Aberfan (7 pianos, percussion, voice and tools of rescue)

ABERFAN WALES 1966On October 21, 1966, in the small mining village of Aberfan, Wales, a man-made mountain of coal waste catastrophically collapsed on a primary school, killing 116 children and 28 adults.

Envisioned at the crossroads of modern music, experimental media and environmental justice, my new composition Aberfan incorporates excerpts from a folk song my mother wrote following the 1966 disaster, as well as hymns — one the children would have sung at morning assembly that day and another sung at the mass funeral less than one week later.  Music will be presented in live performance, immersive installation and exhibition with black & white photographs — such as the one above — taken by Life photo  journalist IC Rapoport, who went to Aberfan to “photograph the psychic mess”.

MUSIC SAMPLES  of work in progress

By addressing the visceral, personal experiences of the disaster, Aberfan investigates how art, together with technology, can be used for experiential transformation, while implying the disaster’s universal relevance as an almost-forgotten humanitarian crime against a future generation.

I am seeking support to fund the recording and presentation of this project.  

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A psychological and spiritual rendering as much as a musical one, Aberfan is an excavation into my own soul. As Alice Miller discovered the trauma of her own childhood through spontaneous painting and wrote about in her many books, Aberfan propelled itself through me.  This is the story of power and destruction wrought over all the world in the willful, negligent and unconscious devastation upon the most vulnerable and the call to transform, through my music, the inscrutable events.

COLLABORATORS:

Michael Farquharson  Studio Producer / Engineer, Mix One Studios, Boston, MA

Ian Smith-Heisters  Media Design, Berkeley, CA

Denise Wallace-Spriggs  Art Direction, Boston, MA

PHOTOGRAPHS

PRESS

RADIO INTERVIEW   “I see [Aberfan] as the epitome of the folk process, because folk music, in all its definitions, is about stories.” (Nick Noble, WICN)

Aberfan is a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization.  Contributions on behalf of Aberfan must be made payable to NYFA, and are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.  All donations will be acknowledged on my website and project page unless requested kept private.

If sending a check, please make payable to NYFA & mail to:  Vault of the Valley Music, 27 Abbott Street, Greenfield, MA, 01301.

Here is a demo sample of voice and piano parts:  

“Their daily rendition [in morning assembly, 9am] of ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’ – a hymn written a few miles away in the bucolic tranquillity of the Usk Valley – was postponed that day.

They would sing it before they went home when the head teacher planned to wish her pupils a safe and enjoyable holiday.” (Aberfan:  A Mistake that Cost a Village its Children, by Ceri Jackson, BBC News, October 21, 2016)

The catastrophic collapse occurred about 9:15am.

Aerial view, October 21, 1966, courtesy of AGU Blogosphere

(Photo top of page by IC Rapoport 1966)

Aberfan is funded in part by Puffin Foundation, Thendara Foundation, Puffin Foundation West and Deupree Family Foundation.

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“…Continuing the dialogue between art and the lives of ordinary people.”

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Art is Radical

If it is truly creative, art is radical.

Art upends institutions and challenges us to examine the very fabric of our being, our society.  We are loosened.

We must re-member ourselves and our reason for living, what greater purpose beyond the tactics of greed, what measurement of a timeless nature, what pattern of the gods.  

Aberfan is a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization.  Contributions on behalf of Aberfan must be made payable to NYFA, and are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

“Rain/Rubble”, demo excerpt of pianos from Aberfan.  Life forever altered and forever bound to the two.

Photo from AP Archives , the graves of Aberfan, October 27, 1966.

What is the value of connecting to your soul?

Does connecting to your soul enable you to make good choices for the environment?

In this desperate time of upheaval, as our earth is besieged by unbridled industry pillaging the land and exploiting its riches — embodied by mountaintop-removal coal mining and fracking to extract natural gas — it is urgent we activate a moral and creative counterweight to intellectual arguments for climate change:   awaken the spirit of shared humanity and responsibility that lives in each of us.

Aberfan speaks directly to what is at the heart of our survival as fully actualized beings on a thriving planet — the need to reconnect with our own souls, where one realizes the interrelatedness of all things and greed does not overpower the value of life.  Only then are we impelled to critically examine the impact that our daily choices are having on our environment.

In bearing witness to the specific atrocity of Aberfan we expose our present challenge.  In sensing what is greater than ourselves, we re-envision a sustainable and just future.

On October 21, 1966, in the small mining village of Aberfan, Wales, a man-made mountain of coal waste catastrophically collapsed on a primary school, killing 116 children and 28 adults.

At the crossroads of modern music, experimental media and environmental justice, Aberfan catapults this disaster into the present.  Music will be presented both in exhibition, live performance and participatory installation with photographs taken by Life photojournalist IC Rapoport.

Aberfan is a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization. Contributions are tax-deductible.

Photo IC Rapoport, Aberfan, 1966

ArtSake: How Have Mentors Affected Your Art?

Posted recently at Mass Cultural Council’s blog ArtSake, a place to dig into the creative, innovative work of Massachusetts artists.  Periodically, they pose questions to artists about issues they face in their work and lives. This month, they asked practitioners in a variety of disciplines, Have you had any important mentors? Who have they been, and how did they affect you?

