Orkestrix Music Publishing System

Final Experiment

This is the last experiment that I'm doing to explore the features I need for Orkestrix. The next releases will be a combination of working software and documentation with examples on using it.


This is a small sample document to document how I'm building a way to write HTML (or PDF, etc.) that easily has music notation in it. Yes, I know about LilyPond and it's too complex for what I want. I want something that I can hand to musicians and they can get writing pretty quickly. These days everyone knows some kind of WikiText markup language, so I'm aiming for that style of document workflow.

I want to try combining three things:

  1. reStructuredText For writing the prose.
  2. ABC For writing the music.
  3. Dexy For building it all and because it's awesome.

From these I can output nearly everything I need very easily. Here's how I'm doing it so far.

Getting Dexy

The first thing is to setup dexy and get your dexy.yaml going. Right now you have to install dexy from the git repository, so here's how you do that:

git clone https://github.com/ananelson/dexy.git
cd dexy
sudo python setup.py install

That should download all your dependencies and give you the dexy command.

Once you have that installed, you simply create a directory and tell dexy to set it up:

mkdir music-sample
dexy setup

Last thing you do is make a dexy.yaml file that sets up some build parameters for building rST and ABC documents:

    - .abc|abc:
        - abc: {args: "-w 5in", ext: '.eps' }
    - .abc|abc|-:
        - abc: {args: "-w 7.5in -s 1.2", ext: '.svg'}
    - .abc|ss

    - .css|jinja
    - .js
    - .html|jinja
    - .png

    - .py|idio|l
    - .py|idio|h
    - .py|idio|pn:
        - idio: { 'add-new-files' : True, 'line_numbers' : True }
    - .py|py:
        - .py
    - .yaml|idio|l
    - .yaml|idio|h
    - .yaml|idio|pn:
        - idio: { 'add-new-files' : True, 'line_numbers' : False }
    - .jinja|idio|h
    - .jinja|idio|l
    - .jinja|idio|pn:
        - idio: { 'add-new-files' : True, 'line_numbers' : False }
    - .jinja
    - .rst|idio|l:
        - idio: { "lexer" : "rst+django" }
    - .rst|idio|h:
        - idio: { "lexer" : "rst+jinja" }
    - .rst|idio|pn:
        - idio: { "lexer" : "rst+jinja" }

    - code
    - songs
    - assets
    - rst2html:
        { clargs: "--template=template.html" }

    - code
    - songs
    - assets
    - tex-assets
    - rst2html:
        { clargs: "--template=template.html" }

    - code
    - songs
    - assets
    - tex-assets
    - rst2html:
        { clargs: "--template=template.html" }

    - code
    - songs
    - tex-assets
    - book/chapter*.rst
    - rst2latex:
        { clargs: "--documentclass=article \
                   --documentoptions=letterpaper \
                   --latex-preamble='\\include{preamble}' \
                   --stylesheet=orkestrix" }
    - book/*.tex
    - book/*.sty|jinja

Here is how to include dexy.yaml:

{{ ork.code('dexy.yaml|idio') }}

This seems large but here's the breakdown of what it does:

  1. I have a songs section that lists out how to process ABC files. Under that I have filters setup for processing the ABC as SVG or as EPS files. Dexy uses a filter specification that's file|filter|filter then you can add options for each filter under it. The file part can also just a .ext file extension to mean "all the files ending in this".
  2. I do the same thing for assets and code.
  3. I create a target .rst|jinja|rst2html which depends on the songs, assets, and code targets, then sets options for the rst2html plugin so that I can alter how rST outputs my stuff.
  4. Finally I do the same thing but for .rst|jinja|rst2latex|xetex which will run it through xetex instead of doing HTML.

Yes, this means we can run our rST and ABC files through Jinja first, which gives us fun templating features. This is of course all for free because Dexy has Jinja built in.


In the current Phase 6 version the dexy.yaml file is more complex so that I can style the rST output for HTML and LaTeX, but the above is the basics of it. Look in the github repo to see how it's currently implemented.

Writing The ABC

Once you have this you need some ABC to work with, and the ABC site hace plenty to play with. Here's one simple one I grabbed:

T:B007-  All in a garden green
S:via BBBM, from Wm. Ballet Lute MS
c2cc|A3/2 G/2 cA|dcBA|G2G2|\
B3/2c/2 d/2e/2 f|F3/2 G/2 A/2B/2 c|\
BAG/2F/2G|F2F2|c3/2 c/2df|fef2|AABA|\
GFG2|A3/2G/2 F/2G/2A| B3/2A/2 G/2A/2B|\
c3/2 B/2 A/2B/2 c|d3/2 c/2BA|GFG/2A/2G|F2F2|]

You can't see the Dexy command I used, but just view the source of this document and you can check what I did.

