ISSN : 1796-2048
Volume : 4    Issue : 1    Date : February 2009

Special Issue: The New Standard IEEE 1599 - Interacting with Music Contents by XML Symbols
Guest Editors: Denis L. Baggi and Goffredo M. Haus

Denis L. Baggi and Goffredo M. Haus
Page(s): 1-2
Full Text:
PDF (207 KB)

1. Introduction: Originality of Standard IEEE 1599
Proposed and de-facto standards that deal with some aspects of music have been around for
several decades, ever since the need was felt to apply computer techniques to music and
musicology. Some deal with audio, some with the graphical representation, or score, of music,
some with performance, special ones with choreography, and so on.

Since music has been annotated for at least the past forty centuries with symbols that represent
musical events – such as notes, rests, clefs, performance indications – attempts have been made
to capitalize on this experience and create music standards based on symbols. SMDL, MEI, Hy
Time, SMIL, MusicXML, MusiXML, MusiCat & MDL, WEDELMUSIC, MNML, MML, MuTaTeD, MusicML,
ChordML are a few recommendations and standards of that kind.

However, it is not that IEEE 1599 represents simply an addition to that long lost of specialized
formats. It is, instead, global methodology for music representation, since it contains some features
not found elsewhere, such as:

  • Musical events and other indications are represented with symbols – just by itself, this is not
    new, even though the format is new
  • The symbols are expressed in language XML,  thus inheriting the features of XML such as:
    natural extensibility, flexibility, durability, which may allow the standard to evolve, beyond
    Common (Western) Music Notation and toward notational formats not yet established – as
    used by the music avant-garde
  • The concept of layers, that allow integrated representation of several aspects of music, such
    as its graphic notation, texts (as in songs and opera), audio (from a recording), performance
    indications, and everything that is related to the piece such as title, composer, interpreter,
    dates, posters, discographical and bibliographical data
  • Applications that synchronize all layers and events, as with a running indicator on the score
    or the libretto during and audition,  and that allow music fruition independently of the version
    or the rendition, and independently of the audio or video format
  • As a consequence, all representations of a piece of music made with pre-existing methods
    can be recuperated as needed and desired, since they are both maintained in their original
    formats (e.g., WAV, MP3, MIDI, acoustical recording) and put under a single comprehensive
    meta-language in which every media file is related to all the others with links, thus creating
    an all-encompassing music information system that can be navigated in all its aspects.

The idea of music navigation is akin to entering the virtual world of a great poem or novel, such as
the Iliad or Dante’s Divine Comedy. This extends the enjoyment of music beyond that of simple
listening, and provides information about what is happening, who is doing what – as in a jazz piece
or an opera – how the piece is built – both at structural and at the detailed level – and about how the
piece is built even from a musicological analysis – which can be supplied by semantics webs and
appropriate ontologies.

2. Brief History of Standard IEEE 1599, and Acknowledgements
The initial Project Authorisation Request was accepted by the IEEE SA ( in
2001, and the Standards Activity Board of the Computer Society, CS SAB, became the project
sponsor. It created a site describing the project (
org/portal/pages/ieeecs/communities/standards/1599/par.html) in 2004 (see also http://www.lim.

An IEEE CS Conference dedicated to the project and its proposals took place in Milan in September
2002, which produced the Proceedings of the First International Conference MAX 2002: Musical
Applications Using XML, IEEE CS, 0-7695-1864-8/02, Milan, Italy, September 19-20, 2002).

The Abstract for a project proposal was accepted by the global fund Intelligent Manufacturing
Systems ( in 2002 and a preliminary project was accepted for financing by the Swiss
Commission for Innovative Technology ( in 2004.

A first article dedicated to the standard was published in IEEE COMPUTER in 2005 [3], and since
then several publications, lectures and invited lectures at conferences followed.

A formal project proposal was accepted by IMS in 2005 and by the Swiss CTI in 2006 to realize
standard and applications, together with the Radiotelevisione della Svizzera italiana (http://www.rtsi.
ch) and the festival Jazz Ascona – New Orleans and Classics ( The
Swiss government financed among others an Italian university, laboratory and its doctoral

The draft of the standard was accepted in a vote by the IEEE SA experts on April 13 with 96% in
favor, and was approved by the New Standards Committee of the IEEE SA on June 12 with no
objection. It reached its final form in October 2008, and the DTD has been posted at http://standards.

The IEEE CS International Conference "The Use of Symbols To Represent Music and Multimedia
Objects" took place in Lugano, Switzerland, on October 8, 2008, and produced the Proceedings,
ISBN 88-7595-010-5, with ten articles, seven of which have been dedicated to aspects of Standard
IEEE 1599. This was part of the Symposium on Music, Mathematics and Multimedia, supported
financially by the University of Applied Science of Southern Switzerland, SUPSI, by the State
University of Milan, Italy, and by the City of Lugano, shown at

Several projects and applications to illustrate the power of the standard are planned for the next

3. This Special Issue
It contains seven articles that describe some of the features of standard IEEE 1599. They contain,
among others, examples and detailed explanations of what is described in the bulleted paragraph
in the introduction of this writing.

Guest Editors:

Denis L. Baggi,
University of Applied Science of Southern Switzerland
Goffredo M. Haus, State University of Milan, Italy

Index Terms
Special Issue, IEEE 1599, Music Contents, XML Symbols