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Mockingbird, a musician's amanuensis [video]
the first WYSIWYG music notation editor


This demo video shows the Mockingbird composer's amanuensis -- the first WYSIWYG music notation editor. The goal was to enable composers to rapidly capture and notate new music, because it was designed more to help composers record compositions rather than help publish them. Music compositions were played on an electronic keyboard and edited on the monitor with a mouse and GUI that included pop-up menus.

related commentary

John T. Maxwell: "I worked on this under the supervision of my Master's thesis advisor, Severo Ornstein, who in turn was inspired by his father, a well-known avante-garde composer. We presented this work at a PARC Forum (1980) and at the International Computer Music Conference (1981). Byte Magazine also featured it in January 1984."

In their Encyclopedia of Microcomputers (1993), Allen Kent and James G. Williams mention Mockingbird in describing the development of interactive music editors and notation systems:

The first program to emphasize interactive editing was Mockingbird developed at Xerox PARC by John Maxwell and Severo Ornstein in 1983. This system was developed on the Dorado (Xerox 1132) computer as a research project in interactive editing and was never released commercially...Although Mockingbird included sophisticated justification and transcription facilities, its most important feature was the ability to adjust the positions of the images and see the results immediately. The design advances made by Mockingbird led the way for a generation of composer-oriented notation systems with a similar interactive design.


Maxwell, J. T.; Ornstein, S. M. Mockingbird, a musician's amanuensis. 1981 International Computer Music Conference; 1981 November; Denton, Texas.