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. A psychological and spiritual rendering as much as a musical one, Aberfan is an excavation into my own soul.
Elegy for the death of a generation of children in Aberfan, Wales. At the crossroads of contemporary world music, experimental media and the reverberating power of trauma.
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 116 children and 28 adults.
My composition Aberfancontains fragments of a folk song my Mom wrote at the time, and 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 with black & white photographs — taken by Life photojournalist IC Rapoport, who went to Aberfan to “photograph the psychic mess” and and BBC Wales archive footage from the rescue effort. MUSIC SAMPLES of work in progress
Aberfan (First Hymn – Rock Sequence) a demo sample of voice and pianos:
“Their 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.
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.
I am seeking support to fund the recording and presentation of this project.
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.
Mom wrote “In a Town Called Aberfan” when she heard and read about the landslide in the news. My father wrote down Mom’s lyrics on a sheet of his graph paper in November 1966. The small letters above the last chorus and verse are the chords. “Copy by EWS”
I share this because I want you to know, beyond anniversaries, beyond boundaries of country, there is a memorial here, too, in my composition, Aberfan, underway and surfacing over years.
In the midst of its deepest revision I realized this question, how do you have words for such tragedy? Should I use any lyrics at all? If I did (for there are memories, and attempts to tell the story), the words themselves must be like the event, scattered, broken phrases, yet of a whole.
Here are the words that I chose to use in my own piece, cut out from Mom’s lyric. The only word I changed is “town” to “village”.
In the small Welsh village of Aberfan
for days the rain did fall down on the heart–
Little children of Aberfan in their school that day
the big, coal mountain–
They worked with their picks all through the day
dug with their shovels and hands
kept on digging kept on digging kept on digging–
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.