Month: October 2020

Thoughts on Composing “Aberfan”

Art that is simply willed is not art.” (Thomas Merton)

Several concepts were embedded in the process of composing Aberfan.  These became emotional and compositional imperatives, apparent only as I went along.  Chaos, the spiraling of events, silence after trauma, the absolute necessity that what wrenches, what pulls at the heart and hurts, be contained in the tension between how things were and how things could have been.

MUSIC SAMPLES  of work in progress

Laura Siersema is composer of Aberfan (7 pianos, voice and tools of rescue), a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization.  All donations are tax deductible.  Your contribution ensures we can return to the studio to complete its recording.

(Originally posted June 2015)

“Aberfan”: Rain – Rubble, Altered Interlude, Final Hymn (Altered)

Photo IC Rapoport, Aberfan, 1966

An extended excerpt of piano parts from Aberfan — survivors resuming the impossibility and despair of life, forever altered in the aftermath.

Laura Siersema is composer of Aberfan (7 pianos, voice and tools of rescue), a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization.  All donations are tax deductible.  Your contribution ensures we can return to the studio to complete its recording.

(Originally posted June 2016)

M.S. Worthington Foundation Awards Grant to “Aberfan”

inside Mix One Studios, Boston

I am honored to announce that Aberfan has been awarded a $5,000 grant from M.S. Worthington Foundation of Nantucket, MA. With their support and belief in the value of this large work — so resonant in these current times of despair and upheaval — we will be able to return to the studio to continue recording.

Laura Siersema is composer of Aberfan (7 pianos, voice and tools of rescue), a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization.  All donations are tax deductible.  Your contribution ensures we can return to the studio to complete its recording.

A Beautifully Written Story and Music from “Aberfan”

South Wales Police Museum

(Originally posted on the 50th anniversary, October 21, 2016.

Aberfan: The mistake that cost a village its children

By Ceri Jackson, BBC News

Here are a few short samples from our first studio sessions for Aberfan.

First, “Rain Sequence”, the layering of pianos at the beginning of the piece.  

Second, “First Hymn”, a demo excerpt of “All Things Bright and Beautiful”.  The children were to sing it on the day of the disaster before they went home. 

“Rock Sequence”, the catastrophic collapse.  

Last, an excerpt of “Altered Rain”, the impossibility and hope of life forever altered as people descend back into the village following the mass funeral. 

Laura Siersema is composer of Aberfan (7 pianos, voice and tools of rescue), a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization.  All donations are tax deductible.  Your contribution ensures we can return to the studio to complete its recording.

Photo courtesy of Alan George

“Aberfan was a man-made disaster. 50 years on, we must remember this”

On this 54th anniversary, I am reposting this powerful story by Huw Edwards:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/aberfan-was-a-man-made-disaster-50-years-on-we-must-remember-thi/

p00ksv3k640360 ICR sent, but not his

Laura Siersema is composer of Aberfan (7 pianos, voice and tools of rescue), a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization.  All donations are tax deductible.  Your contribution ensures we can return to the studio to complete its recording.

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.  A psychological and spiritual rendering as much as a musical one, Aberfan is an excavation into my own soul.  

ABERFAN 54TH ANNIVERSARY 10.21.20 “How with this rage…”

How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea… —Shakespeare, Sonnet 65

“Rain Sequence”, pianos, Aberfan — it has started to rain, the composition begins.  In this demo sample, as single pianos enter one after the other, you listen to the gradual dissolution of harmony.

Laura Siersema is composer of Aberfan (7 pianos, voice and tools of rescue), a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization.  All donations are tax deductible.  Your contribution ensures we can return to the studio to complete its recording.

Getty images, Aberfan, October 21, 1966

21ST.OCTOBER 2020: Aberfan 54th Anniversary — Ronnie Davis

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Photo by IC Rapoport, Aberfan, 1966

This is Ronnie Davis, the first boy photographed by IC Rapoport in the aftermath of the tragedy.  He lost his older brother in the landslide.  His house, close to the school, was destroyed. Out walking his dog, he looked about the ruins of his house.

“Altered Rain” is a demo excerpt of piano parts from my new composition Aberfan. Conceived to represent the thousands of people coming down the hillside following the mass funeral on a “windswept, grey” Thursday less than one week after the disaster, this musical section turns “Rain Sequence” — which occurs at the beginning of the composition, before the landslide –upside down.

“Altered Rain” (Aberfan (7 pianos, voice and tools of rescue)

Laura Siersema is composer of Aberfan (7 pianos, voice and tools of rescue), a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization.  All donations are tax deductible.  Your contribution ensures we can return to the studio to complete its recording.

21ST.OCTOBER 2020: Remember ABERFAN — Jeff Edwards

(Originally posted October 2016)

I came across this yesterday and was astounded by Jeff’s straightforward honesty.  Surviving an event impossible for any of us to imagine, unless one were there, with great dignity.

Laura Siersema is composer of Aberfan (7 pianos, voice and tools of rescue), a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization.  All donations are tax deductible.  Your contribution ensures we can return to the studio to complete its recording.

21st.October 2020: Aberfan 54th Anniversary — Meet Detective Sargeant Charles Nunn

Charles Nunn story

(Originally posted November 2015.)

Over a year ago, Charles Nunn contacted me, offering help for my project, Aberfan.

Here is the story he wrote in 1987.  TheDisasterOfAberfan_CharlesNunn_ThePoliceReview_

From one of our email exchanges, his words:  “The team in the mortuary were composed entirely of Regional Crime Squad Officers drawn from all over Wales….We were tasked to set up a mortuary, and identify the 144 victims of the disaster. I was designated the Senior Identification Officer and worked with my team in the mortuary at Bethania Chapel in Moy Road, Aberfan for 15 days until the last body, and body piece, was identified.

Aberfan was a small village. No police station, no town hall, no gymnasium which was why we had to use the totally inadequate facilities of the Sunday school room at the rear of the chapel for receiving, washing the bodies etc. and the body of the chapel itself to place the bodies for viewing. Once a body had been identified and the cause of death recorded by a pathologist, without exception asphyxiation and multiple crush injuries, Death Certificates needed to be issued.

It now sounds very incongruous and bizarre but they were issued from a local land mark, the village fish and chip shop.

In my handwriting, a notice was placed on the door of the chapel directing families to that location.”

I am deeply grateful for all that he has passed on to me.

Laura Siersema is composer of Aberfan (7 pianos, voice and tools of rescue), a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization.  All donations are tax deductible.  Your contribution ensures we can return to the studio to complete its recording.

21ST.OCTOBER 2020: Aberfan 54th anniversary

(Originally posted October 2019)

As the day of the anniversary of the Aberfan Disaster nears, I am reposting this story by Ceri Jackson, BBC News, written for the 50th anniversary of the Disaster.

Aberfan: The mistake that cost a village its children

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

Laura Siersema is composer of Aberfan (7 pianos, voice and tools of rescue), a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization.  All donations are tax deductible.  Your contribution ensures we can return to the studio to complete its recording.