Pasatiempo - - FRONT PAGE -

the men­tion of an or­gan recit al sum­mons up an al­most uni­ver­sal im­age. It typ­i­cally takes place in a church, al­though in some cities it might pos­si­bly be slated for an ac­tual con­cert hall. The in­stru­ment it­self is a pipe or­gan de­signed to re­flect the sonic aes­thet­ics and t ech­no­log­i­cal pos­si­bil­i­ties of some point in the or­gan’s evo­lu­tion from the 17th to the 19th cen­turies. The soloist, garbed in for­mal con­cert at­tire or some­thing ap­proach­ing it, is con­cealed in the or­gan loft, in­vis­i­ble to the au­di­ence un­til he bows at the end — or, in rare cases, his im­age might be pro­jected onto a screen up front via closed-cir­cuit TV. At­ten­dees sit qui­etly, lis­ten re­spect­fully, and in­wardly pre­fer the Bach or the Franck to what­ever that mod­ern piece was that the or­gan­ist in­cluded be­cause he felt it was the right thing to do.

Cameron Car­pen­ter will have none of it. Over the past decade, since he grad­u­ated with a mas­ter’s de­gree from The Juil­liard School in 2006, he has be­come the most dis­cussed or­gan­ist of our time be­cause he has dis­carded all of those stereo­types. He just might show up in con­cert dress, but he’s more likely to walk on­stage wear­ing a black leather jacket, a re­veal­ing tank top, or some imag­i­na­tively crafted gar­ment that is sparkly or shiny — not to men­tion his pedal-ready shoes en­crusted with Swarovski crys­tals. His recital reper­toire might in­clude Bach or Franck — he has pro­grammed the com­plete or­gan works of both — but it’s ev­ery bit as likely to in­clude his own ar­rest­ing com­po­si­tions (his Homage to Klaus

Kin­ski, for ex­am­ple), his daz­zling tran­scrip­tions of vir­tu­osic works orig­i­nally for pi­ano (Chopin’s Revo­lu­tion­ary Etude) or for or­ches­tra (Shostakovich’s

Fes­tive Over­ture), or pop songs by, say, Burt Bacharach or Gor­don Light­foot.

And, as of two years ago, he is no longer lim­ited to venues where or­gans al­ready re­side. In March 2014, he per­formed the de­but con­certs on his In­ter­na­tional Tour­ing Or­gan, a cus­tom-de­signed elec­tronic in­stru­ment of elab­o­rate pos­si­bil­i­ties — a con­sole with five man­u­als plus ped­al­work — that he de­vel­oped in con­junc­tion with the Mas­sachusetts firm of Mar­shall & Ogle­tree. Or maybe it’s two or­gans, one of which is based in the United States, the other in Ger­many. “In a sense,” he told Pasatiempo in a re­cent in­ter­view, “it’s one or­gan — one con­sole set and one set of main­frame com­put­ers and one set of ac­cou­trements — and that con­nects to one of two dif­fer­ent sound sys­tems which do not fly in­ter­na­tion­ally. There’s those in Europe and one of tho near Bos­ton. That way we d have to fly the whole massi thing when we travel.”

Elec­tronic or­gans have b around for a long time, to sure. Al­though they beca es­sen­tial to the sound gospel mu­sic or base­ball s di­ums, for ex­am­ple, th ap­pli­ca­tion to the wo of se­ri­ous con­cert mus re­mained prac­ti­cally n the more so when, in t 1970s, t he his­tor­ica or­gan move­ment move wide­spread pref­er­enc for or­gan con­struc­tion ba to what had been the ideal Baroque pe­riod. Car­pen­ter had p plenty on tra­di­tional pipe or­gans. “I al­ready play­ing about 60 con­certs p year on pipe or­gans and with or­che tras,” he said. “I was able to build t In­ter­na­tional Tour­ing Or­gan by dint hav­ing al­ready launched a ca­reer some way. In 2014, I gave someth like 20 per­cent of my con­certs

an, and now in this year’s tour I am ing no pipe or­gans. Oc­ca­sion­ally I ht still play one when forced to trac­tu­ally, per­haps to ful­fill a r obli­ga­tion. I don’t con­sider e or­gan to be my work any re.” To be sure, the sounds ipe or­gans re­main part of port­fo­lio, since the elec­nic sound sam­ples that in­cor­po­rated into the er­na­tional Tour­ing gan come f rom a iety of in­stru­ments, lud­ing cathe­dral e or­gans as well heatre or­gans, the er be­ing t he t ype rgan that orig­i­nally ged Car­pen­ter’s in­ter­est he was a child. usic l overs are some­times wn to re­mark on the dif­fi­cult of the con­cert pi­anist, who has dapt to a new in­stru­ment from ear­ance to ap­pear­ance, un­like iolin­ist or flutist, for ex­am­ple, o un­packs the same fa­mil­iar te or fid­dle for ev­ery con­cert. They rarely con­sider how much greater the chal­lenge must be for an or­gan­ist — prob­a­bly be­cause the realm of the or­gan recital is so ghet­toized that few con­cert­go­ers in­ter­sect with it at all. For Car­pen­ter, adapt­ing con­stantly to or­gans of widely vary­ing char­ac­ters and ca­pa­bil­i­ties be­came a deal-breaker. “If you’re Yuja Wang, a friend of mine, if you’re play­ing in South Korea one day and South­ern Cal­i­for­nia two days later, you’ll be con­fronted with not only the same model of in­stru­ment but with an in­stru­ment built by the same com­pany. The in­stru­ments are es­sen­tially the same. No such se­cu­rity awaits the or­gan­ist. Be­fore I can play any mu­sic on a pipe or­gan I en­counter when on tour, I have to dis­cover its iden­tity, fig­ure out what its strengths are, its weak­nesses, its lim­i­ta­tions, which usu­ally have to do with the most ba­nal, anti-mu­si­cal ideas — the taste of the builder, what the donor did or didn’t man­age to pay for — things that have ab­so­lutely no re­la­tion­ship to the mu­si­cal de­mands of the mo­ment. That takes hours, maybe more than a day. And then I’m at zero; only then the mu­si­cal work be­gins. Had the In­ter­na­tional Tour­ing Or­gan not been built, my play­ing days would be at an end. I built the tour­ing or­gan to save my­self and — I hate to say it — to save the or­gan from it­self.”

