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Brian Harnetty

Columbus, OH            

Brian Harnetty is an interdisciplinary artist working between music composition, sound, and socially engaged art. Rooted in sound archives and the communities connected to them, his body of work contends that the simple act of listening –– to people, places, and their pasts –– can transform our futures.

Both a 2018 A Blade of Grass Fellow for Contemplative Practice and a recipient of the 2016 Creative Capital Performing Arts Award, Harnetty is deeply involved with local issues of Appalachia and the Midwest. He connects sound archives with performance, ecology, and place. Many of his pieces transform archival material –– including field recordings, transcriptions, and historic recordings –– into newly re-contextualized sound collages. For more than a decade, this has led to projects with archives such as the Berea College Appalachian Sound Archives in Kentucky, the Sun Ra/El Saturn Archives in Chicago, and the Anne Grimes Collection in the Library of Congress. Harnetty’s recent work listens to the historic, economic, cultural, and environmental sounds of Appalachian Ohio, informed in part by his family’s roots in the region. 

Harnetty received a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Arts at Ohio University. He studied with Michael Finnissy, Robert Saxton, and was mentored by Steve Martland at the Royal Academy of Music, London, where he received an M.Mus. in Music Composition. He earned a B.Mus. in Music Composition and Theory from The Ohio State University.

Harnetty has released four internationally acclaimed albums: American Winter (2007), Silent City (2009), The Star-Faced One (2013), and Rawhead & Bloodybones (2015). Harnetty’s music is on Karl Records (Berlin), Dust-to-Digital (Atlanta), Atavistic (Chicago), and Scioto Records (Columbus). He has collaborated with many musicians, including Will Oldham (Bonnie “Prince” Billy), Anna Roberts-Gevalt (Anna & Elizabeth), Fred Lonberg-Holm, and Paul De Jong (The Books). As a writer, Harnetty has written articles and essays for New Music BoxExperimental Music YearbookSound Effects, and Cultural Studies. He has received two Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Awards (2016, 2003), commissions from the Wexner Center for the Arts, Duke Performances, and Contemporary Arts Center (Cincinnati), and additional grants and fellowships from the National Performance Network, Berea College Appalachian Sound Archives, and the Promusica Chamber Orchestra. His 2013 release, The Star-Faced One: from the Sun Ra/El Saturn Archives was MOJO Magazine’s Underground Album of the Year. 

NewMusicBox Articles

Articles February 29 2016 | By Brian Harnetty
Listening to Protest and Resistance in the “Little Cities of Black Diamonds”

Certain sounds of resistance—shouting, speeches, chanting, and singing—simultaneously bring together and diffuse, and meaningfully hold in suspension situations that could easily descend into chaos and violence.

Articles February 22 2016 | By Brian Harnetty
Listening to Social Life in the “Little Cities of Black Diamonds”

New and archival recordings offer a glimpse of social life in the Little Cities--sonic insights that open up an archive of ideas for a careful listener willing to jump on...

Articles February 16 2016 | By Brian Harnetty
Listening to Labor in the “Little Cities of Black Diamonds”

For miners, sound often answers questions about work and safety. For composers, recording and carefully listening to the sounds of a region can suggest ways of bridging between place and...

See more of Brian Harnetty's articles on NewMusicBox.