multi-media project

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.

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

Envisioned at the crossroads of modern music, experimental media and environmental justice, Aberfan is a full length composition that uses excerpts from a folk song my mother wrote following the 1966 disaster, as well as hymns — one the children would have sung at morning assembly that day and another sung at the mass funeral less than one week later.  Music will be presented both in live performance and immersive installation with black & white photographs — such as the one above — taken by Life photo  journalist 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 transformation, while implying the disaster’s universal relevance as an almost-forgotten humanitarian crime against a future generation.

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

DONATE

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, Aberfan propelled itself through me.  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.

Screenshot 2016-07-22 at 5.51.53 PM

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

thendara foundation

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deupreefamilyfoundation

 

Spring

DSC00096Watching for spring to come in the many grant applications and letters sent out for Aberfan — a project at the crossroads of modern music, environmental justice, performance art, experimental media and landscape of the human soul.

Aberfan is a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts.  In order to pull this off I need your help.  Make a donation of any size here.

 

Synchronicity

Follow this.  Remarkable.

Food-for-Change-FilmThis past weekend I happened to run into my friend, Steve Alves, at the Winter’s Farmers Market here in Greenfield.  We were talking about each of our big projects, his documentary, Food for Change and my multimedia composition, Aberfan.

 

 

digoutSeveral years ago, Steve had been introduced to Katherine Leiner, who happened to be writing a book at the time about the sustainable food movement in this country.  Just so happened one of her earlier books, Digging Out, tells a story of the deep and lasting resonance the Aberfan disaster of 1966 had in her own life.

To support Food for Change, go here:  http://foodforchange.coop/buy/

To support Aberfan, here:  www.tinyurl.com/FundAberfan

 

“Aberfan” First Hymn – Rock Sequence

“On the 21st of October 1966, 144 people, 116 of them children, were killed when a man-made mountain of coal waste slid onto the village of Aberfan in South Wales. The elementary school building was the first structure in its path and the school was demolished by a thousand tons of black mud.”  (IC Rapoport, Aberfan, 1966)

Here is a demo excerpt from my composition, Aberfan.

“All Things Bright and Beautiful” was sung at morning assembly on the day of the disaster.

To support the recording of this project, please make a tax-deductible contribution:  www.tinyurl.com/FundAberfan 

Ian Smith-Heisters

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Today I want to tell you about someone I met several months ago, quite by happenstance (though, of course, that’s hardly the whole story).  In what had become a daily online search for anything simpatico with my current project Aberfan, I came across Ian’s profile on LinkedIn.  Ian Smith-Heisters 

Within moments of scanning his profile, I felt certain we were going to be working together.

And so we are.   He will develop the visual element for Aberfan.  

Ian will create an immersive space using projection of imagery and semi-transparent scrims, capturing subjects of people, nature and 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 still, inducing pause.  The kaleidoscopic nature of the music — random entrances of pianos, eruptions of trauma, shifting rhythmic emphasis, a lyrical voice — coexists with imagery that envelops the viewer.  One can walk inside, behind and around the moving images, inside the performance.

In his words:  “I am approaching Aberfan as a ritual of healing that is part of a longer, ongoing trajectory of coping with the Aberfan disaster.  My approach to the performance is informed by years dancng with Anna Halprin, who uses performed ritual to address personal and communal trauma.  In doing so, I hope to work with Laura to create a performance that addresses the personal experiences of the disaster using photography and video, while implying the disaster’s universal relevance as an almost-forgotten environmental crime against a future generation.”

For the performance or installation of Aberfan, we need money to create a studio recording and develop a design for the visual element.  Our hope is for presentation across the United States within the next several years.

Make your tax-deductible donation here:  www.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.

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

 

Appreciation

Many thanks to Hillary Hoffman, Jay Lord and George for advising me on this latest grant application for Aberfan.  For their clear minds and guidance as I dug my way from the poetic to the precise.  Here’s a little bit:

‘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”,  (BBC Radio 4) but for our world, besieged by an unbridled industry pillaging the land and capitalizing on its riches for individual gain. 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 and aims to disrupt our complacency.

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, we need money to create a studio recording and develop a design for the visual element.

To participate in helping make this project happen, contribute here:  www.tinyurl.com/FundAberfan

BBC Radio 4 program produced by Maggie Ayre.