A “shattering” musical experience, courtesy of Elew (Eric Lewis)

The Teeming Brain has been dormant for the past week-plus because of a change in my living circumstances — specifically, a move to a new town — that currently has me involved in a three-and-a-half hour daily commute to and from my regular job. I’m also searching for a new permanent house. I’m also searching for new employment. I’m also taking a grad class in American lit to gain some extra employment viability (my first grad work since earning my religion M.A. a decade ago) and am devoting many hours each day to reading and writing about Beat and hippie literature, the topic that, quite happily, turned out to be the course’s focus. I’m also in the final stages of (hopefully) securing and fairly lucrative online writing gig , and the process is demanding tremendous amounts of time and focus. So the Brain, while still Teeming, has been preoccupied with many other matters besides this blog.

At the moment, to fill the silence, and for your viewing and listening pleasure, here’s a transcendent musical moment for the day, or rather two of them, the second more purely so than the first:

In case you’re not famliar with Elew (Eric Lewis), this is from his official bio:

A modern day pop artist and musical revolutionary, piano iconoclast ELEW is making a substantial impression on the music world with a thunderous new style of playing: an inspired melding of ragtime, rock and pop that he calls Rockjazz.

ELEW has toured the world, recorded, and performed continuously with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Elvin Jones, Roy Hargrove, and Cassandra Wilson, among others. He won the 1999 Thelonious Monk International Piano Competition, his mesmerizing piano theatrics even then hinting at the new musical paradigm he would one day create.

. . . As he continues to gain notoriety with his blistering renditions of infectious rock and pop anthems by Coldplay, The Killers, Nirvana, and more, he has broken free of the rigidly defined boundaries of the traditional jazz world and ultimately given birth to something wholly original. His relentless innovation and disregard for the musical status quo has attracted the rapt attention and following of today’s biggest stars and companies, including Josh Groban, Dave Matthews, Naomi Campbell, Pete Yorn, Google, Fendi, Dolce and Gabbana, Mercedes Benz, and even the White House.

Here he is giving the performance by which most of America — me included — first became aware of him, on (of all things) last year’s season of America’s Got Talent:

 

And here he is three year earlier at a 2009 TED conference “set[ting] fire to the keys with his shattering rendition of Evanescence’s chart-topper, ‘Going Under.'” It’s one of the most amazing and overwhelming musical performances I’ve ever witnessed. If you plan to watch it, you should set aside 10 minutes when your full attention is available.

As the TED performance makes clear, the fact that Elew actually auditioned for America’s Got Talent in 2012 (and then dropped out of the competition to tour with Josh Groban) ranks up there with those rare moments like the one André Gregory recounted in My Dinner with André: “Life becomes habitual! And it is, today! I mean, very few things happen now like that moment when Marlon Brando sent the Indian woman to accept the Oscar and everything went haywire. Things just very rarely go haywire now. And if you’re just operating by habit, then you’re not really living.” Elew’s appearance on AGT seems like a moment when things went haywire, when the all-encompassing “skin” of modern pop mass media culture got briefly punctured.

About Matt Cardin

Teeming Brain founder and editor Matt Cardin is the author of DARK AWAKENINGS, DIVINATIONS OF THE DEEP, A COURSE IN DEMONIC CREATIVITY: A WRITER'S GUIDE TO THE INNER GENIUS, and the forthcoming TO ROUSE LEVIATHAN. He is also the editor of BORN TO FEAR: INTERVIEWS WITH THOMAS LIGOTTI and the academic encyclopedias MUMMIES AROUND THE WORLD and GHOSTS, SPIRITS, AND PSYCHICS: THE PARANORMAL FROM ALCHEMY TO ZOMBIES.

Posted on June 20, 2013, in Arts & Entertainment and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Reminds me of when someone told me, in all seriousness, that Liberace was the great pianist in history. Liberace had better technique, though I don’t know if he could play jazz.

    When my 6 year old does the same thing in video 2, I tell him to quit screwing around.

    • Yeah, his approach has proved divisive among listeners, and you’re not alone in thinking it’s basically bullcrap. (Elew’s approach, I mean, not Liberace’s.) I found the extensive comments queue below the video at the TED site to be fascinating with its multiple reactions spanning all corners of the spectrum from “He’s a genius!” to “This is the most ridiculous/annoying/pathetic thing that has ever received such an unfortunate heaping of undeserved praise.” From my own comments here — which, in point of fact, are far from unconsidered or uninformed — you can see that I fall more into the former camp.

      • I’m not at the extreme that its complete bullcrap, and I think there’s room for reasonable and intelligent people to differ on aesthetics. He’s entertaining, and I don’t mean that as a put-down. Liberace was far from the greatest pianist in history, but he had talent and flair and brought new things to a middle-brow audience they would likely not have encountered otherwise. That’s really where I see this guy – a popularizer, not an innovator.

        So I do find the claim that he’s created something “wholly original” hard to stomach (I know those aren’t your words – they’re from his official bio which you quoted, which I assume he wrote. If he’s a genius, it’s in marketing himself). I can’t see anything there that hasn’t been explored (and in my opinion, explored more deeply) in 20th c. classical music. I’d far rather hear Lucille Chung play Ligeti.

  2. Everything article I read online today looked like it had been written by a monkey. So I cruise over here to check out some Deep Thought and Dark Musings and what do I discover? You’re busy with your LIFE? What about me? What about MY needs?

    Nice clips from Elew. Hope the new projects are working out for you!

    • Many thanks, Irene. It’s an inferno of busyness, that’s for sure, but it looks like some good will come of it. Sorry I didn’t have any new deep, dark thoughts and musings for you here…

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