Mark Of The Unicorn Mosaic
Mark Of The Unicorn's Mosaic succeeds Professional Composer as their pro notation program for the Mac. Mike Collins looks at how it stacks up against the competition.
Mark Of The Unicorn's Mosaic scorewriter, for the Macintosh only, is aimed at anyone who needs to print out scores or parts in conventional music notation. MOTU actually had one of the earliest Mac scorewriters, Composer, which Mosaic now supercedes. The program was quite popular for the first two or three years after it was released in the mid-80s, with its main competition being a program called HB Music Engraver. Since that time, Coda have brought out Finale, and Passport have introduced both Encore and Notewriter. I started off using Composer, flirted with Deluxe Music Construction Set, tried Encore and Notewriter, and finally settled for Finale, which I have been using for the last three years or so.
I use Performer as my main MIDI sequencer, and felt instantly familiar with the 'look' of Mosaic onscreen, although the software seemed much more sluggish than Performer, which is generally quite fast and responsive. However, everything seemed very intuitive, and Mosaic is an easy program to get to know.
Mosaic's Page view lets you see what will actually be printed on a page, and the Galley view lets you scroll through the music as though it were on long roll of paper. You'can edit directly onscreen in either view, making selections of symbols to add from the 11 palettes provided. I quite liked the fact that you could have nearly everything available in front of you on the screen, although I felt that the large number of windows could be rather unwieldy on smaller screens — look at the screen shots to see what I mean.
In Mosaic, a staff system consists of one or more staves containing the music for the composition, just as in a conventional score. Usually, each staff in the system represents one instrument. You would normally work in Mosaic by creating a master score view which contains all the staves in the piece of music grouped into one system. In conjunction with the master score view, you will create other views that contain a subset of staves from the master score. For example, to create individual instrument parts, you create a single-staff view for each staff from the main score. Piano or similar parts may, of course, consist of several staves. You might also want to create a sub-score with staves from a certain instrument section, such as woodwinds or brass.
Mosaic uses elements called Voices, which can be assigned to Staves. A Voice consists of a line of notes and rests containing, for instance, the notes played by a vocalist, trumpet player, or on one hand of a piano part. It can be compared with a stream of MIDI data on a single MIDI channel in Performer. You place a Voice in a staff, just as you'd place MIDI data in a track. The difference is that you can put multiple Voices on a Staff, whereas Performer can only hold one stream of MIDI data on one particular MIDI channel in any one track.
Voices are first created in the Voice Window. You add however many Voices you need using a mini-menu, choose a range of notes in terms of MIDI note numbers corresponding to the typical range of the instrument whose Voice you are setting up, and add any suitable comments into the comments field for later reference. The next step is to assign Voices to Staves. To do this, you open the Staves Window, add a staff from the mini-menu without a Voice assigned, and then drag a Voice from the Voice Window onto the staff in the Staff Window. You can add as many Voices to a Staff as you like, and transpose them. Instrument parts are typically left untransposed in the conductor's score, so that the conductor can read them more easily, but are transposed as individual parts to make them easier for the musician to read. This feature is intended for use with so-called 'transposing' instruments, such as the trumpet, and lets you easily set up different versions of your staffs for the conductor and the musicians according to their needs. Selecting the Configure option from the Staff Window's mini-menu brings up a dialog box where you can select how many lines you have on a staff (usually five, but could be more or less for special staves), choose whether to display ledger lines or not, re-arrange the order of Voices assigned to the staff, and set the default stem directions (up, down, or either) for each Voice in the Staff.
Mosaic offers full editing in both Galley and Page views, and you can have multiple views open at any time. This can be useful if you want, say, a Page view of the score, a differently-formatted Page view of a particular instrument part, and a Galley view of the complete score. Many editing functions will have their effect across views, although some characteristics, such as page layout and staff-sizing, are view-specific. Talking about staff-sizing, you might use this to display, say, a piccolo part as a miniature staff for cueing purposes in the French horn part, while displaying it at full size in the main score.
Unlimited Undo and Redo let you experiment with your scores with no fear of being unable to get back to something you might want to use. You can work on your score all day, making hundreds of moves, and Mosaic will remember each one of them. If you quit the file and then open it again, you will start the process off from scratch again, of course.
Mosaic doesn't let you enter notes directly via MIDI, unfortunately, so you either have to import a MIDI file or enter the music directly into the score using the computer's mouse or keyboard. Entry using the mouse is simple and intuitive; you just select whatever symbol you want to enter by clicking the mouse in any of the palettes, and then click at the place on the score where you want the entry to appear. Using the keyboard, you position an insertion cursor in the staff at the desired location, manoeuvre to the desired pitch using keyboard commands, set the duration of the note using the bracket keys, and then enter the note, rest, or chord using appropriate keyboard commands. You can easily delete anything you have entered by first clicking on it to select it, then pressing the delete key.
