Calliope Music Notation Software

Remember to click on the highlighted words to get music notation examples (in low screen resolution without dealiasing).
Calliope was designed for the rapid and economical production of publication-quality performing editions of musical scores and parts. Calliope's built-in placement and formatting knowledge frees the copyist from the need to specify precise placement of musical symbols. The notation is never ‘frozen’: notation is automatically reset each time a change is made, assuring typographic consistency and professional quality results. Calliope handles the usual requirements of lyrics , accents , large scores , orchestra reduction notation and keyboard notation with chords and multiple voices, explicit polymetric notation with and without coinciding barlines. Furthermore, Calliope provides uniquely flexible features required for early music editions, including:
Calliope originally ran on NeXT and Intel hardware under NeXTStep, and provided the following main operational features:
  • A standard NeXT interface with a "what you see is what you get" environment. Scores are printed at a higher resolution than seen on the screen.
  • Intuitive click-and-drag approach for user-friendly input. Music notation may be input, modified, performed, or printed in any order: nothing is ‘frozen’.
  • Unique adjustment algorithms for fast, automatic, musically correct formatting.
  • A variety of page formatting and running title options are provided.
  • Scores may be played back through a MIDI device or the NeXT's built-in sound synthesizer.
  • Notes may be input with a MIDI keyboard.
  • Musical excerpts may be exported as EPS or TIFF and pasted into other documents.
Calliope is most suitable for music copyists, music editors, and musicologists. Although Calliope will handle most features of conventional music notation, Calliope has special features intended for those particularly involved with rapid preparation of performance editions of early music.
Calliope is no longer supported on NeXT and Intel hardware under NeXTStep. There are plans to port Calliope to Mac OS X. Please do not contact me to ask when the Mac OS X version will be ready. The new system will be advertised when it is ready for release.


Calliope is a music notation editor intended for rapid production of performance editions. Most of the features of conventional multivoice music notation are supported. The goal of implementing Calliope has been to overcome the shortcomings inherent in current methods and systems for computer typesetting of music notation.
Calliope uses a ‘what you see is what you get’ style of interaction, and works at the conceptual level of the user’s musical intentions. In particular, most layout and formatting tasks are done automatically according to conventional notational practices. This frees the user from making detailed graphical adjustments, reduces the amount of time required to input and edit a score, and reduces the amount of training required to use the system.

There are special provisions for the notation of early music (circa 1560-1650). This important period includes the golden age of English lute music, the madrigalists, the Italian ‘florid monody’ and seconda prattica, and the explosive growth of church music under the influences of the Reformation and counter-Reformation. Early Baroque repertoire is of renewed interest to performers and musicologists, as well as being a commercial growth area. To address the particular problems of typesetting modern editions of this repertoire rapidly, Calliope handles lute tablature, figured bass notation and chant notation, and correctly treats multi-verse and polyphonic underlay.

Calliope consists of about 50,000 lines of Objective-C program and runs under the NeXTStep operating system. NeXTStep is BSD-like Unix built on the Mach kernel and Display PostScript interpreter, with a sophisticated windowing system and object-orientated application libraries. Calliope has been used to produce over a hundred separate documents, including a full-length opera score of 200 pages and the complete works of Robert Carver (early 17th century composer).


Calliope is not the musical equivalent of a freehand drawing program, and therefore Calliope is not particularly suitable for the preparation of scores containing a great deal of freehand notation such as may be found in modern avant-garde compositions, analytical diagrams, or advertising copy. Of course, Calliope exports standard formats which can be imported into drawing programs.

Scores having as many as a dozen or more voices may be played back subject to the limitations of the NeXT computer's built-in music synthesiser. The playback facility is not intended to capture subtleties of musical expression or articulation, and thus is intended only for ‘proof-listening’, and not for sequencing or public performance. Higher quality playback of hundreds of voices simultaneously is possible using the provisions for G-MIDI output, and this is recommended for all situations.

