Sibelius Core Team Now at Steinberg, Building New Notation Tool

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In the production of printed scores and traditional notation, two tools have loomed large for over a decade: Sibelius and Finale. So, for publishers, composers, arrangers, and teachers who use scoring software, it was a big deal when it became clear over the summer that a reorganization at Avid pushed the core development team of Sibelius out of the company. That raised some protests among users, and serious doubts about Sibelius’ future.

Now, we know what became of the core team behind Sibelius. Twelve of them now work at Steinberg, the German developer of Cubase and Nuendo, and a major Avid competitor. (Steinberg is also a Yamaha subsidiary, which gives them tremendous distribution power, as @Dan_Radin notes to CDM on Twitter.)

After years of relative quiet in the notation software landscape, it appears scoring software could be in for a real shake-up if these developers can live up to their ambitious goals. The Sibelius team now are readying their own notation tool, and they’re blogging the results, starting today. (It sounds like a non-compete agreement wasn’t part of their severance, unless they’re about to hear from Avid legal.)

What matters for users: this new tool promises to be built from the ground up, and with the Sibelius creators behind it. That could actually mean this story has a happier ending. Unlike Sibelius and Finale, the new tool won’t be bound by legacy code. (Sibelius, for its part, has code and an architecture dating back to the days of the Acorn computer in the UK. Don’t remember the Acorn? Yeah, it was a while ago.)

We get an explanation of what’s going on from none other than Dan Spreadbury. (Dan was a key figure behind Sibelius’ development for many years.) The goals sound almost impossibly lofty – but they’re also the goals I know many people who care about scoring desperately want. Excerpt:

We have a vision for a flexible, powerful music notation application that is equal to the task of notating today’s most challenging art music and capable of producing graphical results of the highest quality, while providing an environment for composing and arranging that is as close as possible to the simplicity of writing music with pencil and paper, or improvising at your instrument.

The suggestion of alternative notation warms my heart; architectural considerations in the original Sibelius made some of these difficult or impossible to implement. And returning to the feel of improvisation and pencil and paper – that’s even better. How they’ll pull it off is another matter, but it’s nice to hear these goals.

Well worth reading the whole post:
Keeping Score: Welcome! [blog.steinberg.net]

We’ll be watching.

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