User Guide


You only need a web browser to get started with this. The text is all in spartan, browser-independent HTML - no frames, no cascading stylesheets, no colours, no fonts, no inline images: nothing that shouldn't work with any browser on any computer today and still work decades from now. You don't need any unusual fonts; you must have a fixed-width one (like Courier) for the song texts and the ABC music files, but the bulk of the text will display equally well in any font. You don't need a fast processor or a colour monitor. You may need a sound card: adequate sound is built into all Macintoshes made in the last ten years, but Windows and Unix machines are of much more variable design.

Navigation and the HTML Files

Links from the commentary lead to tune or song-text files, and links from the song-text files lead to appropriate tunes. The tunes are provided in the ABC textual music notation and in three formats generated from that: GIFs of scores, MIDI files, and QuickTime "movie" files. That is, these are computer realizations, not human performances. For the songs, the easiest way to get the hang of the tune is to open it with the MIDI or QuickTime player in a small new window, start it playing, and put it somewhere on your screen where it doesn't cover the song text.

On returning to the commentary from a song text using the link at the bottom, the browser will return you to the point where the song is first discussed. Netscape will position this point at the top of the screen, Internet Explorer will put it in the middle. You probably won't need to use this link; most browsers have a Back control which does the same thing more efficiently.

The table of contents has links to the separate chapters and appendices. Each chapter has links to song texts and tune files; most song text files have links to one or more tune files. And that's all. Nothing is more than three links from the starting point.

There are no indexes. I assume your computer's text search utilities, such as Sherlock for the Macintosh or the scripts anybody can put together on Unix, will do a better job than I can.

The GIF, MIDI and QuickTime Files

The GIF scores are less dense than is usual on paper, to make them more readable on a computer screen. They can all be printed on A4 paper, usually in portrait format. Almost all have enough space at the bottom that they will also fit US Letter.

If you can play the QuickTime files - supported on Windows and the Macintosh but not on Unix - you will get more realistic sound for the bagpipe tunes than with MIDI; the intonation is that of the pipes and drones are included. (Early releases of QuickTime 5.0 don't work with bagpipe sounds - get a current one or a release of QT 4.0). I've used a clarinet sound for the MIDI versions of the pipe tunes. For non-bagpipe tunes, the MIDI and QuickTime files sound the same.

Tempi and choices of computer "instrument" for the sound files are not intended to be either historically accurate or particularly artistic: they're simply intended to make the music clearly intelligible within the limitations of computer sound. For example, there are no bowed-string sounds because the Roland MIDI versions of them provided with QuickTime are appalling, and yes, I know the vibraphone wasn't a traditional instrument of 18th century Scotland but I like its sound for some of the tunes. I've frequently used "clarinet" or "trombone" sounds for song tunes since to me these are among the most vocal in the computer's sound palette.

Some Macintosh browsers can't play MIDI files directly off the CD-ROM; you will get an error message from a plug-in saying "invalid sound file". If you copy the whole thing to your hard disk the files will miraculously become valid again. Playback of QuickTime files is not affected by this bug, nor does any software other than browser plug-ins see a problem. Early versions of Netscape have an additional bug: they don't recognize very small MIDI files as valid, like those for some of the street cries here, which only have a few notes and take only a few seconds to play.

The ABC Files

ABC is a way of writing music in ASCII text, widely used for exchanging folk tunes over the Internet. It can be played directly by computers and used to generate sound files or conventional staff-notation scores; implementations are free or cheap and run on almost every kind of computer system. If laid out legibly, it can also be read directly by humans, which makes it a convenient notation for the blind. The ABC homepage at serves as a starting point to find out what it can represent and what software is available to process it. If you want scores of higher graphical resolution or more compact format than I have provided here, ABC-to-staff-notation software can do it, and there are utilities to transpose tunes or convert them into other music notation formats.

The ABC files here were developed using Phil Taylor's integrated ABC editor BarFly for the Macintosh, and all the GIF, MIDI and QuickTime files were generated by it. BarFly allows extensions to ABC which are not yet supported by all the popular ABC implementations; in particular, multiple voices, used here mainly for piano and harp scores and for four-part hymn harmonizations. Laurie Griffiths' Muse for Windows supports a similar range of ABC constructs. For single-line tunes, the only non-standard features are a few ornament signs (T for trill, M for mordent), and these can simply be removed without losing much of the tune. But there are serious bugs in some old implementations that were only intended to handle simple music: the original version of abc2ps makes an unusable mess of bagpipe gracenotes, the Unix and Windows MIDI file generator abc2midi currently gets dotted notes in strathspeys wrong, and there are so many bugs and non-standard features in the widely-used old Windows program ABC2WIN that I suggest you avoid it and will not provide any support over problems arising from using it with my files. The player program ABCMus for Windows works well with these files, and with a bit of rearrangement of the multi-voice pieces, the freeware score generator abcm2ps for Unix and Windows can handle almost all of what I have here, providing much higher print quality.

You should configure your browser to launch your preferred ABC application whenever it follows a link to a file with a ".abc" suffix.

In a few cases, the sound files and scores here don't correspond exactly to the ABC. This is because there are a few limitations to BarFly at present which sometimes prevent readable ABC notation from being displayed as readable score notation, and vice versa (usually because of overcrowded lines). Because these limitations are not likely to persist very long, I've made clear ABC my priority and written for an imaginary BarFly of the future with the bugs fixed. These few scores were created from versions of the ABC files edited in ways that I would rather not have taken as examples of good ABC style.

I have taken great care to make the ABC files as readable as possible in source form; you need to use a fixed-width font when viewing the files to take advantage of this.

Blind Users

The commentary and song texts should be readable by the blind using Lynx; I've tested them with MacLynx, the Macintosh port. With that version I haven't found any very convenient setup that lets you play the sound files while reading the text at the same time, with the same sort of interaction that sighted users can achieve. If any blind user figures it out, I would like to be told how.

Structure of the Disk

The CD is dual-format: there are copies of the files in both the Macintosh HFS and Windows/Unix ISO file systems. I have included a copy of BarFly on the Mac partition (in both Compact Pro .sea and StuffIt .sit archive formats) and one of Muse on the ISO part. Otherwise there is no difference in content between the two, and the only built-in extras Mac users get are the window displayed when the disk loads and the file types (which by default will load the HTML into Netscape, the GIFs into Picture Viewer, and the QuickTime files into QuickTime Player). The filenames stay within the limitations of the oldest versions of DOS. The Windows version is autorun.

The filenames on both partitions are mixed-case. On Linux this will create problems unless the CD is mounted to allow for them by

mount -t iso9660 -o map=off <device> <mountpoint>

Each partition also includes a copy of my companion work, Music of Dalkeith.

My Rights and Yours

This collection is copyright. Copies of updated editions can be obtained from me at any time. Registered purchasers will be notified of updates by email or SAE and will be able to obtain them (by email or ftp) for no charge.
Jack Campin
11 Third Street
Midlothian EH22 4PU

phone: 0131 660 4760

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Copyright © 2001, Jack Campin