Awardee: Brian Harnetty

Performing Arts, 2016

A composer and sound artist, Brian Harnetty’s work connects sonic archives, performance, ecology and place. His pieces transform archival material—including field recordings, transcriptions, images and historic recordings—into newly re-contextualized sound collages. For the past decade he has focused on projects with sound archives, including the Berea Appalachian Sound Archives and the Sun Ra/El Saturn Collection. Harnetty’s recent scholarly work is an ethnographic study of the historic, economic, cultural and environmental sounds of Appalachian Ohio, informed in part by his family’s roots in the region. Harnetty received a PhD in Interdisciplinary Arts at Ohio University, an M.Mus. in music composition from the Royal Academy of Music (UK) and a B.Mus. from The Ohio State University. He has collaborated with Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Fred Lonberg-Holm, among other distinguished musicians. His 2013 release, The Star-Faced One, was MOJO Magazine’s Underground Album of the Year.

Project: Shawnee, Ohio

Performed with sampled archives, field recordings and live musicians, Shawnee, Ohio critically engages ecology, energy, place and personal history to ask: What are the sounds of mining? Of fracking? Of a town fighting to survive after a century of economic decline and environmental degradation? These sounds are recorded as compositional material reflecting layers of history and memory in Appalachian Ohio. Shawnee’s history includes coal, gas and clay extraction, and the formation of early labor unions. The town’s downturn and partial restoration act as an ethos of the struggles and hopes of the larger region, now immersed in a controversial fracking boom. Shawnee, Ohio considers these histories, evokes place through sound, and listens to the present alongside traces of the past.