Beaming is automatic with conventional defaults, unless you override the automatic operation. You can even beam across staves with ease, which Composer would not allow. Groupings, such as slurs and ties, tuplets, glissandos, and so forth, are easily entered by selecting the appropriate style in the Groupings palette, then clicking and dragging from the first to the last note of the group. A handy 'Flip' command in the Format Menu lets you flip the grouping symbol to appear either above or below the notes. The overall shape of a slur or tie can be adjusted using Bezier curve handles which you drag around the screen till you get the shape you want, in the same way as you would alter curves in a Macintosh graphics programs like Freehand.
Note-specific symbols, such as staccato dots, accents, bowings, trills, dynamic markings, and jazz symbols, are 'attached' to the individual notes once you have entered them. This means that if you cut a note with a symbol attached, then paste it elsewhere, the symbol goes with it. This makes working with articulations, ornaments, and dynamics very easy — once you have entered them, you usually don't have to worry about them any more. And these too can be flipped to appear above or below the notes using the Flip command. There is a separate palette to let you choose notehead types (such as 'x' noteheads for percussion parts, or slash noteheads for chord parts), and a further palette containing numbered noteheads for use with stringed instrument tablature.
All the commonly used barline styles are available on a separate palette, and they can be inserted wherever you like by clicking in any bar or measure. You can even use an 'invisible' barline to create unmetered music without barlines. And you can mix unmetered with metered sections in music which features unmetered sections — all very versatile, methinks!
Bar numbering is automatic, and can be set to any regular interval of measures, in any text style. You can adjust the positioning either individually or globally, and remove measure numbers if you wish. Numbering can also be restarted at any position in any style. This is useful, for instance, where you have a repeat section with a first and second ending, and you would like the measure numbers after the second ending to take the repeat into account.
Clef changes, meter changes, key signatures and octave markings are all staff and measure related; they affect how the music is displayed in the measure in which the symbol appears and in subsequent measures. These symbols are all staff-independent within any system. You can select complex meter groupings, such as 2 + 3 over 8, or even create your own custom meters, and you can have multiple meters on different staves in the same measure because of the staff-independence. You can insert clefs anywhere — at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of a bar.
The text entry options are very comprehensive — you can insert rehearsal marks, credits and titles, staff names, headers and footers, page numbers, codas and signs. These are grouped into four sub-categories: voice text; staff text; system text; and page text. These are, respectively, anchored to a voice, system, staff, or page in each case.
Lyrics come in a Lyric Text category of their own, and each syllable is automatically centered above or below each note on the staff. There is a special Lyrics Window available where you simply type your lyrics, as you would in a word processor. As you type, the lyrics are automatically flowed through the music and will appear above or below the voice to which they relate. Before you enter the lyric text, you can choose whether to flow text automatically or manually; in the latter case you have more control over where the lyrics fall, although this method is slower. The automatic positioning of lyrics doesn't skip rests automatically — instead you have to enter spaces corresponding to the rests you want to skip as you type in.
Once you have entered your lyrics in the Lyrics Window and flowed them through the music, you can go back and edit them whenever you like, or you can make adjustments directly on-screen in any view. You can also print the lyrics separately by copying them from the Lyrics Window, pasting them to a text box in a new page, and printing that page.
"Mosaic will open any of the three standard MIDI file formats and intelligently interpret the musical data that it reads — and it will correctly notate unquantised MIDI data."
Mosaic's zooming features are excellent, and you are provided with options from 20% all the way up to 800%. Transposing options are similarly comprehensive, letting you transpose by key, diatonically (by a number of scale steps), chromatically (by a number of half steps), or by dragging notes vertically on the stave. A Check Rhythm command is provided in the Region Menu which scans the music for measures with the wrong number of beats and rests. The similar Check Range command scans for notes outside the ranges you have defined for each voice in the Voices Window. When either command finds a mistake, Mosaic automatically scrolls to the offending measure or note, and in the case of a note, selects it. Another useful feature is the Consolidate Rests command, available in the Page View mini-menu. This will cause measures containing whole rests in two or more adjacent measures to be combined into one multi-measure rest. This rest-consolidation is not available in Galley views, but is great for printed parts with lots of facet bars.
The page layout facilities are also quite comprehensive, and for all but the shortest scores you are advised to create page layout templates which you can then apply to the pages in any score. If you then need to make changes to all the pages, you only need change the template, and re-apply it to all the pages based on that template. There are many ways to edit the staves, to change size or positioning, or spacing, and it is easy to copy page layouts and paste them to any other pages.
Mosaic uses the Sonata font, available from Adobe, which comes supplied with Mosaic, although the program can be used with other music fonts besides Sonata, if you wish. In this case the AFM installer (a font utility developed by Mark Of The Unicorn especially for Mosaic) is provided in order to install into Mosaic the font metrics (the ascent and descent characteristics) of the other music font.
Music is printed from a WYSIWYG ('what-you-see-is-what-you-get') Page view. You can print at reduced sizes — which you would need to do if the page size in your score is larger than the paper you are using. You can also 'print' to a Postscript file, which really means that you can save your formatted music to a Postscript file. Such files can be opened in any Postscript-compatible graphics or DTP program, such as Freehand, XPress, or PageMaker, where further graphic elements can be added or edited into the score, and where your scores can be incorporated into other documents such as books.
