Brian Harnetty The Sociophonic Key Scioto 7" Harnetty is an Ohio based sound artist who was granted access to the Sun Ra/El Saturn archives in Chicago. Using material he found as the base, he put together this collage, featuring everything from answering machine tapes (are these Ra’s?) to Arkestral rehearsal snippets to recordings of a Southern-style preacher incanting. Hard to figure out how these various bits specifically tie into the El Saturn experience, but they sound pretty cool regardless.
–– Byron Coley
Columbus Alive interview:
Brian Harnetty is well-schooled in the music of old — he got his master’s in classical composition at London’s Royal Academy of Music — but these days he converts archives into futuristic sounds.
Columbus-based Scioto Records just released “The Sociophonic Key,” a 7-inch culled from Harnetty’s 2010 sound installation based on the Sun Ra/El Saturn archives. An LP follows in October.
Between trips to Athens for work on a doctoral degree, Harnetty discussed the ideas behind his art.
My background is in classical music. I studied at OSU and did my master’s abroad, and then got further and further away from the classical world. So I’m in some weird in-between space between the classical world and the popular world.
Maybe 10 years ago I started working with samples, specifically samples with Appalachian sounds.
I was never interested in moving to New York. So when I decided to stay here in Columbus, the only way I could make it work was to make what I do about this place or about this region.
In 2010, [Chicago’s Experimental Sound Studio] commissioned me to make a sound installation using the Sun Ra archives because they knew I had been working with other archives.
I’m not a jazz musician, so I knew that I could never approach it from that angle. Me playing jazz just doesn’t work. I’m horrible at it. So I started to think of it culturally and socially and the context of what his work was.
The fancy word often used to describe Sun Ra's music is Afro-futurism, which is, among many other things, often about African-Americans being excluded from American society. Because Sun Ra grew up in the Jim Crow era, what better way of dealing with racism and oppression than to just circumnavigate the whole thing through myth? Than by saying you weren’t even born on this planet and you’re going to take everyone to outer space?
With all of these projects, I’m trying to do two things. One is to go deeply into the archive. … The second thing is to help the archives come alive somehow, because the one thing that’s missing from an archive is a living human being.
[For concerts] I make one-off versions of vinyl with my material on it and with the material from the archives. I have these records made, but I’m not a DJ. I would be terrible at that if that was what I did. It’s really for me about having some physical object to play with. Instead, they are used for layering of those sounds and having several different sounds happen simultaneously and then playing along with them.
–– July, 2012