women’s music

ArtSake: How Have Mentors Affected Your Art?

Posted recently 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 Siersemacomposer
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 evidence of trauma transformed. What access to rage and powerlessness, survival and hope, 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 situation had existed within myself from the very beginning: a spontaneous child disavowed.

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.

photo from the process of creating the “Altered Interlude” in Laura Siersema’s ABERFAN.

 

How Have Mentors Affected Your Art?

ArtSake is a place to dig into the creative, innovative work of Massachusetts artists. It’s hosted by Massachusetts Cultural Council, the state’s agency supporting arts, humanities, and sciences.

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?

I am honored to have been asked to answer this question.

Photo from the process of creating “Altered Interlude” in Laura Siersema’s ABERFAN.  

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 extent allowed by law.

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.

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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.

Fridge Feed: “Along the Fenway”

Screenshot 2017-03-29 at 1.18.04 PMDedicated to promoting women in music, Sydney-based Fridge Feed has posted a review of one of my songs:  http://www.fridgefeed.com/emerging-artists/2017/3/18/laura-siersema 

“Laura Siersema’s neo-classical piece ‘Along the Fenway’ is storytelling bliss…”

Thank you very much for noting one of my own.

“Along the Fenway” was recorded on my third album, Talon of the Blackwater and features cellist Eugene Friesen.

A Beautifully Written Story and Music from “Aberfan”

The 50th anniversary, October 21, 2016.South Wales Police Museum

Aberfan: The mistake that cost a village its children

By Ceri Jackson, BBC News

Here are a few short samples from our first studio sessions for Aberfan.

First, “Rain Sequence”, the layering of pianos at the beginning of the piece.  

Second, “First Hymn”, a demo excerpt of “All Things Bright and Beautiful”.  The children were to sing it on the day of the disaster before they went home. 

“Rock Sequence”, the catastrophic collapse.  

Last, an excerpt of “Altered Rain”, the impossibility and hope of life forever altered as people descend back into the village following the mass funeral. 

In deepest honor.

Aberfan (7 pianos, percussion, voice and tools of rescue)  is a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA). Contributions are tax deductible.

Photo courtesy of Alan George

Music from “Aberfan”

October 21, 2016 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan Disaster.

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As promised, here is another sample of the piano music from our first recording session in Boston a few weeks ago.

“Altered Interlude” is representative of the children’s walk to school on the morning of the disaster.  There are 144 beats in each interlude, one for each person who died, ordered in shifting rhythms:  

Aberfan (7 pianos, percussion, 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 are tax deductible.

Photo courtesy of Alan George

Aberfan (7 pianos, voice and tools of rescue)

ABERFAN WALES 1966

Elegy for the death of a generation of children in Aberfan, Wales in 1966.  At the crossroads of contemporary world music, experimental media and the reverberating power of trauma.

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.

My composition Aberfan incorporates elements from a folk song my Mom wrote following the 1966 disaster that I heard growing up, 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 is an expression of the collective unconscious of our time.  By addressing the visceral, personal experiences of the disaster, Aberfan investigates how art, together with technology, can be used for experiential transformation, while insisting its universal relevance as an almost-forgotten 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.  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 hope to transform what cannot be fathomed through my music.

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

PHOTOGRAPHS

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 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.

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

 

Women in Music

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Many thanks to Eve Meyer, Editor in chief, Journal of the IAWM, for encouraging me to write an article for the journal about my work and career, all the way up through my latest endeavor, Aberfan.

See “Turn Us into Ashes”, page 25.  IAWM Journal Spring 2016 Final (1)

Aberfan is a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts.  Please make a donation towards its recording here.

 

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

p00ksv3k640360 ICR sent, but not hisOver 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)

Aberfan is a sponsored project of New York Foundation for the Arts.  Make a tax deductible donation  here to support the recording of this full length composition.

Photo from Getty Images by Jim Gray