Apply Now! There are only 10 spots available to participate in this program. Applications are due June 15.

We are now accepting applications to the third annual Xenharmonic Praxis Summer Camp, to take place July 19-28, 2013 at Music from Salem, in Salem, NY. Xenharmonic Praxis Summer Camp is a time and a place for musicians to compose, practice, study, and perform new and oddly-tuned musics together.

Introduction | Activities | Who is eligible? | Which instruments, tunings, notation? | Fees | Apply  | Facilities | Travel | XPSC co-hostsPartners

Toward a Xenharmonic Praxis

Through a series of historical accidents, Western society’s music—instruments, history, theory, practice, pedagogy, consciousness—has come to be dominated by a single tuning system, often called “twelve-tone equal temperament.” This dominance is so pervasive that it is often completely invisible. Students of music who wonder “Why these notes on the piano, and not some others?” are all too often answered with “Those are the only correct notes—anything else is out of tune!”

A world of more satisfying answers to this question unfolds to those looking for it: millennia-old traditions of music tuned differently; surprising inquiries & insights into how we hear; proposals for new systems yet untried. This camp is for those who want to dream up and realize new, thoughtfully-tuned music and contexts which support it.

We use the term xenharmonic after microtonal pioneer Ivor Darreg, to refer to these unfamiliar-yet-hospitable musical terrains.

We use the term praxis after radical educator Paolo Freire, to refer to an ongoing dialectic between theory and practice, between action and reflection, each process informing and completing the other.

We envision a Xenharmonic Praxis Summer Camp where musicians from a variety of backgrounds converge and suspend the need for “one true answer” for long enough to get deep into a new, unpopular proposal; where distinct roles of audience, composer, theorist, performer, designer, teacher, and student are inhabited temporarily, not reserved for experts or assumed as an identity.

Shared Activities

Composer-Performer Potluck Ensemble — This is our main daily activity. All campers are welcomed to compose for others and perform the music of others, in ensembles small and large. Our focus this year is on short-form xenharmonic music for flexible instrumentation and/or voices (i.e. rounds, pop songs, lead sheets, dance tunes, etc, as well as experimental forms). Participants will be encouraged to bring one such prepared piece – either original music or someone else’s – to our ensemble work. Rather than work toward definitive performances, we will document the steps of our musical learning journey through audio recording and welcome the public into open rehearsals.

Xenharmonic Praxis Choir — Learn tuning theory by singing it! During this daily activity, we will focus on developing relative pitch and expanding the palette of intervals tunable by ear.

Other Opportunities For Exploration, Sharing, and Collaboration

Too often, a big clock ticks over a creative process or musical engagement. As much as possible during this year’s XPSC, we’ll put that big clock away and let our musical and social energy take us where it will. You will have space and quiet for work on individual projects, but you may find that there is so much to be discovered by connecting with your fellow campers, you won’t want to disappear for too long. Here are some of the many possible ways to spend your time in XPSC’s marketplace of musical ideas:

Tuning Tinker Time — Most instruments were not created with xenharmonics in mind; sometimes the resulting logistical challenges are welcome; other times they have a paralyzing effect. A space for sharing and discovering designs, fingerings, techniques, and tricks to detwelvulate—or even build—the musical instruments we wish to play and compose for, together.

Sagittal Exploration — Learn to read and write Sagittal notation, an elegant system invented in 2004 by Dave Keenan and George Secor with the intent of notating every tuning imaginable. One great way to get to know this notation is through the Sagittal Songbook, a collection of thoughtfully-tuned music, edited by Jacob Barton.

Co-composing, co-orchestrating, chamber music reading, xenharmonic theory study, puppet show creation, recording sessions, cookie-baking, pond swimming, stargazing, birdwatching, athletics, or any other activities you want to instigate!

Land Urchin Band

Who is eligible to attend?

All self-described musicians with an interest in alternative tuning systems are encouraged to attend, from curious beginners to seasoned veterans. We think XPSC is particularly welcoming to people who consider themselves composer-performers, though not necessarily in equal measure.

Which instruments, tunings, notation?

