June 12th, 2012
10:25 AM ET

Bringing the organ into the 21st century

Editor's note: Cameron Carpenter is the subject of CNN's "The Next List" on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET.

By The Next List Staff, CNN

(CNN) - Cameron Carpenter is a fiercely talented musician whose passion is to play the organ in an unprecedented way. Decked out in Swarovski crystals and leather, he doesn’t look like what you’d expect an organist to look like.

And he surely doesn’t sound like one.

“The organ is in a kind of crisis,” he says. “I think it needs radically outsider approaches to reestablish its connection with the world at large. And that’s what I’m doing.”

Carpenter has a love-hate relationship with the instrument he’s dedicated himself to playing. He thinks the traditional pipe organ we see attached to churches and concert halls is outdated.  But he sees the digital organ, which is often seen as the ugly stepchild of organs by many musicians, as the future of the instrument.

He’s embracing that technology by designing his own digital touring organ.

“The instrument that I want is an organ that will answer my every need and which will give me something for every musical genre and will hybridize all the organs that I love,” he says.

Most organists don’t ever have the opportunity to build a relationship with their own instrument. Often they travel from place to place and play in churches and concert halls around the world, none of which are standardized.

Cameron’s touring organ will allow him to play one organ no matter where he is in the world, decked out with all the bells and whistles and with his own brand of theatrical flair.

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