Kenyon College

Brian Harnetty


Brian Harnetty is an interdisciplinary artist using sound and listening to foster social change. His current projects bring together place, myth, history, ecology, and economy in Appalachian Ohio, informed by his family’s roots there.

Harnetty is a recipient of the MAP Fund Grant (2020), the A Blade of Grass Fellowship for Socially Engaged Art in Contemplative Practices (2018), the Creative Capital Performing Arts Award (2016), and his work has twice received MOJO Magazine’s “Underground Album of the Year” (2019, 2013). His creative process uses a hybrid of media, including sounds, images, music, and words. Rooted in socially engaged art, his work flows between the fields of performance and recording, installation and writing. Each project begins with communities and local archives, and moves outward to include intimate portraits of everyday people and landscapes of Appalachia and the Midwest. For two decades, this has led to projects with the Berea College Appalachian Sound Archives in Kentucky, the Sun Ra/El Saturn Archives in Chicago, the Anne Grimes Collection in the Library of Congress, and the Thomas Merton Collection at Bellarmine University in Kentucky.

Harnetty has released eight internationally acclaimed albums: Shawnee, Ohio (2019), Many Hands (in two volumes, 2019-20), Wayne National Forest (2019), Rawhead & Bloodybones (2015), The Star-Faced One (2013), Silent City (2009), and American Winter (2007). In 2019, MOJO Magazine gave 5 / 5 stars for Shawnee, Ohio, calling it a “masterpiece” and naming it their “Underground Album of the Year.” Harnetty’s music is on Karl Records (Berlin), Dust-to-Digital (Atlanta), Atavistic (Chicago), Winesap Records (Ohio), and Scioto Records (Ohio). He has collaborated and performed with many musicians, including Will Oldham (Bonnie “Prince” Billy), Anna Roberts-Gevalt (Anna & Elizabeth), Fred Lonberg-Holm, Paul De Jong (The Books), Katie Porter Maxwell (Red Desert), and Tyler J. Borden (Mivos Quartet). As a writer Harnetty has contributed to The Daily Yonder, 100 Days in Appalachia, New Music BoxExperimental Music YearbookSound Effects, Rethinking Marxism, and Cultural Studies. He has received three Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Awards (2019, 2016, 2003); commissions from the Wexner Center for the Arts, Duke Performances, and Contemporary Arts Center (Cincinnati); artist residencies at the Headlands Center for the Arts (California), Marble House Project (Vermont), and Loghaven (Tennessee); and additional grants and fellowships from the National Performance Network, Berea College Appalachian Sound Archives, and the Promusica Chamber Orchestra.

Harnetty earned a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Arts at Ohio University. He studied with Michael Finnissy and Robert Saxton and was mentored by Steve Martland at the Royal Academy of Music, London, where he earned an M.Mus. in Music Composition. He earned a B.Mus. in Music Composition and Theory from Ohio State University. Harnetty lives in Columbus, Ohio. He was recently an AmeriCorps Volunteer (2018-19) in Shawnee, Ohio, and continues to work for non-profit organizations in Appalachian Ohio, helping to enact social and environmental change in the region.

Headshot and bio courtesy of the artist.


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