Saving Sibelius: Software in peril
By Meghann Wilhoite
You may not have known it, but July was a pretty stressful month for the composers of this world. Or at least several thousand of them.
The life of Sibelius, one of the leading music notation software programs, has seemingly come under threat of dissipation as Avid (who owns the software) has recently shut down Sibelius’ UK office, simultaneously laying off the software’s core development team. While Avid insists that Sibelius will continue to receive the attention it needs, one commenter on the change.org petition “Avid Technology: Sell Sibelius!” (signed by close to 7,500 people as of the writing of this post) states that without the UK development team, “the product is doomed.”
Originally developed by Brit brothers Ben and Jonathan Finn in 1986, Sibelius has a history about as old as our modern day personal computers (tablets?). The first public release of the program came in the early ‘90s, running off of a floppy disk and designed for the now defunct Acorn Computers. With the 2011 release of the latest version, Sibelius 7, the software seemed on a fair way to becoming the preferred notation program for composers and other musicians.
A close composer friend has expressed to me more than once how much improved the latest version of Sibelius is, allowing him greater flexibility to create his hybrid staff notation/graphic scores. Another composer friend recently tweeted that he’d stop using Avid audio recording product Pro Tools and switch to another, non-Avid product if Sibelius were discontinued.
Twitter isn’t the only place where people are expressing their dismay over the closing of Sibelius’ UK office. The outcry has also found voice on the website Sibelius Users (Sibelius users of the world unite!), as well as a Facebook group called Save Sibelius.
The firing of Sibelius’ UK development team has even got those of us who work on Grove Music Online here at Oxford University Press a little concerned, since many of our musical examples were created using Sibelius.
For now, Sibelius users will have to wait to see what the final outcome will be for the program. Will the software be able to continue living on the cutting edge of electronic music notation without its UK team? Will Avid sell the product to “to a viable new owner…so as to avoid a diaspora of its development team” as the change.org petitioners have requested? Only time will tell.
Oxford Music Online is the gateway offering users the ability to access and cross-search multiple music reference resources in one location. With Grove Music Online as its cornerstone, Oxford Music Online also contains The Oxford Companion to Music, The Oxford Dictionary of Music, and The Encyclopedia of Popular Music.
16 August 2012; 10:15 am ET: An earlier version of this post stated that all of Grove Music Online’s examples were made with Sibelius; only some of the examples were set in Sibelius.