are very happy – and to some extent also proud – that a number of them are by now an integral part of LilyPond itself. Updating our edition to current LilyPond versions will to a significant degree mean removing our library functions because they aren’t necessary anymore ๐Ÿ™‚ .

Another way of expressing our gratitude towards the community is our intention to open up the edition to make it available under a free license. This will allow anybody to investigate the sources, make modifications (e.g. personal transpositions) or even improve the edition – be sure to read on!



We found it cute to invent a wannabe company name and a logo for inclusion in the Fried edition, and now it turns out that it has been a really nice idea. As a reaction to the award we’re going public now with this and present beautifulScores.net, our engravers’ collective offering innovative solutions around scores and music books. Of course this is initially Janek’s and my โ€œbabyโ€, but if you’re interested in joining us don’t hesitate to write us an email. We’ll probably need a certain number of copyists for one or more Crowd Engraving projects, and we’ll be also happy to collaborate with people with higher and perhaps specific skillsets (e.g. historic or contemporary notation, Scheme or Python skills, management of a Git server etc.).

Meet us in Frankfurt

If you have the opportunity to go to Frankfurt we’d be happy to meet you there. We’ll be at the Messe from Thursday (March 13) noon throughout Friday evening. Janek will stay in Frankfurt for Saturday too. Our base camp will be the Booth of SCORA, a company offering exciting LilyPond based digital music stands (3.1 B34). This looks really interesting, and I’m looking forward to seeing it in action. Parts of our Fried edition will be displayed in SCORA’s hardware.
If you intend to come it’s advisable to drop us an email in advance so we can exchange mobile phone numbers.

If you come to Frankfurt you can browse the other 126 pages too ...)

If you come to Frankfurt you can browse the other 126 pages too …)

Freely Created… and Freely Available?

While we worked on the project we were very conscious about the fact that the edition was created nearly exclusively with free software. Nearly. There are two exceptions to this, one fundamental and one more or less accidental. As I felt unable to create a good-looking cover with LaTeX (at least in the given timeframe) I deferred this to our fellow collaborator, Alexander Gurdon, who created it using InDesign. Today I wouldn’t go that route anymore and would do this with LaTeX too.
A more serious โ€œflawโ€ is the use of non-free text fonts. Even after some research and a widely-discussed survey on lilypond-user I did not find a satisfying replacement for Adobe’s Minion Pro. Apart from its elegant appearance this font really scores with its wealth of different weights and widths, which made it possible to find font faces for all kinds of text elements, ideally matching the appearance of the music engraving.

We created this edition using free software and benefitted from this freedom, through the community spirit in general, but also through the possibility to tweak and improve the tools we used. Examples for this are the mentioned improvements through others, the development of my lilyglyphs LaTeX package to use notational symbols in text, and the fact that we were able to compile our scores with a custom-built LilyPond containing some patches by Janek and by David Kastrup – try that with Finale ๐Ÿ˜‰ . Now we’ve got this fantastic public acknowledgment of our work, and we want to partly redirect this attention to the tools we use. But somehow it doesn’t feel right to have all this work on and with free software resulting in a proprietary product that is only accessible through buying the printed copy, without allowing other people to improve it further, make derivative versions (e.g. transpositions, or a version using only free fonts). If this edition is to become a real โ€œflagshipโ€ project for LilyPond, usable as a proof of its professional capabilities, usable as an object to study our – exemplary or flawed – coding techniques, or usable to trigger any sort of community project around it, then it should be a freely redistributable piece of โ€œsoftwareโ€.

I have to admit that initially I wasn’t all that enthusiastic about this idea, and had to be convinced about it through a (unusually calm) discussion with a number of LilyPond’s developers. But now I think that it actually is a good idea to open up our edition and make it freely available. I’m glad that I could convince our publisher to follow us here. So we decided to open up the edition and make their sources available under a free license – as soon as all expenses have been covered. Of course nobody will expect us and our publisher to do this while still having invested considerable amounts of time and money …

We need your support to make this edition Free!

By now both me and Janek are convinced that freeing the edition is a good idea and that it will be also good for LilyPond. What we need is your financial support – we must cover the publisher’s expenses before we’ll be able to free the edition.