Before creating instrument parts you are advised to create transposed staves for any transposing instruments, such as the Eb Alto Sax, and to then create an instrument part page layout template. (Transposing instruments are instruments whose music is written in a different key from the actual key. The key in which they are written is determined by the transposition of the instrument. For example, the Clarinet in A is written a minor third higher that concert pitch. This convention makes it easier for the instrumentalist to read the music.)
When you are creating instrument parts the whole idea is to make the part as readable as possible for the player, so you set up a second staff for that instrument, assign the appropriate transposition to that staff, and then assign the instrument voice to the transposed staff. As regards the page layout template, you may actually need several of these, depending on the nature of your score. You would need a single staff template for most instruments, with a double staff template for piano and harp, and a single-staff line part for percussion instruments. In addition you would probably want a title page version, and a body page version for each type of template. This process is far less time-consuming to implement than using part-extraction in Finale.
Mosaic will open any of the three standard MIDI file formats and intelligently interpret the musical data that it reads — and it will correctly notate unquantised MIDI data, provided it's not too wild, so there is no need for you to quantise your MIDI file before you open it with Mosaic. The music from each separate MIDI channel is placed into a separate Voice and staff. The track names become the names of the voices and staffs on which the music is placed. The most appropriate clef is chosen automatically, and if the track contains notes in both the bass and treble clefs, Mosaic splits the track into a piano grand staff with a treble and bass clef. In addition, the staves are grouped in order to support cross-staff beaming.
When importing a file, unfortunately you can't stop the file conversion before it's finished to check that your settings (the only settings that are allowed: split one track on more staves) are all right. And since the transcription is slow, you might have to wait for a while before you discover that they were wrong.
When exporting a MIDI file, Mosaic saves each voice in the file as a separate track. The voice name becomes the track name, and meters and key signatures are preserved.
Mosaic has an excellent manual, as far as it goes, but I would have liked to see some tutorials on some typical applications. Nevertheless, Mosaic is easy to learn how to use, which is a major plus point for the program. I didn't like the way that the clock cursor appeared whenever I did almost anything. I tested the software on a Mac II with 8MB of RAM using System 6.0.7 with MultiFinder. Finale and Encore run sweetly enough on my system, although Finale is about three times faster on a Quadra with the fast caches turned on. Mosaic was faster on the Quadra, but would not work with the fast caching on. This slow operation means you need the fastest Mac you can afford, and Mosaic's 11 separate tool palettes mean that you really need a large screen to work in comfort.
I thought that maybe the clock cursor came up so much because the program was saving every move for use with the unlimited undo/redo function — now this is a feature I do like, and one which I wish Finale had. Again, another strong plus for Mosaic. Unfortunately, Mosaic is far less comprehensive and flexible than Finale in most other respects. The lack of direct MIDI input or playback suggests that the program might be aimed at people involved in publishing rather than composition. However, I believe that professional publishers would soon find that Mosaic is not able to offer the range of options required even for some relatively straightforward projects. Of course, you can always output to Postscript files and finish off scores using DTP software, but this option does not really provide the best solution if substantial changes are required.
I did like the way you could open multiple files, which you can't do in Finale or Encore, but I wasn't totally convinced by Mosaic's not-quite-standard Macintosh user-interface. It is, however, very similar to Performer's, and anyone who is familiar with the latter program will therefore feel at home. The windows have a textured upside-down triangle instead of a square white box where you click to close the window. The window resizing box is not at the far top-right of the window, as in just about all other Mac software, but is grouped to the left near the mini-menu. Even the mini-menus are unusual, but I have got quite used to these using Performer whereas I still sometimes forget where the window resizing box is.
A diagonal arrow icon is provided between the mini-menu and the resizing icon, and this lets you de-activate the window, simultaneously causing some other open window to become activated. This can be quite handy if a large window is obscuring another window underneath and you want to bring this to the front. I did like the way Mosaic lets you apply page layout templates, although I far prefer the flexibility of Finale's MIDI file transcription features, which let you decide whether a track will be split across two staves, for instance.
On the whole, I couldn't see myself using Mosaic in preference to Finale, unless I was dealing with a very simple and straightforward piece of music. Even then, I would probably choose Encore, especially if I needed to input data from a MIDI keyboard, or play back via MIDI to check the score audibly.
If your scorewriting requirements are not too demanding, and if you want a program which is quick to learn (with a similar user interface to Performer), you might well opt for Mosaic. However, if professional music publishing is your game, or if you like to compose and arrange using a scorewriter, playing stuff in from a MIDI keyboard as you think of it and then hearing this back via MIDI, then Mosaic is not for you. If MOTU can add the MIDI features to a future upgrade, then Mosaic could be a worthy competitor for Encore, although it has a long way to go to match Finale for overall versatility.
£535 inc VAT.
Sound Technology plc, (Contact Details).
Review by Mike Collins
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