The camp will be focused on making live performances on acoustic instruments and voice. It is recommended that you choose a primary instrument for the duration of the camp (which may involve electronics). You are also encouraged to bring any extra (microtonally-capable) instruments for an ad hoc communal instrument library.

The camp is premised on the necessity of using tunings which depart from the possibilities of 12-tone equal temperament, including extended Just Intonation, mean-tone, empirical tunings, equal divisions of the octave, tunings from all over the world, and tunings from ancient times, the future and every time in between. We aspire to a pan-intonational, pan-notational environment where we each acknowledge our inherited and chosen biases.


To apply, simply fill out the online application form. Send other inquiries to


The total fee to participate in Xenharmonic Praxis Summer Camp 2013 is $400. This fee includes room, board, and tuition. A total of 10 spots are open; registration will remain open until all spots are filled.

By June 15, please make check to: Music from Salem, earmarked “XPSC”
and send to:

Xenharmonic Praxis Summer Camp
c/o Marji Gere
20 Dell Street #1
Somerville, MA 02145

For questions about the fee, contact


Music from Salem  brings together musicians of international reputation to prepare and perform chamber music, as well as to lead educational workshops and seminars, in the peace and beauty of rural Washington County, New York.

Participants will sleep in comfortable, shared rooms. Couples will be accommodated. Vegetarian meals are covered in the fee; minimal food preparation and tidying tasks will be shared among participants. For more information about the facilities, contact camp director, Zoe Kemmerling at

Traveling to Music from Salem

Please plan to arrive by the morning of Friday, July 19th and depart on Sunday, July 28.
AMTRAK: The closest train stop is Saratoga, New York. Contact us for information about shuttles to/from the train station and we will be putting together a carpool list.

BY AIR: Albany is the closest airport to Music from Salem. It is approximately one hour away from Salem, so please contact us to find a shared ride with the carpool list.

BY CAR: Driving directions are available on request.

Co-Hosts of XPSC 2013

Jacob Barton is a composer and multi-instrumentalist whose work focuses on acoustic microtonal practice and theory. Jacob studied composition at Rice University, where he received a BMI Student Composer Award for composing Xenharmonic Variations on a Theme by Mozart. Jacob later retuned two pianos at Rice and curated a global call for microtonal scores, resulting in the Seventeen Tone Piano Project concert series. After attending School for Designing a Society in 2005, Jacob co-invented the udderbot (a slide woodwind instrument) and began experimenting with composing in the domain of everyday life actions. Jacob co-founded Oddmusic-UC, a microtonal teaching space and musical instrument library in Urbana, Illinois. He has offered workshops in microtonal singing and udderbot making in Urbana, Houston, Cincinnati, Boston, Baltimore, New York, London, and hometown Virginia Beach.

Dan Sedgwick is a composer, pianist, and teacher living in Somerville, MA. His introduction to the xenharmonic world took place in March of 2003, via Jon Wild’s 19-tone piano project at Harvard. Since then, he has explored, composed, and performed music in a variety of tuning systems via projects such as The 17-Tone Piano Project, 31-Tone Singing Camp, The World’s First Udderbot Recital, The Bohlen-Pierce Symposium, AFMM’s Microfest, and, of course, previous editions of XPSC.  He works as a teaching assistant in music theory, composition, acoustics, and, on special occasions, xenharmonics at the Harvard Music Department.

Elizabeth Adams writes music for small groups of people. Her work often critiques or models social dynamics and exchanges of power.  She looks at every neighbor as a potential critic, composer, and performer of our musical and social environments. In New York City, she and the Orfeo Duo co-founded the Garden Performance Project, a community-garden-based workshop of recycling, instrument-building, composition and performance; and Songlines, a collaborative mapping of neighborhoods in song. She frequently participates at the School For Designing A Society so that she can concentrate in company on connecting composition and social change. She holds degrees in Music, English, Composition, and Experimental Musictheater from Barnard, Stonybrook, and the Hochschule der Künste, Bern. Her work has been performed throughout Europe, but she is currently focussing on community venues in the five boroughs. As a doctoral composer at the CUNY Grad Center, she has taught music history and electronic music at Baruch College. The teachers who have most influenced her current thinking are Joe Dubiel, Georges Aperghis, Mark Enslin, Susan Parenti, and Elizabeth Hoffman. She is a co-founder of the experimental chamber ensemble, Praxis.

