A Performance Art Project by Carrie Koffman
Sunrise on Kilimanjaro Summit
PC: Patrick Ndiege, taken with my iPhone
I am climbing mountains.
With a saxophone.
I began with Kilimanjaro.
PC: Erick Kivelege
About the Project
I am Carrie Koffman.
Professor of Saxophone, The Hartt School of Music, Dance and Theatre, University of Hartford, Learner, Teacher, Saxophonist, Musician, Yogi, Thinker, Observer, Listener, Connector, Adventurer, Explorer, Mom, Friend, Daughter, Sister, Aunt, Adoptee, Curious Person
I am exploring what it means to carry weight.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the phrase to carry weight as follows:
carry weight, idiom: to be important or meaningful especially in influencing others
He was considered a man of solid judgment, and his opinion upon all matters, private and public, carried weight.
Her opinion carries a lot of weight with us, and we often seek out her advice before making any important decision.
Your promises would carry more weight [=be more meaningful] if you didn't break them so often.
I have embarked on a performance art project I have titled, Carries Weight.
Performance art is defined as, “Artworks that are created through actions performed by the artist or other participants, which may be live or recorded, spontaneous or scripted.”
This is a philosophical and contemplative project designed to investigate the questions: What does it mean to carry weight? Who gets to carry weight? Why? When? How? Is it a privilege to carry weight? What are the advantages of being one that carries weight? What are the burdens?
I am highpointing with a soprano saxophone, and am performing on each summit.
Highpointing is the activity of ascending to the point with the highest elevation within a given area. Examples include climbing the highest point of each U.S. state, reaching the highest point of each county within a specific state, climbing the highest point within a country, and ascending the highest mountain on a continent.
My soprano saxophone, in a lightweight gig bag with the straps removed, weighs exactly 5 pounds. I already carried it for 566 kilometers across northern Spain in a separate but related project. (You can read about it here: https://carriekoffman.com/wandering-troubadour-project) Any backpacker knows that this is not an insignificant amount of weight when you must carry everything that you need to survive, but it is also not a prohibitive burden.
I am carrying the extra weight of my soprano saxophone not for punitive reasons, but as a physical manifestation of the questions I am asking.
The goal is more than the actual performances on the summits,
although I am documenting them with informal recordings at each location. It is about the creation of the project and the process of living it into fruition.
I am tracking the project on this website, listing and mapping the peaks ascended. I am also collecting, compiling, and archiving stories from others that have “carried weight” in their lives and looking at what that has meant to them. The project is designed to be an inspiration to others, as well as an ongoing opportunity to create contemplative experiences around the ideas of power, influence, and respect.
My first name is contained in the title of the project, allowing for the obvious double meaning. However, the exclusion of the possession apostrophe is intentional to assure that the original inquiry remains at the center, not me.
I began by climbing to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro,
the highest point on the African continent. I continued with less extreme summits in Europe, and am proceeding with several states in New England and the Midwestern United States. I will then work my way outward, both within the U.S. and internationally. I don’t have a predetermined number of peaks that will be involved. It will be a project that unfolds as it goes, likely encompassing several years, but with a significant number accomplished within the first year.
I am commissioning a series of short solo compositions for the occasion.
They will function as musical "postcards" sent from the top of each highpoint. Some works will be repeated on multiple peaks. These works will also be recorded in a studio, and will be performed both live and online in video format including images of the peaks.
I am working with ceramic artist Lyn Harper,
who has created a tangible expression of this inquiry, because "Life is a balance between hanging on and letting go." - Rumi
I am collecting stories.
When you think of this project, what comes to mind for you? Are you willing to share with me an example of a time in your life when you have “carried weight”? Was it a privilege to be important, meaningful and have influence? Was it a burden? Was it both? Were you aware of the power you possessed and the effects it had? Was it difficult to gauge? How did it feel? Did you grow by carrying more weight? Did you grow by lightening your load? What balance worked for you and why?
In the end, this is really an examination of how we interact and affect one another.
Please contact me to share your contemplative experience - and/or join me for a highpointing excursion!