Christopher Antila

nCoda at Music Encoding 2016

Brief discussion of my time at the Music Encoding Conference 2016.

Last week I went to the Music Encoding Conference 2016 in Montréal, hosted at McGill University. This is about my conference experience—I’m not trying to provide a summary or overview!

The big thing was finally unveiling the project I’ve been working on since early 2015. We’re still working in a semi-secret way until our first alpha-level release in August 2016, but I invite you at this time to check out our (very brief) landing page at ncodamusic.org.

While our project was received with enthusiasm, and by a few people with much enthusiasm, not everything went according to plan! The Sunday before the conference started, one of our core contributors, Jeffrey Treviño, let us know that he was too sick to make his flight to Montréal. We remained optimistic that he would recover quickly enough to joins us later in the week, but it didn’t work out. This affected our ability to bond as a team during the week, and in paticular it means we left many high-level issues open. This won’t result in long-term problems for us, but it does mean those high-level planning questions will be answered about a week later than they could have been, so we won’t start working on anything in the plan until about a week later. People get sick sometimes, that’s part of life. However, we were well prepared as a team, and everything went well in the end!

This brings me to more positive things. We decided to rent an apartment together for the week, along with one of our external collaborators. Having never met two of the three others, I was a little hesitant. However, it turned out to be a great idea to stay together, and it provided us with extra support in two ways. First, in making final preparations for our presentations. Both Urs Liska and I were able to give two run-through rehearsals for our team, and I believe this had a significant positive effect on the quality of both presentations. Second, by providing as much time as possible for us to get to know each other as real people. It’s hard to understand the full impact of those extra minutes at the start and end of the day, having breakfast together and watching videos on the web before bed. Sharing these extra moments turns out to have been very helpful!

Best of all, our posters and presentations appear to have been received very positively. I heard from several people about their own enthusiasm toward our work with nCoda, and from several others that there was some amount of buzz about us during the conference. It was a great opportunity to share with other scholars, and also to get advice on revising our work to avoid possible mistakes (for this I’m thinking especially about the MerMEId and Freischütz projects). In addition, it was energizing for all of us to have the opportunity to interact with a community of researchers who are perhaps the most likely to adopt our software. It was encouraging to hear their positivity, and to be proven right in our guess that music scholars are indeed looking for new ways to use music notation on computers!

There’s a long road ahead of us, but we have a dedicated and capable core team of contributors, and the support of the music scholarly community. I’m excited for the nFuture!