Marji Gere builds her life and work around meaningful, complex, long-term, collaborative projects with idealistic artists and thinkers from a wide variety of backgrounds. One such project is the xenharmonic composition/performance exchange among Dan Sedgwick, Jacob Barton, and Andrew Heathwaite, three composers who are devoted to using the musical round as a vehicle to explore new tuning concepts, orchestrations, educational practices, rhythmic energies, and social dynamics. Marji participates in the composition of some of these rounds, but counts herself mainly as a lyricist, lover, and performer of these rounds. Also in round-obsessed partnership with Dan, Jacob, and Andrew, she has organized An Exciting Event, an unwieldy chamber ensemble of musician/puppeteers, and is the artist and writer behind its Moondog Madrigal Puppet Show. By trade and at heart, Marji is a violinist and teaching artist, working at the Chittick Elementary School in Mattapan, MA and performing with the Boston Public Quartet. Marji received a Master’s in Arts in Education from the Harvard University and Bachelor’s degrees in Music and English from the University of Iowa.

Zoe Kemmerling: A native of Davis, California, violist Zoe Kemmerling holds degrees in performance and creative writing from the Boston Conservatory and UC Davis. Her musical studies have taken her from the Adriatic coast of Italy to the Pacific coast of British Columbia; recent New England residencies include Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music in New Hampshire and the Tanglewood Music Center. Zoe enjoys wearing multiple performing hats: she appears regularly as an orchestral and chamber musician, as a baroque violinist with period ensembles, and as a violist and founding member of the new music-oriented Equilibrium Concert Series. A strong supporter of spreading string education far and wide, she has worked with young string players in community programs in Chelsea, Lawrence, and Mattapan. As a freelance writer, she specializes in program notes and regularly contributes reviews and articles to the online journal The Boston Musical Intelligencer.


OddMusic Urbana-Champaign, a working group of the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center, is interested in sharing the awareness, the tools, and the passion needed for people to make awesome xenharmonic music. We have offered workshops in instrument building and modification, a Microtonal Theory Study Group in Urbana. We have a growing library of odd musical instruments, which include prototype keyboards built by Aaron Hunt; 22-EDO, JI, and nonoctave retro-fretted guitars by Andrew Heathwaite; Denny Genovese’s Lambdoma Starrboards; the Udderbot Marching Choir; and a recording studio equipped with Li’l Miss Scale Oven. We invite you to join us in Urbana as we design and build community oddmusic projects year-round; for people with long-term commitments elsewhere, we offer this Summer Camp as a temporary solution. For more information, visit

UnTwelve is a Midwest-based not-for-profit dedicated to exploring the current and historical frontiers of music beyond the 12-note tuning system. We have made it our mission and vision to commission and perform musical works which display the excitement and beauty available to those who venture into this new territory, both for audiences and musicians. For more information, visit

The School for Designing a Society, established in 1991, is a project of teachers, performers, artists, and activists. It is an ongoing experiment in making temporary living environments where the question “What would I consider a desirable society?” is given serious playful thoughtful discussion, and taken as an input to creative projects. The school currently offers fall and spring semesters in Urbana, Illinois, and summer sessions at the Gesundheit! Institute. For more information, visit


4 responses »

  1. Howard M Cornell says:

    I am not a musician, but am interested in the field of just temperament, or other “non-twelve” systems, composing and implementing audio files of harmonious and otherwise compelling content. If I attended the Summer Camp would I expect to learn principles of tuning, composition, implementon, rendering and recording audio files, perhaps for fun and profit?

    • metaclown says:


      Thanks for your input. This camp is particularly aimed at performing live on instruments, so to get the most out of it you would need to be involved in some kind of performance project (which could include electronics). We don’t have the facilities in West Virginia to guarantee a solid training on microtonal audio rendering/recording/implementation, although that depends on the collective interest of who attends, and what equipment we all bring. The other topics you mention will be central, of course.

      Hope this helps!

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  3. […] Xenharmonic Praxis Summer Camp: a 12-day intensive in the composition and performance of microtonal music […]

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