humanitarian crime

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 catastrophe occurred when a mountain of coal waste collapsed on a primary school, killing 116 children and 28 adults.

Informed by one of the most poignant disasters of our time, Aberfan is a full length contemporary composition that uses excerpts from a folk song my mother wrote following the tragedy.  Envisioned as a multi-media project at the crossroads of performance art, experimental media and environmental consciousness, music will be presented both in live performance and immersive installation with black & white photographs — such as the one above — taken by Life photojournalist IC Rapoport, who went to Aberfan to “photograph the psychic mess”.

By addressing the visceral, personal experiences of the disaster, Aberfan investigates how art, together with technology, can be used for experiential healing, while implying the disaster’s universal relevance as an almost-forgotten humanitarian crime.

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

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

COLLABORATORS:

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

Ian Smith-Heisters  Media Design, Berkeley, CA

Denise Wallace-Spriggs  Art Direction, Boston, MA

PRESS

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:  

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

(Photo top of page by IC Rapoport 1966)

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

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

thendara foundation

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deupreefamilyfoundation

 

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

South Wales Police Museum6Aberfan  is a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), a 501 (c)(3), tax-exempt organization.  Contributions are tax deductible.

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, whether personally, spiritually or environmentally.  For everyone that gives to this undertaking, know that its enduring and significant impact is now also in your hands.

Please make your contribution here to support the making of a studio recording.

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