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.

Informed by one of the most poignantly tragic disasters of our time, Aberfan is a full length modern composition that uses excerpts of melody and lyric from a folk song my mother wrote following the tragedy.  Music will be presented both in performance and installation with black & white photographs taken by Life photojournalist IC Rapoport, who went to Aberfan to “photograph the psychic mess”.

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

Make online contributions now.

A psychological and spiritual rendering as much as a musical one, Aberfan was 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, 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.


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:  

“All Things Bright and Beautiful” was sung that day at morning assembly.  The catastrophic collapse occurred about 9:15am.

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

(Photo top of page by IC Rapoport 1966)


Puffin Foundation Awards Aberfan

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“The Puffin Foundation Ltd. seeks to open the doors of artistic expression by providing grants to artists and art organizations who are often excluded from mainstream opportunities due to their race, gender, or social philosophy.

The Puffin, once endangered in the northeastern United States, was returned to its native habitats through the efforts of a concerned citizenry. Our name is a metaphor for how we perceive our mission in the arts: to join with other concerned groups and individuals to ensure that the arts not merely survive, but flourish at all levels of our society.”

Many thanks for their award of $1250.

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


Aberfan, a Parable

11_10-Aberfan-2 AGU Blogosphere
Aberfan, Wales, Coal Refuse Collapse Kills 144, 116 Children, 1966

What was the salvation and economic lifeblood of this small village, with its promise to the miners of being able to provide for their families, became the death of a generation and ongoing trauma for those who survived.  Were it not for short sighted environmental, governmental and economic practices that served only to protect the system and those who gained by it, this tragedy would never have happened.

What will be the legacy of fracking?  What will we be mourning the loss of in 50 years?  What unintended consequences befall us or our children?  What will be destroyed forever?  Our groundwater?  Who will be held responsible?  The miners of Aberfan did not pile coal waste high above the village so their children would be buried one day.  Our systems have not changed, only the people and machinery have — corporate dominance assures ‘progress and safety’ while exploiting humankind and the earth as commodities.  The visceral, powerful message in the music of Aberfan is the felt knowledge of this human condition, resonating over time.

Unless we reclaim our history we are doomed.  It is precisely this loss of memory that enables these systems to dupe each coming generation into believing that prosperity is possible.

Aberfan (7 pianos, percussion, voice and tools of rescue) is a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts, a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization.  Make your statement by helping this project be recorded.  Make your tax deductible donation towards its recording here.

West Virginia Collapse

West Virginia, Coal Refuse Collapse, 2012 

Truth in Aberfan

What’s the point of this piece Aberfan?

For all who have never heard of Aberfan, and all who remember Aberfan as if it were yesterday, unless we claim the truth of our shared history, we will lose the ability to recognize the violent indifference to life it entails.  Crimes more and more horrific will be perpetuated at the hands of power and greed and commodity, as we continue to extinguish ourselves.

Charles Nunn story

Aberfan (7 pianos, percussion, voice and tools of rescue) is a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts, a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization.  Please make your tax deductible donation towards its recording here.

Raining from “Aberfan”

Today it’s raining.  I can hear the drops on our metal roof.  This is how it was when I was working on the Rain Sequence of Aberfan — realizing that rain falls haphazardly, scattershot, as if random.

Here is the very beginning of Aberfan, a few minutes of rainone piano entering after the other.

Aberfan is a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts.  Please make a donation towards its recording here.

Women in Music

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Many thanks to Eve Meyer, Editor in chief, Journal of the IAWM, for encouraging me to write an article for the journal about my work and career, all the way up through my latest endeavor, Aberfan.

See “Turn Us into Ashes”, page 25.  IAWM Journal Spring 2016 Final (1)

Aberfan is a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts.  Please make a donation towards its recording here.



iching“The wind drives over the water:  when one’s vital energy is dammed up within, a gentleness serves to break up and dissolve the blockage…hence the idea of dissolution of one’s own self and, consequently, the absence of remorse…

Only on the basis of a great renunciation…” can I carry what has been tasked to me:

Aberfan is a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts.  Please make a contribution here.


“The modern world, as Kafka predicted…”

the world as it is dispatches on the myth of human progressA book of essays by Chris Hedges:  “….has become a world where the irrational has become rational, where lies become true.  And facts alone will be powerless to thwart the mendacity spun out through billions of dollars in corporate advertising, lobbying, and control of traditional sources of information.  We will have to descend into the world of the forgotten, to write, photograph, paint, sing, act, blog, video and film with anger and honesty…”  The World As It Is:  Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress

Resonating with my own large and looming project Aberfan.  An insistence we not forget.  Please contribute here to support its recording.


babyinFrameTo be a creative artist was born in me — a most slender thread connected to the core of the earth, through my very being and up beyond into the skies — a seriousness of such resiliency it could never be broken and take all of life to realize.

Whether music, paint or word, whatever the form, if it takes you by surprise, propels itself through you — it is your art, a conscious spiritual calling, and your task to bring into the world.

In the arc of my own creative life, my earliest poems and lyrics came from this unconscious place, without thought — vaguely familial, words hacked out of walls or erupting through an external image — phrases which I instinctively pieced together.  I had grown up surrounded by music, yet my first experience of the truly deep, creative source within myself arrived in dreams and the silence of words and images.

So it was, through prose poems and lyrics of my first three recordings:  “when I left loss“, a singular phrase that arose as I lay still, became the title of my first album (1999); the dream of a two-story house, pressing unnaturally down upon me, its cover photo.  Another dream, a man kneeling at my feet says “love flows like the blood of a river” — words of such import,  I knew they would  be the title for a song one day.  So, too, the title of my second album (2003).

Free-writing upon a randomly chosen word or image, without editing, provided more material.  Full stories articulated on the plumb line of an external image — a woman wearing a turban on a bus became “Eileen”, another leaning forward, clutching at her purse, the central character in “There is a Silence / Rolling of Time”.

During this period I also began to study voice for the first time — what had been, over years, petrified and buried.

“Talon of the Blackwater and Graces”, title track to my third album (2009), was presaged in a dream I had of black water gushing from a neighboring backyard (a woman’s shelter for those transitioning out of abusive situations) into ours — dark, lyrical material surging out over just a few days.  The title itself came from a prose poem I had written years before.  Was this the image of a disaster erupting from my own unconscious recollections as a child?

It was only during the process of recording Talon of the Blackwater that my poetry, subsumed in lyric, and my voice, fully became part of my music.  I was, in fact, a songwriter and arranger, yet when I first heard the songs on the working demo, I believed someone else must have written them.

Starting in 2008, to my surprise, I began writing pieces for solo piano.  One of these was the development of “Aberfan”,  a song that my mother had written and I had arranged for my second recording.  Over the years it has become a full length composition.

Let me tell you that story, which takes me to today.