Cameron Carpenter plays the organ in a way you'll rarely hear in church. He travels with his instrument on a huge truck, and it takes a small team to set it up in concert halls around the world. A virtuoso composer and performer who plays everything from Bach to pop, not to mention the first organist ever to be Grammy-nominated for a solo album, Carpenter says his connection to the instrument goes back even further than his interest in music.
"I found the instrument visually compelling. I was home-schooled growing up in Pennsylvania; I was never in church. I rather treasure that aspect of my view on the organ because I've been able to see it for the secular and theatrical instrument that it is," he says.
"The irascibility of the organ is such that, in order to be able to do anything at all with it, you have to have an incredible — I would say it's somehow beyond dedication. It amounts to a kind of obsession, at least for me, with this machine that attracts me as much as an object of pure mathematics as a musical instrument. It is one of the few things that is both."
Carpenter took a moment away from his current tour to speak with Scott Simon at NPR's studios in Washington, D.C. Hear more of their conversation at the audio link.