While the western standard for music notation is good for both composers and performers alike, there are certain areas where it is lacking, especially when it comes to new developments in music (especially when computers are involved.) The 5 line staff isn't very good for displaying microtonality either.

I realize that many contemporary composers have developed their own notation systems, but it seems they only pertain to that composer's style. My question is, are there any newer standards that try to be all-encompassing? I.E. something where academics have come together and said "we're developing a better system" to improve or replace some of the archaic elements of a standard that's been in use for 3 centuries?

  • By geared towards composers, do you mean something that wouldn't also present music in a way that would be understood just as well by (human) performers? What things (apart from microtonality) would you be hoping it would represent better? – topo Reinstate Monica Feb 17 '16 at 1:11
  • @topomorto exactly. Something that makes the process of writing down ideas easier and easier for music analysis. For example, I find that when looking at a score it is difficult for me to see relationships between chords, or even what type of chord it is on first glance. It's also bothersome that chords transposed up a semitone can look completely different. I'm fairly new to composition so it's probably something that will improve with experience, but to a beginner it seem very cryptic. It feels like there could be a better way. – concealed curry Feb 17 '16 at 1:31
  • Many composers use there own notation especially at the highest level. Ever heard of graphic scores? – Dom Feb 17 '16 at 2:22
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    Creating new standards on the debatable assumptions that anything new must obviously be better and anything old is obviously archaic leads to xkcd.com/927 – thrig Feb 17 '16 at 17:19

In your question, you point out a number of different requirements that a system for representing music could fulfil. I think you'll find that there are systems that each satisfy some of your requirements; I don't think you will find a 'Swiss army knife' that unifies them all.

One requirement you mention is wanting to see relationships more easily, and being bothered by the same interval being represented in different ways. This problem might be a job for a chromatic staff - http://musicnotation.org/ has a lot of information about this approach. Sagittal might be of interest if you are mostly interested in microtonality.

In many ways, these systems are still very similar to standard notation in that they are concerned with representing music as a set of notes with pitch on a vertical axis - but for a more numerical approach, you might prefer to use pitch class sets.

If analysis is the main goal, the tonnetz provides a visual and conceptual space in which the harmonic movement of a piece of music may be analysed.

When it comes to a form of notation that allows reproduction by computers, you might consider that the Music-N family of languages are a kind of imperative notation oriented around synthesis (although perhaps not so good for analysis). Computer-generated music might also simply be represented as an equation that produces a waveform, or the implementation of this equation in some programming language.

All of these mentioned so far are abstractions of musical sound. At the more concrete end of the spectrum, it might be worth observing that high-fidelity recording has in some areas of musical activity (I'm talking pop!) replaced musical notation as the way of storing and transmitting 'reference' versions of musical works. Recordings are also easily transformed into spectrograms, which are another way of viewing any audio (including music).

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