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If you're like me, you probably notice broken characters on websites with music theory texts all the time. Take, for example, this passage from the Grove Music Online entry on Notation:
The first symbol in this paragraph is supposed to be a circle. The character they've used is Unicode U+1D1C8 (Musical Symbol Tempus Perfectum Cum Prolatione Imperfecta). It does not render properly--in my browser at least, as the screenshot above shows--because the font that the Grove web designers have selected for entry body texts (Merriweather, is listed first in the relevant CSS declaration) does not include a glyph in the 1D1C8 slot. Now, there are alternatives that might have led to a more consistent user experience. For example, the editors could have employed one of the more commonly used glyphs such as U+25EF (Large Circle), but that would have led to other problems and they still wouldn't have the corresponding symbols for major prolation, let alone tempus imperfectum.
I do not mean to disparage the Grove, of course, this kind of situation is quite common. It happens all over the place because, it turns out, using inline music theory symbols is surprisingly difficult when it comes to presenting different readers (with different browsers installed on different comupters) a consistent experience. And the issue is not just with arcane medieval symbols: careted scale degree numbers, half-diminished chord symbols, figured bass numerals, and even sharps, flats, and naturals are all subject to the same inconsistencies
I am confronted with this matter now because I am preparing an open-access textbook for online publication. I would like to do as much as I can to standardize the reader experience and so I am wondering if anyone here has any insights on how best to approach this matter.
Any information/suggestions/anecdotes on this would be greatly appreciated!