This is real
May 31, 2014 by Thomas Wictor
I just learned of Cameron Carpenter. Last night I had a strange nightmare in which I attended a NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) show and tried to buddy up to the bassist Stanley Clarke. He looked just like Jimi Hendrix and refused to acknowledge me. I rubbed my face against his as he made frantic phone calls about photography, and he referrred to himself as “Gidget.” It was horrifying, but it was just a dream. This is real.
I’m genuinely stunned. What was once done for laughs is now deadly serious.
Do you detect even a fraction of a tidbit of a nanoparticle of humor here?
There’s no right or wrong when it comes to taste. I keep reading that Cameron Carpenter is a virtuoso; I can’t tell. When someone plays The Stars and Stripes Forever on a pipe organ, I’m not the intended audience. He’s been called the Liberace of the pipe organ. Well, that comparison is dead on arrival. All you have to do is watch Liberace in action.
I’m no more Liberace’s audience than I am Cameron Carpenter’s, but I can see the former’s virtuosity and total lack of self-importance. As for Carpenter I’m gobsmacked. I don’t understand anything about him, his act, or his fans.
Back to my nightmare about Stanley Clarke.
It was the usual failure-illegitimacy dream, in that I was making a fool of myself, humiliating myself, and debasing myself. Mom was standing there, watching.
“Yeah, this is Gidget,” Clarke would say to the person he’d called on the phone.
“Gidget,” I’d coo as I rubbed my face against his.
Clarke ignored me. He’d hold up a camera lens and examine it, saying, “Look, man, this piece of crap you sent me just isn’t gonna cut it.”
“Just isn’t gonna cut it,” I’d whisper.
“How can I take pictures when the lenses are junk?” Clarke would ask. “You’re letting me down. People expect a certain standard from me, so when you give me garbage that doesn’t work, it impacts my reputation, man.”
“Impacts my reputation, man,” I’d mumble.
This went on and on and on. I was my present age, I knew that I hadn’t worked in the music industry for twelve years, and I knew that Mom was dead, but I couldn’t stop whatever the hell I was doing. Nobody paid attention to me.
Finally Mom came over and led me away by the hand. She was about thirty or so, I could tell, but I couldn’t see her face. Just now, as I looked through Dad’s old photos, I found a double exposure from 1959 that exactly replicates how Mom looked in my nightmare.
Coincidence or kismet? Is there a difference?
In the nightmare Mom took me to a restroom and said, “Tommy, you have to pee blueberries now.”
“Yes Ma’am,” I said, even though it was the craziest thing I’d ever heard. I went inside the restroom and stood at a urinal, afraid that blueberries would start ripping their way out of me. They’d be as painful kidney stones. How would they get through my narrow tube? Would they pile up inside my bladder, unable to fit into the little hole at the bottom?
The entire restroom—floor, walls, ceiling, and fixtures—was the color of blueberries.
I knew I was dreaming, but I couldn’t gain control over my actions. All the men in the restroom were homeless bums, and I realized that everyone—including Mom—thought I was a homeless bum too, which was why they expected me to pee blueberries.
“GIDGET!” I shouted at them and woke up.
You can laugh at everything I just wrote. I don’t take myself seriously; in fact I don’t take myself in any way whatsoever.
I met Stanley Clarke once. It’s safe to say he takes himself very seriously. But he’s got the chops to somewhat offset his…majesty, let’s call it.
The most virtuosic and humble bass guitarist in the world is Stephen Jay, solo artist and bassist for the “Weird Al” Yankovic band. He’s one of a handful of phenomenally skilled musicians whose technique never distracts from the song. For Stephen the song is everything. His playing is only a vehicle. If it came down to a playoff, he’d mop the earth with the most famous bass guitarists, but Stephen would refuse such a challenge.
There are far too many great Stephen Jay songs from which to choose. Here’s one I really like.
Is it possible to be a virtuoso on a pipe organ? Like I said, I don’t know. But it’s possible to be mortifying.
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