1.3.1 Displaying music expressions

When writing a music function it is often instructive to inspect how a music expression is stored internally. This can be done with the music function \displayMusic

{
  \displayMusic { c'4\f }
}

will display

(make-music
  'SequentialMusic
  'elements
  (list (make-music
          'NoteEvent
          'articulations
          (list (make-music
                  'AbsoluteDynamicEvent
                  'text
                  "f"))
          'duration
          (ly:make-duration 2 0 1/1)
          'pitch
          (ly:make-pitch 0 0 0))))

By default, LilyPond will print these messages to the console along with all the other messages. To split up these messages and save the results of \display{STUFF}, you can specify an optional output port to use:

{
  \displayMusic #(open-output-file "display.txt") { c'4\f }
}

This will overwrite a previous output file whenever it is called; if you need to write more than one expression, you would use a variable for your port and reuse it:

{
  port = #(open-output-file "display.txt")
  \displayMusic \port { c'4\f }
  \displayMusic \port { d'4 }
  #(close-output-port port)
}

Guile’s manual describes ports in detail. Closing the port is actually only necessary if you need to read the file before Lilypond finishes; in the first example, we did not bother to do so.

A bit of reformatting makes the above information easier to read:

(make-music 'SequentialMusic
  'elements (list
	     (make-music 'NoteEvent
               'articulations (list
			       (make-music 'AbsoluteDynamicEvent
				 'text
				 "f"))
	       'duration (ly:make-duration 2 0 1/1)
	       'pitch    (ly:make-pitch 0 0 0))))

A { … } music sequence has the name SequentialMusic, and its inner expressions are stored as a list in its 'elements property. A note is represented as a NoteEvent object (storing the duration and pitch properties) with attached information (in this case, an AbsoluteDynamicEvent with a "f" text property) stored in its articulations property.

\displayMusic returns the music it displays, so it will get interpreted as well as displayed. To avoid interpretation, write \void before \displayMusic.


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