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.


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.

South Wales Police Museum7

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.

Remember Aberfan — Jeff Edwards

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

Aberfan is a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA). Contributions are tax deductible.

A Beautifully Written Story and Music from “Aberfan”

The 50th anniversary, October 21, 2016.South Wales Police Museum

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. 

In deepest honor.

Aberfan (7 pianos, percussion, voice and tools of rescue)  is a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA). Contributions are tax deductible.

Photo courtesy of Alan George

Patrons of All Sizes

UCC image

Many thanks to The United Congregational Church of Conway (Massachusetts) for their $100 contribution yesterday to Aberfan. 

This generous gift, in combination with my posting yesterday about a completed grant application, made me once again appreciate the necessity of donations of all sizes.  Grants for thousands of dollars are highly competitive, and therefore uncertain.  Individual donations like this one, however, form the backbone of everything I am trying to do.  Each one gets us closer to being able to actualize this project.

For centuries, patrons have been essential to bringing art into the world.

A difficult and singular endeavor that has carried itself through me over years (and will continue to do so) would be impossible to realize without the help from those for whom Aberfan resonates.  For everyone that gives to this undertaking, know that its enduring and significant impact is now also in your hands.

If you would wish your contribution to be publicly shared, as did The United Congregational Church of Conway, I would be happy to do so.

For giving to Aberfan, please go to tinyurl.com/FundAberfan.

MAP Fund application, by invitation

MAP Fund image

After months of preparation and not a little stress, another application made it out.  What astonished me, in finding answers to questions on the application , was to realize the deep thread that has been running through my work all along.  A great gift to find meaning.

Here is an excerpt:

“Aberfan articulates a broadening and deepening of practice far beyond what I’ve experienced before, yet inclusive of everything before it. What began on my knees, crouched in a narrow darkened tunnel cut towards a far away light opening into vast space, over years has been the search for my own creative voice in composition.  Aberfan became symbol of the greater, where time and form are permeable — where opposites are contained and held together in agonizing fusion, irregular shapes of risen cadences into a whole.”

Deep thanks to Ian Smith-Heisters for his part in helping mwith the application.

To contribute to the recording of Aberfan, please go to www.tinyurl.com/FundAberfan.