Experience of Use

One way to get a feeling for Calliope's intended use is to see the works it has been used to produce. Most of them are songs or motets from the early 17th century composed in the style known as florid monody. This style is particularly interesting because it provides unusual challenges to the technology of automatic music formatting. In addition, a number of larger bound volumes has been produced, of which the largest is the score for the opera Sant' Alessio by Stefano Landi (1634), which runs to just over 200 pages. Also, the Samples section of the manual shows a number of full-page extracts from works produced using Calliope. All the musical examples in the manual were produced using Calliope, and have not been retouched or adjusted manually.


Because Calliope is intended for professional quality music layout, some care has gone into the design of the music symbols and the ‘house style’ implied by the default layout conventions and proportions. The Sonata font (Adobe Systems Inc.) is used for the main musical symbols. I designed and constructed all the other fonts. The French (letter system) lute tablature font was designed after the style of the standard humanist hand used for the type for the vast majority of printed lute books published in England from the 1580's onward, for example, Robert Dowland's Varietie of Lute Lessons (1610). The Italian (number system) lute tablature font was designed in the style of the early 17th century Italian publishers of lute and theorbo tablature R. Amadino of Venice and G.P. Moscatelli of Bologna. Other early music notation was designed after the symbols used by the major European publishers of music in the years around 1600 such as B. Magni and A. Vincenti of Venice. The chant notation was designed after the definitive Graduale Sacrosancte Romanae Ecclesiae and Liber Usualis compiled by the Solesmes community in the first few decades of the 20th century. The shape-note notation was designed from a facsimile of the 1844 tunebook The Sacred Harp (White and King). A recommended verse text font is New Century Schoolbook (adobe Systems Inc.), often used in music typesetting because its relatively wide en-width suits verse underlay.


Calliope consists of approximately 50000 lines of Objective-C program written by William Clocksin at the Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge, England. It ran under NeXTStep 3.2 on the NeXT family of computers, but is no longer supported. A previous version of Calliope written in C ran under X-Windows, but this version is no longer supported. A port to Mac OS X is planned.

To run Calliope it is necessary to install the Sonata and Calliope fonts. It is recommended that New Century Schoolbook (or similar) font be used for verse underlay as singers are accustomed to the relatively wide en-width traditionally used in underlay. The Calliope font is included with the Calliope software, but the other fonts must be obtained from dealers.

The Manual

The manual is currently being written. It assumes that the reader has a grasp of the principles of music notation, and is familiar with the ordinary use of NeXTStep applications.


I would like to thank the following people for advice and suggestions during the development of Calliope: Clifford Bartlett, Tim Crawford, Philip Hazel, Duane Lakin-Thomas, Selene Mills, Jim Tyler, Martin Richards, Glenn Reid, Roger Needham.


The following works give further details of the conventions and practice of notating music, particularly early music. I used these and others during the development of Calliope.

Music Notation:
J. Caldwell, Editing Early Music (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985).
S. Homewood and C. Matthews, The Essentials of Music Copying (London: Music Publishers' Association, 1990).
G. Read, Music Notation: A Manual of Modern Practice (London: Victor Gollancz, 1985).
C. Smith, The Art of Music Printing. RSA Journal, April, 1989 (London: Royal Society of Arts). A brief and fascinating history of music printing.

Figured Bass and Lute Tablature:
J. Tyler, The Early Guitar: A History and Handbook, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980).
N. North, Continuo Playing on the Lute, Archlute, and Theorbo, (London: Faber, 1987).

Chant Notation:
W. Apel: The Notation of Polyphonic Music 900-1600 (Cambridge, Mass: Mediaeval Academy of America, 1953).
Graduale Sacrosanctae Romanae Ecclesiae (Paris: Descle, 1961). Contains a useful and authoritative introduction on the notation and performance of chant (in Latin).
The Liber Usualis (Paris: Descle, 1963). Similar to the above, in English.
M. Berry, Cantors: A Collection of Gregorian Chants (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979). A useful, inexpensive and accessible handbook produced for schools and beginners.
Kyriale, (Paris: Descle, 1985).
Kyriale Simplex, (Vatican: Typis Polyglottis Vaticanus, 1965).
Liber Hymnaris, (Paris: Descle, 1980).