“Water is a beautiful metaphor of life” – Martin Fondse

26 May 2023
Martin Fondse

Composer and jazz pianist Martin Fondse wrote a composition titled ‘Forces of Water’, inspired by his hometown in the province Zeeland, in The Netherlands. This piece reflects on the devastating flooding in Zeeland seventy years ago, capturing both the threatening power of water and the resilience and hope that emerge from rebuilding after such a disaster.

“The flooding of 1953 holds a great significance in the history of Zeeland families,” Fondse shares. Having grown up on Tholen, an island in the eastern part of the Dutch province, he remembers the images that were on the walls, images that show villages submerged in water and drowning cows.

Forces of Water

Fondse believes it is important to remember this historical event seventy years later. In his composition he incorporates musical elements that gradually intensify, expressing the threat of water. The bass and drums provide an impelling undertone, while harmonious passages symbolize hope for the future. Fondse explains that this hope arises from the reconstruction efforts in Zeeland, including the building of the delta and the dikes, as well as the belief in science and technology.

Weather Report

Seven musicians with mostly Zeeland backgrounds bring the composition to life, including a saxophone quartet, drums, bass, and keyboards. Fondse, with roots in the jazz tradition, finds joy in using this standard jazz lineup for this occasion. He recalls how Weather Report, a renowned band, played a significant role in his introduction to jazz. He fondly thinks back about composing his first saxophone quartet 30 years ago at the beginning of his career.

“It’s beautiful how it all comes together like this. In a program about the weather, you need a weather report. And in some way, the sounds of the synthesizer from Weather Report blend with the saxophones, as if they are an extension”.

Martin Fondse

Fondse does not set every note in stone, since improvisation is a vital element of jazz. Moreover, he composes to suit each musician, exploring their individual strengths, as he believes this enriches the music. This approach represents the philosophy embraced by the members of Weather Report.

Water as a source of influence

When Fondse thinks about ‘Forces of Water’ he envisions energy. “There is a unique form of energy that emerges during disasters: solidarity, a human reaction to survive. The question is, how do we harness and organize all these energies to build, instead of destroy? There is a lot of energy compressed in this ensemble. Those saxophones players and their breaths, it is all about life, about constructing musical phrases within a single breath.”

Fondse revisits Zeeland multiple times, to get inspiration from the water. “I used to hate the scent of the sea, but now it’s nostalgic and beautiful to me.” As a boy, he longed to escape his home ground. “If you wanted to be a jazz musician, there was nothing for you to do on that island. I wanted to go to the city, experience life. After spending some time there, I could look back on my roots in a more friendly manner.”

Having grown up near water, Fondse has a special relationship with it. “Water is a beautiful metaphor for many aspects of life. It flows, you can go along with it, but sometimes you must be cautious and protect yourself against it. It is always in motion, just like life, even though there are times when it may seem stagnant.”


At inJazz 2023, Martin Fondse will launch his podcast ‘Musicofobia’ where he will discuss the fear of listening to music that is often dismissed as abstract and difficult. “There are numerous fascinating niches, ranging from punk to death metal and contemporary choir music. I aim to demonstrate to people that there is nothing to fear.”

Text by Stella Vrijmoed