creative artist

Lifeline

At my Gramma’s in Lynchburg, Virginia

Sometimes it helps to read things I’ve written in the past. To be reminded of what is vital, what I may have forgotten, what is integral to where I’m going.

To 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 would 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 written words and images.

So it was, through prose poems and lyrics of my first three recordings: When I left loss  became the title of my first album (1999), a singular phrase that arose as I lay still; 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, without editing, upon a randomly chosen word or image, 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 woman, leaning forward, clutching 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.  Included in these was the instrumental development of “Aberfan”, a folk song that my mother had written in 1966 following the Aberfan landslide disaster.   My first arrangement of her song was recorded on my second album.  Over the years it has become a full length, modern composition.

Let me tell you the story of Aberfan, which takes me to today.

“I believe that virtually everything that is within a person is revealed in both their speaking or singing voice and their music.  And your music is very paradoxical, as I experience it both intuitively and analytically.  It’s very simple, really almost so simple that I could believe that you had never taken lessons and yet there’s an intelligence about it that’s informed from an interior place which creates true originality and I’m using that word in its true meaning, “emerging from the origin, the source” as opposed to merely being novel or different.  This duality of a simplicity and a uniqueness is very refreshing.”  Joseph Marcello, The Recorder, speaking in an interview with Laura about her work

“Dreamy, visionary, cutting edge.”  Holly Hopple, Herndon Festival

“Siersema brings the power of her crystalline voice and compositional skills to bear on her third release…understated accompaniments are at times brilliant…Siersema takes the traditional spiritual ‘Wade in the Water’ and makes it her own with a ghostly arrangement reminiscent of Daniel Lanois’s work…the excellent 14-minute ‘Along the Fenway’ features cellist Eugene Friesen and is strikingly beautiful.” Progression, The Quarterly Journal of Progressive Music

“We LOVE your music.” Kelley & Cyrus, Yurt Radio, Hampshire College

“While the voice gives Talon of the Blackwater its beauty, her writing is what gives it depth.”  Donnie Moorhouse, The Republican

“Laura’s poems lend a riveting, personal touch to the record, and at times cut so deep the hair on the listener’s skin goes on end.”  Josh Shear, Reminder Publications

“Enthralling and complex music with world-class musicians.”  Sheryl Hunter, Greenfield Recorder

“Her voice beckons mercilessly to the physical world like the bodiless spirit that haunts the mansion on a faraway hill.  Wanderers beware…”  Independent Songwriter Magazine Pick of the Month

“…they should make movies out of music like this.”  Holbrook, Jamaica Plain Arts News

“Experimental, serene and surreal…” Sarah Craig, Caffe Lena

“Siersema has power in her words…Some of the songs begin with her reading poetry, and let me tell you, I could sit enraptured listening to a full album of her simply doing this…it sets up the tunes in a fashion that I’ve never quite experienced before. ”  Mish Mash Indie Music Reviews

“The major labels are always looking for artists who fit in neat categories, to simplify their marketing efforts.  Artists know this, and try to make music that will fit.  But some artists are driven to make music that falls between the cracks, that fits no musical genre very well at all.  Sometimes, there are traces of various musical genres, but combined in unexpected ways.  And sometimes there is no genre that can describe the music fairly.  Always, these artists show a fierce originality.  Some of the best music I have ever heard also defies categorization.  Just as the English language is neither French nor German, but is derived from both, this music is a new language, one that speaks eloquently.”  (Oliver di Place blog on Laura’s work)

“Folk fans should take note, as well as those that like classical music, and Tori Amos.”   Suzie Siegel, Tampa Tribune

“She sings like an angel.”  Gary Lee, Mt. Wachusett Folk Cafe

“A touch Celtic, a touch New Age, she is uncategorizable, a passion rare in folk music today.”  John Henry, WCUW, Worcester

“Laura is an acoustic craftsman, a wordsmith…with the soul and lyrics of a true poet…” Indie-Music Reviews

“STUNNING!!!”  David Weide, KUNV, Las Vegas

A few can carry us beyond….by indenting our souls, effecting change in the soul whereby the mood is retained and perhaps never lost…your music has the power to do just this! You have given a ‘storehouse’ for our spirit’s garden. Places in greatest need of nourishment are thereby fulfilled.”  Vincent Tripi, haiku poet

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.  

