Month: July 2016

Aberfan (7 pianos, voice and tools of rescue)


Elegy for the death of a generation of children in Aberfan, Wales.  At the crossroads of contemporary world music, experimental media and environmental crisis.

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

My composition Aberfan contains fragments of  a folk song my Mom wrote at the time, and  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 with black & white photographs  — taken by Life photojournalist IC Rapoport, who went to Aberfan to “photograph the psychic mess” and and BBC Wales archive footage from the rescue effort.  MUSIC SAMPLES  of work in progress

Aberfan (First Hymn – Rock Sequence) a demo sample of voice and pianos:  

“Their daily rendition [in morning assembly, 9am] of ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’ – a hymn written a few miles away in the bucolic tranquility 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

Aberfan is an expression of the collective unconscious of our time.  A psychological and spiritual rendering as much as a musical one, it is an excavation into my own soul.  Propelling itself through me, Aberfan is the story of power and destruction wrought over all the world in the willful, negligent and unconscious devastation upon what is most vulnerable in ourselves and in others, and the practice of transforming what cannot be fathomed through my music.  

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



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

Ian Smith-Heisters  Media Design, Berkeley, CA

Denise Wallace-Spriggs  Art Direction, Boston, MA



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.

(Photo top of page by IC Rapoport 1966)

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

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

thendara foundation



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. (more…)