Lincoln Center hosts organist Cameron Carpenter, one of classical music's most eye-catching performers, this Sunday, October 28. The musician's repertoire of traditional and re-imagined Bach pieces will come at the height of the Center's third-annual
White Light Festival, a month-long celebration of diverse artists and their unique performance styles. Carpenter's reputation certainly fits that tone--or rather, sets it.
Classical organ music is about more than keeping people awake during Sunday mass; for Carpenter, it's pure invention. His performances push creative license to an almost uncomfortable limit, while at the same time incorporating aspects of costume and "full body movement" (note the dancer's physique) to create a style that garners as much praise as criticism. He's called himself queer and in a New York Times story, said his sexuality is "radically inclusive." But beneath all this classical bad-boyishness lies his real goal--to inject the individual back into classical performance.
"I think, in the 21st century, it's revolutionary not to be ashamed of your ego. Ego is such a dirty word, especially in classical music," he explained in a recent interview.
For all his ego talk, however, he's not one to wear his sexuality on his sleeve--despite the sequins. As he explains, his queerness is "a personality trait" that, like the rest of him, is poured into his performances to create a moment (and, hopefully, more) of real transcendence. The attitude, like the artist, is refreshingly candid, and is perhaps a glimpse of how queer artists will be perceived in the future: as a whole, rather than the sum of their parts.
All told, Carpenter will be a must-see for classical music diehards and amateurs alike. It may not make you homesick for those Sunday masses, but it will surely be a thrilling wake-up call to what being a queer artist means today.
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