The commissioner has exclusive performance rights until 3/1/23 and exclusive recording rights until 11/1/23.
Carrie Koffman, saxophone
About half of the world’s population goes through menopause, and yet it is a topic that is frequently avoided in much of society. When saxophonist Carrie Koffman approached me about writing a piece in which the listener experiences the physical attributes of menopause, I was surprised and intrigued – what might I be able to craft through music that would represent the mammoth change that affects women’s bodies? As I began to read books and articles about the history of menopause, I was struck by previous stances doctors took, particularly a gynecologist who, in 1966, published a book that shockingly posited that menopause was “an estrogen-deficiency disease” that could be “cured” with hormone replacement therapy. (Seriously?) It would be many more years before menopause would be openly acknowledged for what it is: a normal process of a woman’s fertility organs slowly shutting down as she heads into the next stage of life.
While the symptoms of menopause manifest uniquely within each woman, there are several traits experienced by much of the population. In Hot Flash, I portray one of the most common traits. A hot flash is characterized by a sudden flush of heat (like a fever) that encompasses one’s face, neck, and chest, and lasts for anywhere between thirty seconds and five minutes. This flush can be combined with a rapid heartbeat, chills, dizziness, nausea, and/or breaking into a sweat. Some women have multiple hot flashes a day, and experience these daily over the typical 5-7 years that menopause lasts (some have symptoms for less years than this, some have more). The more research I did, the more I realized how women grow adept at making small adjustments to their daily lives to quietly handle ongoing hot flashes, such as stashing a hand-held fan in their purse that can be quickly whisked out, switching to clothes made out of fabrics that keep the skin cool, wearing button-down cardigan sweaters that can be shed quickly, and keeping a trayful of ice in the freezer to drop into drinks throughout the day.
The piece opens with an intense hot flash. We hear a 2-note “heartbeat” motive that gets progressively faster, mixed in with a cacophony of motives that depicts a woman’s body abruptly feeling as if on fire. The middle section is slower and features a fluctuating motive that keeps sliding up and down on the saxophone; this represents the brain fog that some women experience, which can include difficulty concentrating, dizzy spells, mood changes, and sleeplessness. The piece concludes with another intense hot flash, during which we hear the “heartbeat” motive change from its hyper speed to a cool, calm pace as the woman recovers from the hot flash and seamlessly goes on with daily life.