So I'm going to look at principles and practices of symbolic music encoding.

Practices are many varied. It seems that every other paper on the subject is a proposal for a new encoding method and they all begin by detailing the problems with existing systems. Common complaints are along the lines of "its no good for my C17th lute tablature", "it won't allow me to encode variation in the sources" and "it pre-supposes the kinds of uses I should want to make of it" but they are all genuinely serious - they really believe that the plethora of existing methods are no good. Can this really be true? Have all the experts who've put but thought into this problem been hopelessly single-minded?

So what would I want from a music encoding system? I'm in no position to say what they should be able to do yet - give me a year or so and I may be able to begin to answer that question. But one thing I think it true at the moment is that it should allow me to preserve information from manuscript sources and to record variation between sources for a work. One thing to avoid, of course, is the assumption that any version is the "original" or "authoritative" version and that others are merely corruptions - someone will always come along 5 years later and say that you were wrong! Probably because there often /isn't/ an authoritative version. Think, for example, of Chopin always playing his preludes slightly differently or of the medieval chant repertory.

And exactly what is the nature of the notation I'm trying to encode? Take, for example, ties and barlines. In a modern performance edition of a piece of C16th polyphony, the music will be structured into a meter and use barlines and tie notes across bars. The C16th notation had no such convention - but which to encode depends on what I believe the nature of the notation to be: is it a textual source (and therefor should I encode the notation as near to the original manuscript as possible) or is it a description of sonic events (and therefore would a tie across a barline be /identical/ to an single note existing in unmeasured score)?

Lots to think about. Once I'm registered I'm going to go to the library and pour over notation - tonnes of it - and from as many traditions as possible. Ties and barlines are peculiar to Western music and should I really limit myself to just that facet of musical phenomena?