How Dexy Finds Stuff

Dexy basically processes all of your documents and source materials, runs them through the filtes you requested in the dependencies you wanted.

  1. First dexy makes a big dictionary with key=value pairs for each result.
  2. You refer to the documents you want to include simply by using their file + filter name, so in the above I just use sample.abc|jinja|ss. If I want another .abc file I use other.abc|jinja|ss.
  3. These keys are just kept in a d[] variable for jinja, and that means you just do d['sample.abc|jinja|ss'].
  4. That means you put that in a jinja tag and that's it. Dexy figures it out and injects what you need.

Writing The rST

Once you have that written you write the rST with what you want to say, and you include the Dexy commands you want to get your files in. The magic of dexy is that you don't just include docs, you include docs piped through filters.

To see how to write an rST, take a look at the source to this document as an example.

Including The ABC As SVG or EPS

Finally, to get the sample.abc file into the intro.rst file outputs you do:

.. image:: sample.svg

This uses a variable I set in the dexy.yaml that lets me know what the extension is for the file in that particular run. If dexy is making the .pdf using the .rst|jinja|rst2latex|latex filter then I get eps. If it's doing the other .rst|jinja|rst2html filter then I get svg. That is matched up with the abcm2ps command Dexy runs for the AbcFilter.

I could also use all of Jinja to alter the output or rST however I want.

The final result then looks like:


This now lets me produce HTML or PDFs from an rST document, but tailor the generated resources based on the target output.

Running Dexy

Last step is you just run dexy:


If you did everything right then you should get a document that looks like what I've got here.

The PDF Version

You can take a look at the PDF version of this same document that is produced with the above single command from the one source set.

Why This Is Fun

Here's some key points to understand about what I just did:

  1. That's straight up SVG, which means I can style it with CSS and it works in most browsers.
  2. I can also produce an EPS from this, then use rst2latex, and put this same music in a PDF output.
  3. If you look at the source it's 1 line to do that and it matches the source I mention above. No more source/output skew.
  4. ABC is like markdown for music notation. rST is a nice strict multi-output format for text. Dexy binds them together and gives me templating and document carving awesomeness for free.
  5. Dexy doesn't get in my way when I'm craft a document workflow. Other tools impose their stupid ideas about how you should write your docs, while dexy just gives you the framework that has 90% of the crap document workflows have that you kind of don't care about. And, if you do care about it you can write your own filters and plugins to change it.
  6. If you try to write about music you'll realize why the above is great stuff. If you write about code you should see why this is also great stuff.

Sample Of Including Colorized Code

One additional thing I'll want to do, since I'm a programmer, is include code that I may write about music. Here's a simple example of getting that included with Pygments coloring:

for i in xrange(0,100):
    print "I am %d" % i

You include code using the ork macros I'm making. Here's a simple sample that does both the import and loading of some code:

{% import 'macros/ork.jinja' as ork with context %}
{{ ork.code('test.py|idio') }}

Finally here's a bigger sample that is the macros/ork.jinja file itself:

{% if ext is undefined -%}
{% set ext = f.final_ext() -%}
{% endif -%}

{% if ext in ('.html', '.mobi') -%}
{% set image_ext = "svg" -%}
{% elif ext in ('.pdf') -%}
{% set image_ext = "eps" -%}
{% else -%}
{% set image_ext = None -%}
{% endif -%}

{% macro code(basename) -%}
{% if ext == '.html' %}
.. raw:: html

    {{ d[basename + '|h'] | indent(4, false) }}

{% elif ext == '.pdf' %}
.. raw:: latex

    {{ d[basename + '|l'] | indent(4, false) }}
{% elif ext == '.mobi' -%}

.. image:: {{ s.relative_path_to(d[basename + '|pn'].name) }}

{% else %}
.. warning::

    Unknown target extension {{ f.final_ext() }} for basename {{ basename }}.

{% endif %}
{%- endmacro %}

{% macro codes(basename, section) -%}
{% if ext == '.html' %}
.. raw:: html

    {{ d[basename + '|h'][section] | indent(4, false) }}

{% elif ext == '.pdf' %}
.. raw:: latex

    {{ d[basename + '|l'][section] | indent(4, false) }}
{% elif ext == '.mobi' %}

.. image:: {{ s.relative_path_to(d[basename + '|pn'].name).split(".")[0] }}--{{ section }}.png

{% else %}
.. warning::

    Unknown target extension {{ f.final_ext() }} for basename {{ basename }} section {{ section }}.
{% endif %}
{%- endmacro %}

That is a lot of Junk if you don't know how to code, but this is a nice demo of including code in your documents directly with color.

First Attempt At Writing A Book

I have figured out how to build whole books that are structured into individual chapter files. You can see an example of it in the example book.