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A MIDI file is a binary data file that stores musical information. MIDI files are not specific to any particular computer platform or product. A MIDI file stores MIDI messages, which are commands that tell a musical device what to do in order to make music. For example, there is a MIDI message that tells a device to play a particular note. There is another MIDI message that tells a device to change its current "sound" to a particular patch or instrument.
Listening to MIDI files within the browser depends on the settings of the browser. Here we have used technique (EMBED) that should operate in Internet Explorer- (4.0+) , Netscape- (4.0+), Safari, Opera and Firefox- browser (with default settings).
Why aren't the excerpts encoded as audio files? (wav, mp3, etc.)?
The collection is based on notated information and only a handful of tunes have been recorded during the early part of the 20th century. Therefore audio files do not exist.
An alternative to MIDI is Scorch, which is a notated score done with the Sibelius program. Scorch is a free plugin for viewing and listening these files within a browser. The advantage of this format is that the notated information is preserved (in MIDI, for example, articulation or other notated information is not necessarily preserved) and the user can adjust the tempo and the pitch height of the excerpts.
In order to see the notated scores, a Scorch-plugin needs to be installed. Unfortunately, it is only available for Macintosh and Windows, so Linux users will have to settle for MIDI information. The plugin is available from: http://www.sibelius.com/scorch/.