My melancholic lullaby project is still ongoing. It started in 2013 when I was gifted a ukulele for my birthday. I had been composing songs on the piano before, but this new instrument opened up my creativity in a totally different way. Unlike the piano, I did not know how to play the ukulele, which allowed me to approach my music composition more playfully and less inhibited.

Additionally, the position of the small ukulele closely to my body made me create a tender-like relationship to the instrument holding it like a baby, close to my heart and chest and I slowly started to regard my songs as lullabies. The lullaby format also helped me conceptualize my songs as tender musings aimed at a multiplicity of love objects.

I regarded the songs as vessels in which I could poor out my intense affects. Following Spinoza, these affects unlike emotions are hard to put into words. The ukulele helps with this, as does my use of non-discursive scat, borrowed from my jazz vocal training.

When in 2015 I began reading about all the psychoanalytic researchers [1] who describe deep connections or tender intersubjectivity with musical and rhythmical jargon like “affect attunement,” “rhythmicity,” and “communicative musicality,” while always referring to the mother-infant relationship as the paradigm of deep connections, my intuition became theoretically verified: Lullabies are the vehicle par excellence for intersubjective tenderness.

Unlike most lullabies for infants, my lullabies are composed and written for adults. They explore complex and not always very pleasant emotions. This is why the lullabies carry the signifier melancholic. They are rarely wholesome. This is consistent with my theoretical exploration of tenderness as much more than a wholesome ‘cute’ emotion. Deep tender connections are often painfully intense. One of the reasons, I suggest, is that it requires an undoing of our sovereign bounded phallic subjectivity. Instead we have to literally become tender, volatile, porous and intense. I follow feminist and queer authors [2] who emphasize that this is far from easy and comfortable, and philosophers [3] who argue that it is exactly through a becoming-child, that we are able to reach this intense intersubjectivity.

Vocally, I am inspired by the idiosyncratic female voices of Björk, Meredith Monk, Joanna Newsom, Jenny Hval and Betty Carter. Like them, I aim to create haunting soundscapes with my voice exploring simultaneously the soft and the abject. In doing so, I try to again undo tenderness of it’s wholesome connotations, and instead represent how it vacillates from intimacy to despair. As a singer, I aim to become-tender and become-intense through the performance of my songs. And I hope to induce the same reaction in my listeners.

This melancholic lullaby project is part of my tender activism. It’s aspiration is to undo the infantile and feminine connotations around lullabies and tenderness. I am skeptic of this infantilization and gendering and read it as phallic ideologies in favor of the hegemonic understanding of adult subjects as non-tender and invulnerable. Here in the tender context, sonically co-created between me and the audience, it is allowed and safe to temporarily fall apart and become intense.

[1] Stern, Sandler, Malloch and Threvarthen

[2] Irigaray, Bersani and Berlant

[3] Deleuze and Guattari