Columbus composer's second volume of piano pieces is a peaceful, contemplative salve

It's no secret we're fans of sound artist, archivist and composer Brian Harnetty here at Alive. He was the focus of a 2019 cover story concerning Forest Listening Rooms, which also ties in to previous projects that delved into the sounds and culture of southeastern Ohio coal-mining towns known as the Little Cities of Black Diamonds.

Harnetty has a new album out today — the second volume of a project titled Many Hands, which is a series of piano pieces for multiple players. While the first volume was inspired by Appalachian Ohio, Harnetty said the theme of the second volume is particularly focused on "'care labor': the work done quietly and selflessly by unnoticed parents and nurses and social workers and teachers and artists."

It's an alluring, hypnotic, peaceful collection of piano compositions that may help to quiet your mind in these anxious times. Read Harnetty's full explanation of the project, and then stream it below. Purchasing the album on Bandcamp includes a digital PDF of the musical score for those who enjoy reading or playing along.

Careworn, delicate, intricate, tender, quiet: even the loud parts are gentle and under this spell. Many Hands is the second volume in a series of piano works for multiple players. If the first volume was inspired by the landscapes and labor of Appalachian Ohio, the theme of labor is shared here, with a special focus on “care labor”: the work done quietly and selflessly by unnoticed parents and nurses and social workers and teachers and artists, too.

This concern for care labor is not structurally built into the music; it was just on my mind at the time of composing. And it is on my mind now during the Covid-19 quarantine as I think of my own family, and of the work happening all over the world both out in the open of our hospitals and behind the hidden walls of our homes.

In fact, the image on the cover of the recording––of two hands, side by side––is of my hand and my father’s hand from around 1979, and it reminds me of the endless and overwhelming and grueling and honorable and magical work of parenting. It also reminds me of my father's once great physical strength, now tempered as he approaches 90, and how he is now counted among the most vulnerable in these times. Ideally, this is how I would love to see our society structured: with the most vulnerable placed at the center, protected and cared for, and the care would radiate out in circles and rings of strength and support.