Using music21 with the Jupyter (iPython) Notebook

Setting up the Jupyter environment

To get music21 to work it’s best to have a good pip installation first. Then you should be able to simply install jupyter (and IPython if you don’t have it):

$ sudo pip install jupyter $ sudo pip install ipython

Using the web-based Jupyter Notebook

Start jupyter in a directory you want to save files by typing.

`$ jupyter notebook`

Now in the webbrowser you can type commands such as the ones below:

from music21 import *
c = chord.Chord("C4 E4 G4")

All other normal music21 commands will work as they should

Displaying graphics inline

By default, you cannot just call .show() because you’ll open up your MusicXML reader locally...
 <music21.ipython21.objects.IPythonPNGObject at 0x1054dcf60>

Nor does just generating a lilypond PNG or PDF work as you’d like – this will display it on the screen but not in your browser:'lily.pdf')

Instead do this:

%load_ext music21.ipython21

Now this will work:

If you don’t want to do that, then instead do this...

from IPython.core.display import Image

SVG is much faster, but it doesn’t work, sadly...


ValueError                                Traceback (most recent call last)

<ipython-input-9-a78ad09b705c> in <module>()
----> 1 Image(filename=c.write('lily.svg'))

/Users/cuthbert/anaconda/lib/python3.4/site-packages/IPython/core/ in __init__(self, data, url, filename, format, embed, width, height, retina, unconfined, metadata)
    732         if self.embed and self.format not in self._ACCEPTABLE_EMBEDDINGS:
--> 733             raise ValueError("Cannot embed the '%s' image format" % (self.format))
    734         self.width = width
    735         self.height = height

ValueError: Cannot embed the 'svg' image format

Whole pieces will show properly also now that the extension module is loaded

b = corpus.parse('bach/bwv66.6')

And that is basically it! We use sphinx for interwiki links, which, sadly, won’t show up on the notebook, but should render properly.

But I did make a sphinx-markdown Notebook extension. When it’s ready, I’ll put it up. Make a directory “sphinx-markdown” in a “usability” directory in “nbextensions” (mine is at “~/Library/Jupyter/nbextensions”). And put this file there as “main.js”:

// Allow sphinx rst references in markdown cells

// TODO: Markdown cells will only be reevaluated when a notebook is dirty // (i.e. you have made changes). If you save it before reevaluating MD cells, // they will show the old value.

‘base/js/namespace’, ‘jquery’, ‘notebook/js/cell’, ‘base/js/security’, ‘components/marked/lib/marked’, ‘base/js/events’, ‘notebook/js/textcell’
], function(IPython, $, cell, security, marked, events,textcell) {

“use strict”;

  • Find Sphinx expressions and add to text as <a href> tags
  • @method execute_sphinx
  • @param cell {Cell} notebook cell
  • @param text {String} text in cell


var execute_sphinx = function(cell,text) {

/* always clear stored variables if notebook is dirty */ if (IPython.notebook.dirty === true ) delete cell.metadata.sphinx_links;

// search for code in mangled <code> blocks var found = false; var newtext = text.replace(/:ref:<code>(.*?)s*&lt;(.*?)&gt;</code>/g, function(match, info, link, cha) {

found = true; link = link.replace(/.html$/, ‘’); if (link.indexOf(‘.’) == -1) {

link = link + ”.ipynb”;

} console.log(link); return ‘<a href=”’ + link + ‘” target=_new>’ + info + ‘</a>’;

}); if (found) {

if (typeof cell.metadata.sphinx_links === “undefined”) {
cell.metadata.sphinx_links = {any: true}


} return newtext


  • Render markdown cell and replace {{...}} with python code


var render_cell = function(cell) {

var element = cell.element.find(‘div.text_cell_render’); var text = execute_sphinx(cell, element[0].innerHTML); if (text !== undefined) {

element[0].innerHTML = text; MathJax.Hub.Queue([“Typeset”,MathJax.Hub,element[0]]);



/* force rendering of markdown cell if notebook is dirty */ var original_render = textcell.MarkdownCell.prototype.render; textcell.MarkdownCell.prototype.render = function() {

if (IPython.notebook.dirty === true) {
this.rendered = false

} return original_render.apply(this)


var load_ipython_extension = function() {
events.on(“rendered.MarkdownCell”, function (event, data) {


/* show values stored in metadata on reload */ events.on(“kernel_ready.Kernel”, function () {

var ncells = IPython.notebook.ncells(); var cells = IPython.notebook.get_cells(); for (var i = 0; i < ncells; i++) {

var cell = cells[i]; if (cell.metadata.hasOwnProperty(‘sphinx_links’)) {






return {
load_ipython_extension : load_ipython_extension



Check to see if it exists:

import notebook
notebook.nbextensions.check_nbextension('usability/sphinx-markdown', user=True)

Load it with:

E = notebook.nbextensions.EnableNBExtensionApp()

Save, and reload. Then test it with a markdown cell like:

For more information, see, installing IPython/Jupyter for Music21.

And you should get:

For more information, see, installing IPython/Jupyter for Music21. :-)