Note: On sheet music and software APIs

Nov 23, 2022

Defining what makes “classical music” — especially modern classical music — distinct from other forms of music is an interesting challenge. In discussing this with Chelsea, one thing I’ve alighted on is the role of notated sheet music in classical music. Across this history and sub-genres of classical music one commonality is that communication between the composer and the performers is done formally through notated sheet music.

I recently noticed a parallel between the role our music notation system plays in music, and the role software APIs serve in engineering organizations. Both are an agreed upon contract which enables the decoupling of creativity on either side of the abstraction. And in both cases, the expressivity of the abstraction (notation system or API) end up influencing the resulting creative output in subtle ways.