He is, not very originally, known as the ‘Bad Boy of the Organ’, which probably helps sell records. His unorthodox approach is hated by many purists, but you can’t argue with his footwork. Here’s a Youtube clip:
Cameron Carpenter was born in Pennsylvania in 1981. A keyboard prodigy, he performed Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier at age 11 before joining the American Boychoir School in 1992 as a boy soprano. His first forays into composition began during this time with early choral and string works, including a 1993 cantata for voices and orchestra on passages from Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book.
During his four years of high school studies at The North Carolina School of the Arts, he studied the organ with Dr. John E. Mitchener; made his first studies in orchestration and orchestral composition; and transcribed for the organ more than 100 major works, including Gustav Mahler’s complete Symphony No. 5 and Robert Schumann’s Novelletten, Op. 21. Carpenter continued composing after moving to New York City in 2000 to attend The Juilliard School. While at the Juilliard he composed art songs; the symphonic poem Child of Baghdad (2003) for orchestra, chorus, and Ondes Martenot; his first substantial works for solo organ; and numerous organ arrangements of piano works by Chopin, Godowsky, Grainger, Ives, Liszt, Medtner, Rachmaninoff, Schumann, and others.
The same year, he began his worldwide organ concert tours and recorded his first commercial CDs and DVDs, generating a level of acclaim, exposure, and controversy unprecedented for an organist. His first album for Telarc, Revolutionary, made him the first organist ever nominated for a Grammy Award for a solo album.
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 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.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.