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"-//CS//Lyrics 1.0//EN" AKA Lyrics DTD/XML/XSL/XHTML/CSS

I know I hinted towards a technical blog post last time. I expected my next post to be about Java or Perl Web programming. Well, that one is coming, I suppose. I am making ground and eventually would like to write about it. I don't think I'm quite satisfied with my progress yet though (nor am I so dissatisfied that I need plea for help yet). This post is somewhat technical, but it's also somewhat personal.

I love to sing. I sing all the time. In the shower, in my car, at the computer, etc. Everywhere, basically. I love music and singing is one of the things that I like most about it. Or perhaps, more accurately, the lyrics are. I love lyrics. For me to like a song the lyrics had better be clever. You get bonus points if they're emotional or humorous and I can relate to them. I guess then it shouldn't be surprising that I also love to rap.

Indeed, it wouldn't be an exceptional day for somebody to notice me driving by them in Sault Ste. Marie with my stereo cranked, singing or rapping along. Whenever I hear a new song that I like I'll look up the lyrics online (in my younger days I would do it from the CD cover, but a wide screen monitor is a lot bigger and easier to read from in the dark). I'll then practice reciting them while listening to the song(s) on repeat. This could mean hearing a new or leaked song on YouTube and just starting the same video over and over again (shout out to YouTube Repeat!!). More often, though, it means that I just bought a new CD from one of my many preferred artists and am listening to it on repeat.

The Amarok media player is great for this because it supports a lyrics module that allows you to view the lyrics for the current song right there in the media player automatically! It's great for people like me that enjoy analyzing and learning the lyrics of a song, or even just singing them after 6 or 8 months have gone by and they aren't fresh in your mind anymore.

Often I find that the various lyrics sites online don't have 100% correct lyrics. Some people do a really bad job of transcribing them. I don't know if it's laziness or incompetence, but I personally find it really annoying when I'm trying to sing or rap along to a new song and I'm stumbling over the wrong lyrics on a page.

It seems that most user maintained lyrics sites online make it difficult to contribute though. You generally have to register with some random site, which means a whole new set of credentials to remember, and a whole new server with your personal information just waiting to be hacked and compromised. They also don't do a very good job of describing the lyrics or presenting them to the user. There's usually a mix of slang and unslang and it's never really clear when the transcriber is sure of a particular word or just making an [un]educated guess. You may be surprised just how often a word or two is a mystery in very popular songs.

This combined with my thirst for XML knowledge lead me to develop a simple XML document type for lyrics. It's a work in progress so nothing is feature-frozen yet. Currently I have a document type definition (DTD) to validate against, an XSL stylesheet to transform the lyric data into standards compliant XHTML 1.0 Strict, and a CSS stylesheet to accompany the XHTML output to prettify the output a bit (no guarantees that the CSS is standards compliant, unfortunately and the W3C's validator seems to think it is valid CSS 2.1 also!).

Currently I only have two songs transcribed. The first is We As Americans, by Eminem, from the Encore bonus CD. That was basically my initial test drive, if you will, for the format and stylesheets.

Two evenings ago I got to thinking about one of my favorite bands, Eisley, and wondering if they had released any new albums since I last checked. It turns out that indeed they had! The Valley was released back in March. I made it a plan to stop by the music store yesterday to look for it. Now Eisley is somehow still somewhat of a below-the-radar band, which is puzzling because they're so amazingly talented and creative and beautiful. In any case, a side effect of this is that music stores often don't stock them (some of them don't even have a listing for them!). I could rant all day about music stores and the music industry and how stupid things have gotten (see my previous post about the movie industry for a hint of what to expect), but I'll try to avoid doing that now and save it for another post.

Long story short, I went out to buy one CD and came home with seven...and none of them was the one that I went out for! "But, Brandon," I hear you wondering. "What about Eisley?"

Oh, I ordered it. Don't you worry. As expected, the music store didn't have it in stock. Unfortunately, it cost me $20 to order through the store. The night before I had seen that the online retailer linked from the band's Web site was only asking $10. Without knowing the shipping fees though it's hard to say if I'm any worse off. Not that I'd mind buying an Eisley CD for $20. In fact, I think I probably paid $20 for each of Room Noises and Combinations too. What bothers me is that Eisley will only see a tiny percentage of that, if any, and the crappy music stores and record companies that I'm avoiding ranting about will take most of the profit.

Moving on, the CDs that I actually came home with were as follows in no particular order: Theory of a Deadman (Theory of a Deadman), The Truth Is... (Theory of a Deadman), Taylor Swift (Taylor Swift), Greatest Hits (Guns N' Roses), 22 More Hits (George Strait), American Saturday Night (Brad Paisley), and This Is Country Music (Brad Paisley). I was also trying to buy or order The Spirit Room (Michelle Branch), but not only did the music store (the only one left in my city to my knowledge) not have any Michelle Branch CDs in stock, but her CDs weren't even available from their distributor peoples! Ugh.

So anyway, having bought all of these CDs, I then had to rip them into my computer so I could sync them with my iPod (I could also rant about how much Apple sucks, but there's a different time and post for that too). In doing so, I found myself listening to old and new music and singing along and by the time 2 AM rolled around I wasn't really tired. In fact, I couldn't seem to stop singing or rapping. I tried going to bed, but eventually just started to rap the lyrics to one of the songs I had written back in high school, and then decided that I should transcribe it and publish the lyrics on my site. That way I'd have a digital copy (it was quite a challenge to remember the words after so many years), since I had destroyed, lost, or abandoned all others copies. I eventually gave in and decided to do this immediately while it was fresh in my mind (both to do it and most of the lyrics).

So the second song I have transcribed is actually my own! It's called Wanna Be God. I separated it into a separate file to initially keep it off the radar and also to keep it separate from "real" songs. :) There are a few other songs that I wrote back in high school. One or two of them I might feel are worth publishing online also. We'll see if I ever get around to that.

In the meantime, please check out my XML document type, and accompanying DTD, XSLT, and CSS. And, of course, check out the lyrics to both songs:

Eventually I'd like to implement a server-side backend to manage them (once I get either a Java or Perl Web environment setup to my satisfaction, of course ;), at which point I could potentially open the system up to open ID users and let the world help me to fix lyrics. I'm not yet certain where I stand with regards to copyright infringement though. Technically I am violating Eminem's (or his record company's) copyright by publishing the lyrics to his song without permission. I do have a disclaimer on the page to highlight the fact that I don't own the copyright... It seems harmless to me, but nevertheless, there is always the possibility that somebody will feel they are losing money as a result and try to convince a judge to make me reimburse them... Hopefully that doesn't happen... Honestly, I can't even figure out how I would contact Eminem or Interscope to ask for permission. Their Web sites are terrible. :P

If you are or represent a copyright owner and wish for me to have a work removed from my site then please kindly address an E-mail to me (bamccaig at castopulence dot org) detailing who you are and what relationship you have to the copyrighted work, and the copyright owner's wishes, and I will promptly add any disclaimers you want or, if necessary, lock that work up behind a secured connection for personal use only.