Braille Music Reader

It is a tool for music study and it is basically:

  • a Braille visualiser of BMML music files, supplied with a series of functions to read and to listen to the text.
  • a multimedia interactive music notebook.

The Braille Music Reader can import a Braille music score in BMML (Braille Music XML) format, and explore it under any aspect. In this way, the visually impaired user is supplied with a tool that allows a very easy reading and that is much more functional to his study than the tactile reading of the text printed on paper. The great news introduced by Contrapunctus project is that the music score, opened by the Braille Music Reader, will not only be a simple ASCII document to be read through the screen reader and/or the Braille line. Instead, it will be a file containing the contextualized music elements, that can be manipulated, arranged, selected and set up on the page as the user likes, thus completely transforming the approach to the score.

We believe Braille writing despite such problems, is still, after two centuries since its invention, the best way for a blind musician to approach music in a professional way. Yet, thanks to computer science, it is now possible to make Braille easier to read and therefore more usable. The Contrapunctus project, and in particular the Braille Music Reader, was meant for solving, at least partially, the main issues that visually impaired musicians face dealing with musical Braille, providing then with a brand new approach to reading music, similar to what sighted people have. The Braille Music Reader was meant for a large range of users, e.g. the professional musician, who needs to know each single detail, or the child, who is approaching Braille music and needs to learn only the fundamental elements, without being overwhelmed by a lot of information.

An important feature of the Braille Music Reader will be the possibility to select not only single voices, melodies or parts, but also symbols representing the sounds of a score. Indeed, it is known that in Braille, some main objects, like notes or chords, have around (before and after) a series of additional information to better describe their characteristics. Some information is fundamental, like the dot or the alteration, but others are not indispensable and might have also been written by the reviser or the transcriber, such as the fingering, the nuance or the phrasing slur. These symbols are “optional” and therefore can be studied later on, after the user has learned the notes by heart and understood the score in its wholeness.

Another special characteristic of the Braille Music Reader will be the chance to insert some notes or comments into the scores, as does the sighted musician (or teacher), when he writes down mnemonic signs directly on the score, or when he writes some notes concerning the performance. The Braille Music Reader will allow the musician to do the same things and to recover those remarks as spoken or tactile information. The interface of the Braille Music Reader was meant for being totally accessible for blind people. This means two basic concepts: first, it has to be perfectly compatible with the main screen readers, then it has to be easy to understand and to manage, to offer good usability. These features have been studied on the ground of the requests coming from the interaction with the users, who helped us to understand the best strategy to allow them a specific approach to music.

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