“My unpublished works cried out that they wanted to live.” (The Oak and the Calf: A Memoir, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn)
This past month, I received word that Aberfan would be awarded a grant, enough to go back into the studio and continue recording. Been a long time. I wouldn’t be able to do it otherwise. A tremendous gift, tangible and intangible.
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.
“….has become a world where the irrational has become rational, where lies become true. And facts alone will be powerless to thwart the mendacity spun out through billions of dollars in corporate advertising, lobbying, and control of traditional sources of information. We will have to descend into the world of the forgotten, to write, photograph, paint, sing, act, blog, video and film with anger and honesty…”The World As It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress
Resonating with my own large and looming project Aberfan.An insistence we not forget.
Over 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.
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.
“The MS Worthington Foundation is proud to support your mission. Thank you for your good work!” writes Sabrina Elwell, President.
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 144 people — 116 children and 28 adults.
Posted originally 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 Siersema, composer 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 the evidence of trauma transformed. What access to rage and powerlessness, survival and resurrection, 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 understanding in my soul.
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.
On October 21, 1966, in the small mining village of Aberfan, Wales, a man-made mountain of coal waste collapsed on a primary school and nearby houses, killing 116 children and 28 adults.
The “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.
Here is a demo sample of voice and piano parts from Aberfan (7 pianos, voice and tools of rescue). ‘First Hymn — Rock Sequence’:
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.
I am deeply saddened. For all the questions he answered as I researched for my composition, Aberfan, for all he endured and so willingly relayed to me, Charles remains a living link to Aberfan.
Aberfan (7 pianos, voice and tools of rescue) 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.