Public Profiles

Jacob A. Barton (1985-) is a composer and multi-instrumentalist whose work focuses on microtonal practice and theory. Jacob grew up in Virginia Beach, VA, where his musical hunger led him to learn piano, saxophone, clarinet, bassoon, and musical saw. He studied composition at Rice University, where he received a BMI Student Composer Award for “Xenharmonic Variations on a Theme by Mozart”.

Jacob’s passion for instrument building led serendipitously to the collaborative invention and development of the udderbot, a DIY slide glasswind instrument. Since 2005, Jacob has played the udderbot in traditional bands, children’s concerts, experimental music venues, theater productions, New York City subway stations, and humanitarian clowning missions in Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Mexico.

Jacob has organized numerous events, including The Seventeen-Tone Piano Project (2006-’08), The World’s First Udderbot Recital (2010), and Xenharmonic Praxis Summer Camp (2011-’13 & 2015). In 2013 he compiled, edited and engraved The Sagittal Songbookfeaturing 48 vocal pieces written by 15 different composers in tunings ranging from the benign 5-limit just intonation to the exotic Bohlen-Pierce scale.

Since 2009, Jacob has taught composition facing the power of the respondent at the School for Designing a Society in Urbana, Illinois and at the Gesundheit Institute in Hillsboro, WV. Jacob is chief arranger at Divisi Strings, LLC, and is an active contributor to Internet communities YouTube, Facebook, SoundcloudThe Xenharmonic Alliance II, etcetera.

Jacob A. Barton (b. 1985) is a composer and multi-instrumentalist whose work focuses on xenharmonic practice and theory. Barton studied composition at Rice University and the interrelation between tuning, cybernetics, performance, and social change at the School for Designing a Society. In 2005, Barton serendipitously invented the “udderbot”, a low-cost, low-tech water-slide woodwind. He has since tried out the udderbot on a variety of musical contexts: in old-time string band and jug band music; on humanitarian clown trips to Ecuador and Costa Rica with the Gesundheit! Institute; as part of water-themed multimedia collaborations with the Change of State Performance Project; and in a music video featuring microtonally-bent Christmas carols. In recent years he has organized the Oddmusic Instrument Library, an “Udderbot Marching Choir”, and Xenharmonic Praxis Summer Camp.

Appeal to friends

​Dear Friends,
I need money to continue my creative work. I would do an indiegogo and all of that but it’s too formal and I can’t afford to produce a video given the state that I’m in (Virginia). Please send money to via Paypal​. Or use the physical address of my parents:
1405 Whittier Rd.
Virginia Beach, VA 23454
Please forward this with any encouragement neeeded to anyone who can afford to support me.
Jacob A. Barton
Samples of currrent work include:

Upcoming Things that I am in

School for Designing a Society presents The Public Actor: Performance An intensive workshop in which we probe the idea that the way a person presents herself in everyday life can be looked at as a performance of the public actor. I will be co-presenting in this workshop.

Julie and Elizabeth’s Anti-Capitalist Concert Series presents Unentitled and Unrequited Two experimental music and theater performances composed by longtime teachers at SDaS Mark Enslin and Susan Parenti. I will be listening. And turning pages.

American Festival of Microtonal Music presents four concerts at Spectrum, April 12-15. I will be performing Hoprock for solo udderbot and improvising with Cristian Amigo.

So don’t be a stranger, c’mon over.

Sagittal Songbook Available Here!

So we’ll go this way eleven miles
or ninety to the mystery curve
Oh, we’re close to danger! but
by dark, the shine
will be off the deck.

Mystery Currrve

Over two millennia in the making, the release of the fledgling edition of the Sagittal Songbook is without question a major galactic event in the tiny universe of microtonal notation.

Sagittal, an elegant, elaborate system of arrow-shaped accidentals conceived by the gods and designed with the intent of enabling mortals to notate music in any imaginable variety of intonation, is put to the test against actual music in this book, which features 48 vocal pieces written by 15 different composers in tunings ranging from the benign 5-limit just intonation to the exotic Bohlen-Pierce scale.

“I wanted to see what a bunch of scores would look like in Sagittal,” says Jacob Barton, who compiled the book and composed six of the songs. “I also wanted to take some weight off people getting into xenharmonic music, to give it a friendly face.”

The Songbook includes everything from solos to full ensembles, from one-line mnemonics to full-blown arias and “spiral canons” which transpose indefinitely.

Click the button below to purchase an autographed book for $50 (plus tax and shipping). Or, visit this site to purchase a non-autographed book or set of 15 books with better shipping times.

Mark Enslin’s “Safety Nets II” for one-man band

In August 2010 I was asking several composers to write a piece for udderbot, often adding a twist to make the request personal and interesting. I requested Mark Enslin, longtime teacher at SDaS, student of Ben Johnston, John Zorn, and Herbert Brün, collaborator, composer and playwright, to write a piece for udderbot as part of a one-man band.

Hard as I had tried, I did not anticipate the corporeal onslaught that followed. By October, Enslin had produced a piece for 17 instruments—udderbot, trombone, umbrella, tambourine, hi hat, bass drum, guiro, cymbal between the knees, flipper, plastic jug, police whistle, train whistle, harmonica, candy wrapper, finger cymbals, poem,  52-tube tubulon, and a poem by Indigo Crespighi previously used for Safety Nets I of 17 Tone Piano Project fame. That performance, I garnered an applause simply in the act of walking onstage. I didn’t get very far; the tubulon was especially heavy, and all the rehearsal time had gone to constructing the outfit.

By January, Enslin had completed a color-coded score made in Microsoft Word—avoidance of standard notation programs is thematic in his work—and I set to work learning the off-kilter melodies and decoding the complex rhythms, even making a guide track. By my estimation, performing this piece is the hardest thing I have ever tried to do.  I don’t feel I have yet done it justice, yet I know that many of Mark’s pieces are foolproof in this peculiar way; no matter the impossibility of the score, the theatre of the attempt always fascinates.

The performance here is from a festival of Enslin’s work in September 2011. It is about the best I have managed to do…but I am far from finished with Safety Nets II.

Safety Nets II 9-17-11 from mark enslin on Vimeo.

new album: effluve ana moontense

EFFLUVE ANA MOONTENSE—Music for retuned pianos and voice; a gateway into a sound world of unknown unknowns.

The global organization of music is almost complete. When it is complete, music itself will offer no new potentials (except when propped up by the potentials of other, less organized systems such as children).

The pursuit of Xenharmonic Music reverses this decay, recognizing the legitimacy of possibilities which were prematurely discarded and systematically hidden from musicians for the past few centuries.

Which old patterns must be resisted for truly new systems to emerge?

New technologies are slowly breaching the classic vicious cycle—”We need good music to justify building new instruments, but we need new instruments in order to compose good music”—but the significance of xenharmonics is still invisible.

Only acts of composition—meetings of whimsy and rigor—can make the invisible visible.

released 13 December 2011

Oddmusic-UC winter of pre-natal post-mortem

Two and a half years ago, Andrew Heathwaite and I were approached by Danielle Chynoweth of the UC-IMC. The IMC had office space available; Danielle took it as an opportunity to remind me that I wanted to start a musical instrument library. This desire combined with Andrew’s ideas about xenharmonic education, and Oddmusic Urbana-Champaign was born.

Two and a half years later, one can say that Oddmusic is still primarily driven by my and Andrew’s visions (delusions?), although by now countless others have been enthusiastically involved in a variety of ways. We are taking this winter to reflect on our activities so far, perhaps going as far as to distill them into media, designs, wisdom. Be on the lookout for these.

Oh, and we are raising funds for our continued operation and future projects!!!