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Valley Academyof Arts & Sciences

Mr. Mike Cheverie » Making Music Accessible to Blind (and ALL) Students

Making Music Accessible to Blind (and ALL) Students

You may wonder how blind people access music. Up until recently, for most, probably by ear.
However, there is a form of Braille for music, and it is extensive. Just like for mathematics, there are markup languages that allow music to be displayed in print and on the internet. MusicXML is to print music (music notation, with staff lines, clefs, notes with time values, rests, etc.) as html is to letters, words, paragraphs, and print formatting. MusicXML can also be converted into Braille Music Markup Language, or BMML. Open source music editors (like a word processor in which music can be composed) are available which can be used to convert music into MusicXML and BMML.
Here are some helpful links for MusicXML and BMML:
     This site contains a very thorough explanation of MusicXML (this is the wave 
     of the future in music - you may want to introduce this to your sighted 
     This is part of the previous page. I included it because it has a discussion of 
     some of the software that can used in displaying music, including the Braille 
     Music Editor and Braille Music Markup Language (BMML).
     This page is a service of Yokohama National University in Japan.It is a "Braille
     Music Translation System" which allows the user to input music in MusicXML 
     format, and outputs the music as a .brl file. When the .brl file is opened in a 
     Braille word processor, like Duxbury 12.1, or Perky Duck, the music will be 
     displayed in Braille, and can then be embossed for the Braille-reading musician.
     Perky Duck is a free Braille-transcription word processor that allows the user to 
     write Braille documents using the computer keyboard as a Brailler: keys f, d, s,
     j, k, and l, and the space bar, correspond to the keys and space bar on an
     actual Perkins Brailler.
     This is a special project to make music more accessible to visually impaired 
     people. Under resources, there are several tutorials regarding how to read 
     Braille music.
     This is an open source music editor that can be used to write music. Music 
     written in this editor can be exported as BMML, which can be copied and 
     pasted into an html text editor and displayed as a web page with Braille 
     characters. (I tried this out using a text editor called notepad ++, and was 
     successful displaying Braille music in a web browser window.) 
     This is an initiative by Michael Cuthbert (and others) of the MIT School of
     Music and Theater Arts. Music21 is an application that uses the Python 
     programming language (with the Python Integrated Development Environment
     - IDLE) to analyze music. This is very cool, for both sighted and blind musicians!
     This is the "Bible" for Musical Braille.
 I hope you find this helpful!