Laura Siersemacomposer
One day after a session with Maggie, walking down Trowbridge Street in Cambridge, I felt something I had never experienced before in my life. As if slightly elevated above the sidewalk, I was enveloped, cushioned in timelessness. I believed it was the Feminine. Maggie was a Jungian psychoanalyst and we had just begun our long journey together, which would last over years, until her death. Guide through the chronicle and cipher of my dreams; attentive to events whose plumb lines captured our attention in the daylight, Maggie traveled with me on an inner way towards my own creative center: where physical, psychological and musical sensations are one. Where, in fact, I co-create with God. To passage between waking and sleep, courier of images and sounds occasionally glimpsed or heard – where beauty is both dark and light, and evidence of trauma transformed. What access to rage and powerlessness, survival and hope, became the necessity of excavating and composing Aberfan, my work about the 1966 coal mining disaster in Wales – the crushing, dismembering experience of a man-made landslide upon a schoolhouse. I can only assume a sympathetic situation had existed within myself from the very beginning: a spontaneous child disavowed.

Laura Siersema is a composer, pianist, vocalist, and poet. Learn more about her ambitious Aberfan, which is a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization.

photo from the process of creating the “Altered Interlude” in Laura Siersema’s ABERFAN.

 

How Have Mentors Affected Your Art?

ArtSake is a place to dig into the creative, innovative work of Massachusetts artists. It’s hosted by Massachusetts Cultural Council, the state’s agency supporting arts, humanities, and sciences.

Periodically, they pose questions to artists about issues they face in their work and lives. This month, they asked practitioners in a variety of disciplines, Have you had any important mentors? Who have they been, and how did they affect you?

I am honored to have been asked to answer this question.

Photo from the process of creating “Altered Interlude” in Laura Siersema’s ABERFAN.  

Aberfan is a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization.  Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

In this desperate time of upheaval

We are living now the upheaval — the turning outside what was in, what has long been buried — and must live now to extricate ourselves from what would obliterate good, what is bright and free.  The underbelly, black water out my dream now burst upon the land, no sorcerer could have done without people. We are in the confines of a trained evil.

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In this dire time for our world, I implore you to share news of my composition Aberfan, catapulting the disaster of 1966 into the present.

Here encapsulates the mission:

Envisioned as a project at the crossroads of modern music, experimental media and environmental justice:  Aberfan is an elegy not only for the people of Aberfan –Wales who suffered the loss of a generation — but for our world, besieged by unbridled industry pillaging the land and exploiting its riches.  The tragedy of Aberfan and the music it informed manifest the abject sorrow and rage resulting from the devastating human and environmental impacts of the fossil fuel industry — embodied by mountaintop-removal coal mining and fracking to extract natural gas.  Aberfan confronts and aims to disrupt our complacency, inciting change in the only way possible — by touching the soul.

Aberfan is participatory.  An immersive space will be created using projection of imagery and semi-transparent scrims, capturing the landscape and people, the tactility of coal, ingrained in their faces. The viewer will move through the space, at times full of unsettling, discordant movement as if being subsumed in an avalanche of slag and at other times nearly silent, inducing pause. One can walk inside, behind and around the moving images, inside of the presentation.

The project will investigate how art, together with technology, can be used for experiential transformation by addressing the visceral, personal experiences of the disaster through image and sound, while implying the disaster’s universal relevance as an almost-forgotten humanitarian crime against a future generation.

Aberfan is a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization.  Contributions are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law.

As I seek funds enabling me to return to the studio, I urge you to pass this along.

I am deeply indebted to those who have contributed.   Your confidence in and appreciation of this mission in my music has been a mainstay.

Fridge Feed: “Along the Fenway”

Screenshot 2017-03-29 at 1.18.04 PMDedicated to promoting women in music, Sydney-based Fridge Feed has posted a review of one of my songs:  http://www.fridgefeed.com/emerging-artists/2017/3/18/laura-siersema 

“Laura Siersema’s neo-classical piece ‘Along the Fenway’ is storytelling bliss…”

Thank you very much for noting one of my own.

“Along the Fenway” was recorded on my third album, Talon of the Blackwater and features cellist Eugene Friesen.

“(Art) the quiet work of centuries…” President John F. Kennedy

“The poet, the artist, the musician, continues the quiet work of centuries, building bridges of experience between peoples…reminding man of the universality of his feelings, desires and despairs… thus, art is political in the most profound sense, not as a weapon in the struggle, but an instrument of understanding of the futility of struggle…”

President John F. Kennedy

Remarks on  Behalf of the National Cultural Center, 29 November 1962:  https://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHA-145-008.aspx

Words of such insight and beauty for anyone, yet especially to those of us who happen to be creative artists, and of necessity, work alone.

My deep appreciation to Kelly Bennett and Dan Blask at Massachusetts Cultural Council for posting this link.

Spotify: Laura Siersema Trio Live at 1794 Meetinghouse

The Trio Live album is now available on Spotify!

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If you listen to music on Spotify, there’s a small thing you can do that’d be a big help: FOLLOW me there!

Once I get to 250 followers, Spotify will “verify” my account, which opens up the possibility my music can be added to their playlists.

Thank you for this support.