There are two major ways of helping us with this goal: you can buy printed copies of the edition (which we consider a rewarding investment anyway if you care for beautiful scores and/or romantic music), ideally directly from the publisher, or you can support our campaign at Indiegogo (even the smallest contributions count!). There you’ll find a great number of interesting perks, ranging from PDF/Source packages over printed copies, an interview on our blog up to donating a bug fix/feature request for LilyPond. Even if you can’t support this campaign financially please spread the word ๐Ÿ™‚ – we really count on you, and we want to make all this a worthwile event for free culture and software ๐Ÿ™‚ .

16 thoughts on “Oskar Fried: the Big Bang

  1. vvillenave

    Cheers, guys! Let’s hope this will be successful and Free Culture wins in the end.
    The “beautiful scores” website is a nice initiative, I hope it will grow and thrive on the long run. I was happy to discover a sample of Urs’ own dodecaphonic work, btw.

    1. Urs Liska

      Well, I don’t consider this a “work” – it really is a study. But I had wanted to see it engraved for a long time (after having given it a try with a 1995 version of Finale ๐Ÿ˜‰ ), and now I was absolutely blown away about how effortlessly LilyPond handles it (you know, that file is without any tweak!)

  2. Benkล‘ Pรกl

    Weโ€™ll probably need a certain number of copyists for one or more Crowd Engraving projects, and weโ€™ll be also happy to collaborate with people with higher and perhaps specific skillsets (e.g. historic or contemporary notation, Scheme or Python skills, management of a Git server etc.).

    I have a package to create renaissance and modern edition from the same source.

    1. Urs Liska

      It was very good that you were there then to kickstart everything on so short notice. Now that I know the music so good I know better and would have warned anybody that this job might become really complex ๐Ÿ˜‰
      But actually having this number of transposition available (along with a number of songs done later by Janek) was the foundation on which the idea for this edition could emerge in the first place.

  3. Elaine Alt

    Congratulations, and thanks for sharing everything.

    I was curious to try to help support you by buying from your publisher, but could not figure out how to do so through the link you provided. Maybe it is my complete lack of German, but I did not see your edition on the http://www.sound-rel.de website. It seemed mostly to list CDs.

  4. Urs Liska

    No, you’re not lacking German, it’s us (i.e. me) lacking any time. It’s actually very annoying that I didn’t manage to update that site (because there isn’t much to โ€œupdateโ€ anymore, this needs a complete rewrite). Probably embarrassing too, but there were (and still are) so many things to complete that this just wasn’t possible anymore.

    Well, if you could read German you might have found the order page with an email address (even without mentioning the Fried). But if you want to order a copy you can simply write an email to mail at sound-rel dot de. Retail price is 34,95/50 โ‚ฌ (soft-/hardcover), shipping 2,50 (Germany) and 7.- everywhere else.

    1. Urs Liska

      Hm, we did discuss that issue. Of course buying directly doesn’t there aren’t any third-party fees involved (Indiegogo, PayPal). But on the other hand it will probably be good for the dynamic of the campaign if the numbers there are as high as possible.
      So maybe you should go to Indiegogo …

  5. Joram Berger


    You even made it to the lilypond.org front page (which mostly lists development news) ๐Ÿ˜‰
    What I find really interesting is that you could make this point comprehensible to the jury: computer science tools are important and open up new ways of collaboration, efficient work and quality control. I think it can’t be taken for granted that this point is understood and recognized.

  6. Bernard Meylan

    Congratulations! I bought the edition ” Fried ” and this book is a big success: typographic quality, legibility… I am a former typographer and at present a music engraver (with LilyPond and Frescobaldi), specialized in the early music. Bravo one thousand times for this realization!


    1. Urs Liska

      Thank you very much. Feedback like this is very rewarding to us.

      Let me call to the attention of all others: Please consider following Bernard’s example and support our campaign at Indiegogo to make the edition’s sources freely available. We’re very happy that we’ve nearly reached 1.000 Euro already, but given the current momentum this won’t be enough to reach the target line within the campaign.

      Please look at the page, spread the word and convince people to go there too. And note the new perks we have added for people who can’t really use the “source code package” or the whole book.

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