While he ac­knowl­edged that a num­ber of con­cert halls have in­stalled new pipe or­gans in the past two or three decades, he does not view that as an in­di­ca­tor of ro­bust health for the in­stru­ment. “Many of them are not that dis­tin­guished as or­gans to be­gin with. Most of them, with the ex­cep­tion of Dis­ney Hall in Los An­ge­les, are ba­si­cally un­used. I re­ally am not to be told that hear­ing the Saint-Saëns [ Or­gan Sym­phony] ev­ery six years, and the Hal­loween con­cert, and the silent movie once in a while, and maybe a con­cert by the or­gan­ist of Notre Dame or some no­table per­son — I don’t ac­cept that as the sta­tus quo for the or­gan. That’s a point of re­tire­ment. That’s the or­gan and the or­gan­ist liv­ing their lives qui­etly in a midrange rest home. It’s not be­cause I hate pipe or­gans or be­lieve that pipe or­gans should be de­stroyed. The pipe-or­gan com­mu­nity some­times tries to por­tray me as the young Boulez on this, ad­vo­cat­ing the de­struc­tion of the opera house. But that’s not my role here.”

By sup­ply­ing his own trans­portable in­stru­ment for his con­certs, Car­pen­ter has ac­cess to a vast num­ber of per­form­ing spa­ces that would not oth­er­wise be able to host an or­gan per­for­mance, venues like the Len­sic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter, where Per­for­mance Santa Fe will present him on Satur­day, Feb. 20. “I’m a sec­u­lar per­son,” he said. “The role of the or­gan in the church is not my depart­ment. But I do care that the or­gan and the or­gan­ist have a role in mod­ern- day life, and I would rather that they have a role out­side the church.” No mat­ter where he is booked, he no longer has to go through the hours-long drill of ac­cli­ma­tiz­ing him­self

to an un­fa­mil­iar in­stru­ment. “The process of ‘tun­ing it’ to the build­ing takes about 25 min­utes,” he said. “The setup re­quires eight stage­hands, plus I have a full-time en­gi­neer and truck driver who take the or­gan with them to the site of the con­cert. Af­ter that short in­stal­la­tion process, I can prac­tice the rest of the day, or go to the gym, do out­reach pro­grams, education … what­ever.” (Au­di­ence mem­bers are en­cour­aged to check out a time-lapse video of the In­ter­na­tional Tour­ing Or­gan be­ing as­sem­bled, at www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFV9bC4BsK0.)

Car­pen­ter stressed that de­vel­op­ing the In­ter­na­tional Tour­ing Or­gan was in no way an end in it­self, but rather a means to­ward achiev­ing goals in his mu­sic-mak­ing and in his ca­reer. It would mat­ter lit­tle if he weren’t such a spec­tac­u­larly ac­com­plished per­former, jaw-drop­ping at a tech­ni­cal level. His ap­proach has left more than a few clas­si­cal-mu­sic tra­di­tion­al­ists wring­ing their hands, but Car­pen­ter is not re­ally tai­lor­ing his ca­reer to their ex­pec­ta­tions. In most cases, he doesn’t even an­nounce in ad­vance the pieces he will be play­ing — a clas­si­cal-mu­sic no-no. “I don’t think it’s ac­tu­ally rel­e­vant,” he in­sisted. “I come from a fam­ily where no­body would prob­a­bly be able to rec­og­nize the dif­fer­ence be­tween the mu­sic of Bern­stein or Bruck­ner, and they have lived to­tally full and rich lives like that. So my sym­pa­thies are im­me­di­ately di­rected to­ward the unini­ti­ated lis­tener. I pre­fer to play for peo­ple who are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing some­thing new. I’m not in­ter­ested in re­ject­ing or not ac­com­mo­dat­ing clas­si­cal-mu­sic afi­ciona­dos, but they tend to come any­way. The kind of lis­tener who will not come to a per­for­mance be­cause I haven’t an­nounced a pro­gram — I don’t think that per­son ex­ists any­more; maybe one or two, but I’m not sure I need them in the au­di­ence. Most pre­sen­ters don’t even ask for a pro­gram any­more. For most au­di­ence mem­bers, for most av­er­age mu­sic-lis­tener ticket buy­ers, the ticket they’re buy­ing is for the artist, and they’re trust­ing the artist — be it Loreena McKen­nitt or Sh­eryl Crow or the Philadel­phia Or­ches­tra or me — they’re trust­ing that per­son to give them a good night. I con­sider all mu­si­cians to be en­ter­tain­ers. I feel that there is no con­flict be­tween the idea of en­ter­tain­ing and great ideas. If you lis­ten to Richard Feynman’s lec­tures on semi­con­duc­tors or Christo­pher Hitchens de­fend­ing the idea of athe­ism, it’s ex­tremely en­ter­tain­ing and at the high­est pos­si­ble in­tel­lec­tual level.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.