Brian Harnetty 'Shawnee, Ohio'
Brian Harnetty mines Appalachia's past with a singular aim: to salvage stories from one of the country's most neglected regions and make them resonate. Raised by descendants of Welsh immigrants lured to the Midwest by mining prospects, Harnetty attended London's Royal Academy of Music, where he pondered how new music might reflect the heritage of its composer. Back in Appalachia, that quest has become his muse, as he shapes archival recordings of miners, farmers, musicians, and townspeople into pieces that give old tales of hardscrabble existence new poignancy.
Co-commissioned by Duke Performances, Shawnee, Ohio is the pinnacle of Harnetty's process and his most affecting, personal work yet. His ancestors arrived in the booming Shawnee in 1873; as with many of Appalachia's fabled "Little Cities of Black Diamonds," the collapse of coal-mining left only a skeletal town and environmental ruin. Harnetty immersed himself in the place's lore, interviewing residents and descendants, excavating community archives, and recording the surrounding forest. In eleven exquisite vignettes, Shawnee, Ohio turns videos, voices, and photographs into one town's living portrait. Rendered by a top-tier ensemble of the region's folk and classical musicians, Shawnee, Ohio reckons with our history while looking to the future.