women composers

Aberfan: 55th Anniversary 10.21.21

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.

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 and ensure completion of its studio recording.

The Cricket Foundation Awards “Aberfan” composition

Aberfan (7 pianos, voice and tools of rescue) has been awarded $5,000 from The Cricket Foundation of Seattle, Washington to support its recording at Mix One Studios in Boston.

Aberfan Memorial Garden, Wales

On October 21st, 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. 

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. 

Anonymous Grant Goes to “Aberfan (7 pianos, voice and tools of rescue)”

“My unpublished works cried out that they wanted to live.”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.  

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.

Anonymous Grant Goes to “Aberfan (7 pianos, voice and tools of rescue)”

Aberfan Disaster / “…the greed of man”

144 people — including 116 children — were killed when 150,000 tons of coal waste catastrophically collapsed on a school and houses in the small mining village of Aberfan, Wales on October 21, 1966.

A Tribunal investigating the 1966 events found that the National Coal Board was entirely responsible for failing to act to prevent the disaster, though they were never prosecuted.

Sophie-Ann Williams of North Wales provided the photo below of her Grandfather, the late Reverend Colin Peter Bessant. He was helping to dig out after the Aberfan Disaster.  Paula Bessant Williams, Sophie’s mother, said, “My Dad never spoke about it without getting really upset. Just said it was the greed of man…”

“…and yet…the innocent are those who get punished most zealously of all. And what would one then have to say about our so evident torturers: Why does not fate punish them? Why do they prosper?

And the only solution to this would be that the meaning of earthly existence lies not, as we have grown used to thinking, in prospering, but …in the development of the soul. From that point of view our torturers have been punished most horribly of all: they are turning into swine, they are departing downward from humanity…”

“The Ascent” from The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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.

Aberfan Disaster & Engels & One Composition

(Original illustration by Mr. Fish)

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. A Tribunal investigating the 1966 events found that the National Coal Board was entirely responsible for failing to act to prevent the disaster, though they were never prosecuted.

“When one individual inflicts bodily injury upon another such that death results, we call the deed manslaughter; when the assailant knew in advance that the injury would be fatal, we call his deed murder. But when society places hundreds of proletarians in such a position that they inevitably meet a too early and an unnatural death, one which is quite as much a death by violence as that by the sword or bullet; when it deprives thousands of the necessaries of life, places them under conditions in which they cannot live — forces them, through the strong arm of the law, to remain in such conditions until that death ensues which is the inevitable consequence — knows that these thousands of victims must perish, and yet permits these conditions to remain, its deed is murder just as surely as the deed of the single individual; disguised, malicious murder, murder against which none can defend himself, which does not seem what it is, because no man sees the murderer, because the death of the victim seems a natural one, since the offence is more one of omission than of commission. But murder it remains. 

— Friedrich Engels, “The Condition of the Working-Class in England”, 1845

(quote excerpted from “The Age of Social Murder” by Chris Hedges, posted today on Scheerpost)

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.

Fred Hampton & Vaclav Havel

“I am…I am a revolutionary.”

(Fred Hampton, chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, assassinated by the FBI & Chicago Police December 4, 1969)

“If we start with the presupposition that art constitutes a distinctive way of seeking truth — truth in the broadest sense of the word, that is, chiefly the truth of the artist’s inner experience — then there is only one art, whose sole criterion is the power, the authenticity, the revelatory insight, the courage and suggestiveness with which it seeks its truth, or perhaps the urgency and profundity of this truth. Thus, from the standpoint of the work and its worth it is irrelevant to which political ideas the artist as a citizen claims allegiance, which ideas he would like to serve with his work or whether he holds any such ideas at all. And just as the attractiveness or repulsiveness of political ideas guarantees nothing about a work of art and likewise does not disqualify it in advance, so, too, whether or not an artist is interested in politics neither authorizes nor disqualifies him at the start. If so much of the art shown in official exhibits is indeed below average, and better art can be found only on the periphery of public art (in marginal or seem-official exhibition halls) or entirely beyond public view (in studios), then this is so not because the creators of the former involve themselves in politics while those of the latter do not, but simply because the prospect of public recognition and lucrative commissions in our country, today more than at other times and in other places, is incompatible with that stubborn, uncompromising effort to reach out for some personal truth without which, it seems, there can be no real art. The more an artist compromises to oblige power and gain advantages, the less good art can we expect from him; the more freely and independently, by contrast, he does his own thing — whether with the expression of a ‘rebellious bohemian’ or without it — the better his chances of creating something good — though it remains only a chance: what is uncompromising need not automatically be good.”

“Six Asides About Culture” an essay from Vaclav Havel or Living in Truth Hradecek (Prague) 11 August 1984

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.

“The modern world, as Kafka predicted…”

“….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.  

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.

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

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.

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 courtesy of AGU Blogosphere, Aberfan 1966

(Originally posted April 2016)

Art is Radical: “Aberfan”

Memorial Garden, Aberfan

If truly creative, art is radical.

Art upends institutions and challenges us to examine the very fabric of our being, our society.  We are loosened to re-member ourselves and our reason for living.

What greater purpose beyond the tactics of greed, what measurement of a timeless nature, what pattern of the gods.

“Rain/Rubble”, demo excerpt of pianos from Aberfan.  Life forever altered.  Rain and rubble forever bound.

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.

(Originally posted February 2017.)

Thoughts on Composing “Aberfan”

Art that is simply willed is not art.” (Thomas Merton)

Several concepts were embedded in the process of composing Aberfan.  These became emotional and compositional imperatives, apparent only as I went along: chaos, the spiraling of events, silence after trauma, the absolute necessity that what wrenches, what pulls at the heart and hurts, be contained in the tension between how things were and how things could have been.

MUSIC SAMPLES  of work in progress

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.

(Originally posted June 2015)