Songs for Synnova, marimba music inspired by motherhood

A picture of Synnova propped up next to my work station in Paris.

A picture of Synnova propped up next to my work station in Paris.

On Friday December 7th, I will be performing at Studio Z in St Paul MN along side some of my favorite collaborators for what I’ve been referring to as my first “marimba forward” event. I have always played with ensembles and bands, and while this is still with a collection of other instrumentalists, all of the music for that night has been arranged around the marimba as the featured instrument. Most of the works that night will be original compositions of my own. A large part of the program will be the premiere of music that I wrote while I was on my trip to Paris to study with Eric Sammut. You can read a little bit about that experience here.

The main piece I am premiering from that trip is one I’ve title “Songs for Synnova”. Synnova is my daughter, who I left behind with her daddy and grandparents and many supportive friends while I jetted off to Paris for 4 weeks. So much of that trip was defined by how I was coping with being away from my little girl, who was only 18 months old at the time, and I felt those emotions coming up through my compositions whether I wanted them there or not. The piece is in 3 movements that move from one to the next without stopping. I kicked around many of the ideas for a long time; trying to separate them into their own pieces and develop them more fully. No matter how much I tried though, they always flowed together and refused separate. It resulted in a long piece with meandering melodies, ideas, and grooves. I called it “Songs for Synnova” because it truly is a long stretch of new melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic ideas. It feels truly representative of my long trip and my roller coaster of emotions while abroad.

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As I continued to workshop the piece back at home, I’ve found myself finishing it with inspiration from other parts of motherhood; the deep humility, self re-identification, relentless fear, and pure joy that comes with your first step into motherhood. One of my most literal examples of this is near the end of the 1st movement of Songs for Synnova, when I play the little lullaby I started singing to my 3-day-old daughter, a simple tune I continue to rock her to bed with today. Instead of it’s usual lulling tone, I’ve re-harmonized and arranged it to sound lonely and distant. When I play this part of my arrangement, I think of the darker days of my first year motherhood.

All of this music is deeply meaningful to me. I don’t know what my next steps are with it, but right now I am focusing on getting it performed once. Eric Sammut told me to worry less about writing every note down, but perform everything many times in order to truly get to know it. “Then, once you feel you know exactly how you play it, move on to writing it down or recording it.” Even then, he considers his own recordings as “arrangements” or “versions” of the original compositional idea, played according to his mood at the next performance.

I hope you will join me on December 7th at Studio Z. Check out my SHOWS page for the details. Until then,


Jennifer KlukkenComment