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.

Artist

The “Artist” is timeless and would like to move about freely — but for the effects of modern world, which is always changing, all intent on crushing what is creative —

Yet there is so much in me that suppresses and belittles, it is world turned inside and that is the horror —

This is what we struggle against every day in our practice to be free — and yet, the strength, the fortitude and vision is already in us, in the form of a single soul — and what beauty it can bear —

From the emptying there comes a better way, which need not demean, compare, or count the value in numbers or time —

Amen —

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.

Underbelly, the 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.

Courtesy Alan George 2Laura 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.

Women in Music

Screenshot 2016-05-27 at 4.13.34 PM

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.

 

Lifeline

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 would 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.

“Aberfan” One woman’s elegy for a Welsh village’s young disaster victims

p00ksv3k640360 ICR sent, but not hisOver one year ago, Richie Davis wrote this powerful story for the Greenfield Recorder, our local paper.  Our interview together was the first I had spoken publicly about the composition that had been underway for years.

Aberfan – One Woman’s elegy for a Welsh village’s young disaster victims

Aberfan – One Woman’s elegy for a Welsh village’s young disaster victims (page 2)

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 from Getty Images by Jim Gray

Wider view of Aberfan / Rain – Rubble

South Wales Police Museum7 overview collapsed rooves and throng of people behind school

Aberfan is an elegy not only for the people of Aberfan who suffered the loss of a generation and the “wounded soul of the Welsh” who saw “their beautiful country being destroyed when the coal mines came to the valleys”, but for our world, besieged by unbridled industry pillaging the land and exploiting its riches for the few.  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, more recently embodied by mountaintop-removal coal mining and fracking to extract natural gas.  This project confronts our blindness and aims to disrupt our complacency.

Aberfan will be participatory.  In choosing the entrances of pianos #2-7, individuals will be deciding the composition and experiencing their own involvement in its unfolding.  Merging the music of Aberfan and photos of this particular disaster’s psychic aftermath lays bare the great cost of ignoring the habituated, presumptive violence in our human systems.

The penetrating quality of musical vibrations in synergy with photographic art, resonating where words cannot, evokes a greater world where all are connected as living beings on a living earth.  In bearing witness to the single atrocity of Aberfan, one can begin to question the arrogance of “progress” built on destruction, absent the soul.

For the performance or installation of Aberfan, money is needed to create a studio recording and develop a design for the visual element.  My hope is for presentation across the United States within the next several years.  Donations can be made online.

Here is an example, in musical language, of the consequence of our offensive display of superiority over nature.  Rain and Rubble Sequences have been spliced and put back together in alternating measures.  Excerpt: Aberfan, “Rain – Rubble”

Thank your for considering the enduring social and artistic significance of Aberfan and its challenge to halt our drive towards extinction.

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 upper right courtesy Alan George.  Overview of collapsed rooves and throng of people behind school.  Aberfan, 1966.

Photo Youtube IC Rapoport, Aberfan, 1966

 

Freedom in Art

That I drop down into this formless, dull space, that I actually stand on my own two feet — for here, in composition, I have absolutely no qualms, no questions, about what occurs in the end.  There is no thought to please, no external pressure of any kind.  Here is the only place I can go where I am free from the anxieties and weaknesses of relying, or expecting anything; the fullness of my own greater Self is all.  To stay within this realm of creative work and thought is the only necessity and any irritations arise from not doing so.

“Aberfan” (Rain Sequence, excerpt)

“This area of South Wales has a wet climate and the hillsides are marked by lines of springs.” (AGU Blogosphere)

Therefore, Aberfan begins with the Rain Sequence.  My workspace is in the attic and the idea to layer pianos originated as I listened to the rain on our metal roof so close above me.

Here is a short demo sample of 7 pianos, all playing the same part, entering moments slightly apart from one another, each with its own tempo.

To make sure that Aberfan can be recorded, please donate at www.tinyurl.com/FundAberfan.