Aberfan (7 pianos, percussion, voice and tools of rescue) is a full length programmatic composition informed by one of the most tragic disasters of our time. Music will be presented both in performance and installation with black & white photographs taken by Life photojournalist IC Rapoport, who went to Aberfan to "photograph the psychic mess".
I am currently seeking funding to support this project.
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.
My mother wrote a folk song in the wake of the tragedy, that I used to hear as a child. I have been compelled for years to work on an adaptation of my own. Using excerpts of melody and lyric from her song, as well as portions of hymns sung the morning of the disaster and at the mass funeral, Aberfan splices 31 sequences of Rain, Sunrise, Rock, Rubble, Interlude, Trauma, Silence and a Field with their Alterations.
Aberfan is a tribute 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 mountain-top coal removal and fracking to extract natural gas. This project confronts and aims to disrupt our complacency.
Aberfan will be participatory. Ian Smith-Heisters 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 moves 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. One can walk inside, behind and around the moving images, inside the performance.
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 will record in the studio using acoustic instruments and develop a design for the visual element. Our hope is for presentation across the United States over the next several years.
A psychological and spiritual rendering as much as a musical one, Aberfan was 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, this is the story of power and destruction wrought over all the world in the willful, negligent and unconscious devastation upon children and the call to transform the inscrutable events.