Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Miracle of Braille Music

In 1987 the Music Braille Committee of the World Blind Union decided to update the existing Manual of Braille Music Notation and to try to bring the major library music services together. A conference held in 1990 lead to the formation of a small consortium; FNB (Amsterdam), SBS (Zurich), ONCE (Spain), and the RNIB (UK). Together these four music braille libraries decided to build a central catalogue representing their holdings.

Over a period of six years the consortium defined its cataloguing rules based on AACR and ISBD, using Smeraglia Rules and the Groves New International Dictionary of Music and Musicians as the authority file. The resulting catalogue "the International Braille Music Catalogue" was based on non-standard software.

In 1996 the New International Manual of Braille Music Notation was published. In the following year the CANTATE project produced a system which linked music catalogues and databases of digital scores. It was natural to bring these two standard based systems together. The resulting MIRACLE project, supported by the European Commission Telematics Applications Programme (Phase 4), incorporated the four original partners, together with the Danish Library for the Blind and Regione Toscana Stamperia Braille as associate partners.

The EU-funded project began in January 1999 and formally ended in January 2001. With the encouragement of the European Commission, though without further subsidy, corresponding members have joined the project from Canada, USA, Italy, South Africa, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, UK, Finland and Sweden.

The basic idea behind the MIRACLE project is simple. Blind musicians around the world need Braille music. Music is sufficiently international to cross borders. Braille music is very expensive to produce, therefore anything that will reduce the amount of duplication is to be desired. It makes sense then to set up a system in which all music braille libraries can know what the other libraries have in stock and are producing. They should then be able to get the braille from each other at rates that are substantially less than producing the piece all over again. Where pieces are held as digital files it should be possible to send these to each other over the internet.

Now it is possible to browse and search the catalogues of four libraries for the blind (FNB-The Netherlands, RNIB-UK, ONCE-Spain, SBS-Switzerland), and it is also possible to download those files that are digitally available. In this way libraries do not only know what is available in other countries but they can also request files that they then do not have to produce themselves. Braille music is labour intensive and complex to produce and by sharing resources a lot of time and money can be saved.

The creation of a worldwide virtual library of music braille files should make a dramatic difference to the services offered to visually impaired clients needing access to music in alternative formats. The partners are committed to maintaining and developing this practical service.

Further details about the activities of the MIRACLE Group can be obtained from:

Molenpad 2
1016 GM Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Phone: +31 0486 486 486
Fax: +31 6208459

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