The Pleasantry of LilyPonding

Sometimes I wonder why I work with LilyPond. Often it means investing many tedious hours in music typesetting, and any given small issue can take a lot of time and deep research to solve. Yet I still use LilyPond, and I love it. But why?

Of course there are different answers to this; among them the “usual suspects” such as the beautiful engraving results and maybe the fact that I still feel at home writing my music as text. But recently I was pointed to yet another answer. I sat in a regional train and two young guys opposite me were talking about computer games they were playing. They made me realize why one would spend so much of one’s lifetime with LilyPond and actually enjoy it: it’s (also) a game!

You’ve got some task set. There are obstacles to remove. Sometimes you encounter dead ends or leap to another level. There are hidden treasures in the docs or issue tracker. You may suffer disappointments or achieve success. In a sense you even have a number of lives, so you can actually lose a game occasionally – i.e. give up on a project. And the final reward is the score – of course the musical score and not the high score. 🙂 It’s like a melange of a logical puzzle and a strategy game, with the pleasant side effect that it is not just for fun, but you get a result which can be ported to “real life” and has an actual use for other people!

Apart from the game aspect the pleasantry is also brought about by the artwork which continues to live in there, only it’s not crafted by hand or through mechanical processes as in earlier centuries, but through logics, computing, and (more or less industrial) printing. While working on your files you may enjoy the music you’re typesetting plus the beauty of Lilypond’s music engraving.

So, given the variety of reasons which might make people stick with LilyPond, maybe it’s not as nerdy perhaps as it may seem…

2 thoughts on “The Pleasantry of LilyPonding

  1. Abraham Lee

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who has fun using/working with LilyPond. This will be a great way to explain things to my wife 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  2. Janek Warchoł

    Thanks, Simon! This is quite inspiring, also from the developer’s point of view. Sometimes i start to get obsessed about some aspects of LilyPond, and it will be helpful to say to myself “it’s just a game, calm down!” 😉


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