If you haven't heard about Cameron Carpenter yet, don't worry -- you will. The Juilliard graduate and Grammy nominee was recently called the "bad boy of the organ" by "CBS News Sunday Morning" -- a description that's pretty spot on. What else do you call a man who, clad in glittering shirts and shoes he embellishes with Swarovski crystals in his own home, turns organ music into something truly unexpected?
Holidash had a chance to visit with Carpenter this week; we asked him about his music and his holiday plans.
Holidash: What is it about updating the classics that excites you?
Cameron Carpenter: To be honest, I wouldn't consider what I'm doing to be "updating." The thing that is so great about playing this music is that, while it's living in my hands, it's really alive -- it's now -- and music that was revolutionary 100 or 200 years ago can still strike you with the same force if you know how to live within it unabashedly, and if you're not concerned with the academic side of it. I'm not, of course! And there's nothing worse than a performer (or whomever) seeming to tell his audience, "This music was revolutionary 250 years ago"... the implication being that it's not now. Music is music, and if it seizes me, it can seize my listeners. I've proven it.
HD: Do you have a favorite piece of music to play?
CC: I'm pretty obsessive about everything that I play -- sort of the flip side to your question is that I never, absolutely never, perform music that I don't love, or that I only "like." I have to be really consumed by everything. But I love Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, and any music by Joe Hisaishi -- the wonderful composer of film scores for Hayao Miyazaki's brilliant films like "Spirited Away" and "Howl's Moving Castle."
HD: What's your favorite Christmas or holiday song?
CC: That would have to be the original orchestral version of "Sleighride," by Leroy Anderson. The first organ arrangements I did as a child were of many of Anderson's short pieces like this one -- many of them were written for television and so they're very succinct, tightly planned, and their inner workings are therefore very clear. This is probably his best piece and it's rather difficult to play well, actually.
HD: With all your touring, you're awfully busy. What are your holiday plans?
CC: I tend to spend Christmas in Islamic countries, like Indonesia -- if you want to talk about "getting away from it all," when it comes to Christmas, that's the place to be.
HD: You're so non-traditional in your work -- do you have any holiday traditions you just can't skip?
CC: Brace yourself, but I make a tradition out of holiday-skipping -- so I try never to miss that one!