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Bart Hopkin

Point Reyes Station, CA   

Bart Hopkin is maker of acoustic musical instruments and a student of musical instruments worldwide. Since 1985 he has been the director of Experimental Musical Instruments, an organization devoted to all manner of interesting and unusual musical instruments. He received a B.A. magna cum laude from Harvard University in folklore and mythology specializing in ethnomusicology in 1974, and later picked up a B.A. in music education and a teaching credential at San Francisco State University.


In the latter 1970s and early ’80s, Bart worked as a high school music teacher in both public and private schools. Several of those years were at a public secondary school and the government-run music school in Kingston, Jamaica. There, in addition to teaching, he researched and wrote on Jamaican revival church music and (in some of the most enjoyable field work you could imagine) Jamaican children’s songs.


From 1985 to 1999, Bart edited the quarterly journal Experimental Musical Instruments. The journal served as an essential resource and clearing house in an otherwise scattered but lively and growing field. Since 1994, Bart has written several books on instruments and their construction, including the leading resource, Musical Instrument Design published by See Sharp Press. He has also produced several CDs featuring the work of innovative instrument makers worldwide, including the highly successful Gravikords, Whirlies & Pyrophones from Ellipsis Arts publishers. He has taught musical instrument construction at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, presented talks at the Acoustical Society of America, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics at Stanford University, and consulted and presented workshops for the Exploratorium in San Francisco.


Since 1974, Bart has worked as composer, arranger and performer in a variety of theater and concert contexts, including extensive touring, arranging and serving as bandleader for the Jamaican composer Fr. Richard Ho Lung. More recently he designed and built stage-set musical instruments for the Overtones Productions play The Woman Who Forgot Her Sweater, and was one of several composers for the same company’s opera Songs and Dances of Imaginary Lands.


In his work as an instrument maker, Bart makes no claim to fine craftsmanship. His primary interest has been in exploring diverse acoustic systems. He has, for instance, developed alternative systems for flexible pitch control in wind instruments, and explored the peculiar acoustics of multiple conjoined strings. His Savart’s Wheel, a sort of tuned, motor-driven scraper with a range of over two chromatic octaves, is one of the most irritating musical instruments ever devised.

Bart Hopkin @ Thingamajigs Fundraiser Concert

Bart Hopkin performing his invented instrument in 2011 at the Meridian Gallery in San Francisco, CA.

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Bart Hopkin & Sara Winge @ The Glaser Center

Bart Hopkin performing with Sara Winge performing Time Stopped by John Goodman at The Glaser Center’s “Showcase Concert Series.”

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