Tragedy at Aberfan

“Tragedy is not deep and sharp if it can be shared with friends.”  Varlam Shalamov, The Kolyma Tales 

On 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.

How do you personally account for a violation of this kind except through one’s own soul? 

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 2018.)

TRIBUTES PAID TO ABERFAN POLICE OFFICER CHARLES NUNN

Tributes Paid to Aberfan Police Officer Charles Nunn (BBC News, December 31, 2019)

Aberfan

“Mr. Nunn described in detail his experience of the 15 days he spent in Bethania Chapel [above] in an article to mark the 50th anniversary of the disaster in 2016.”

I am deeply saddened.  For all the questions he answered, all the memories he shared, for all he endured and so willingly relayed to me, Charles remains a dear Welsh friend, a living link to Aberfan.

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 reportdigital.co.uk, Bethania Chapel, Aberfan, 1966

(Originally posted January 2020)

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)

“Aberfan”: Rain – Rubble, Altered Interlude, Final Hymn (Altered)

Photo IC Rapoport, Aberfan, 1966

A demo sample of piano parts from Aberfan — survivors resuming the impossibility of survival, forever altered in the aftermath.

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 2016)

M.S. Worthington Foundation Awards Grant to “Aberfan”

inside Mix One Studios, Boston

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.

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.

A Beautifully Written Story and Music from “Aberfan”

South Wales Police Museum

(Originally posted on the 50th anniversary, October 21, 2016.

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. 

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 Alan George

“Aberfan was a man-made disaster. 50 years on, we must remember this”

On this 54th anniversary, I am reposting this powerful story by Huw Edwards:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/aberfan-was-a-man-made-disaster-50-years-on-we-must-remember-thi/

p00ksv3k640360 ICR sent, but not his

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.

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.  

ABERFAN 54TH ANNIVERSARY 10.21.20 “How with this rage…”

How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea… —Shakespeare, Sonnet 65

“Rain Sequence”, pianos, Aberfan — it has started to rain, the composition begins.  In this demo sample, as single pianos enter one after the other, you listen to the gradual dissolution of harmony.

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.

Getty images, Aberfan, October 21, 1966

21ST.OCTOBER 2020: Aberfan 54th Anniversary — Ronnie Davis

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Photo by IC Rapoport, Aberfan, 1966

This is Ronnie Davis, the first boy photographed by IC Rapoport in the aftermath of the tragedy.  He lost his older brother in the landslide.  His house, close to the school, was destroyed. Out walking his dog, he looked about the ruins of his house.

“Altered Rain” is a demo excerpt of piano parts from my new composition Aberfan. Conceived to represent the thousands of people coming down the hillside following the mass funeral on a “windswept, grey” Thursday less than one week after the disaster, this musical section turns “Rain Sequence” — which occurs at the beginning of the composition, before the landslide –upside down.

“Altered Rain” (Aberfan (7 pianos, voice and tools of rescue)

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.