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.
So, like, what if you mashed up TEDx with The Wicker Man and topped it all with a heaping helping of The Blair Witch Project? Forget the fact that this sounds like an utterly bizarre hypothetical scenario, perhaps one that makes you expect someone to start singing “One of these things is not like the others,” and consider the following:
TEDxSummerisle appeared on Twitter last week, alongside a Tumblr account promoting the Summerisle TED conference. Since Summerisle is the imaginary Scottish island depicted in 1973 horror movie The Wicker Man, it’s not entirely surprising that it doesn’t appear on the official TED website. . . . At first, the TEDxSummerisle Twitter and Tumblr accounts seemed like a charmingly weird one-shot parody of TED culture. Both accounts were mostly inactive until March 15, at which point they began promoting the conference taking place on March 20—the spring equinox, as celebrated by the “real” inhabitants of Summerisle in The Wicker Man. TEDxSummerisle’s Tumblr even posted a worryingly real-sounding conference schedule, including talks such as “Historian Rose MacGreagor will reveal The Secret Science of the Ancients.”
But on March 20, all bets were off. Whoever created these parody accounts must have done some serious planning, because if Twitter is anything to go by, TEDxSummerisle is actually real. The official Twitter account gave every impression of livetweeting from an actual event, including photos of slides from the various talks. Not only that, but people on the #TEDxSummerisle tag were commenting on the talks as they happened.
— Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, “TEDx Summerisle sounds real but isn‘t,” Daily Dot, March 21, 2013
What emerged out of this heady electronic brew was a social media-fied explosion of cultish madness and mayhem in the form of a “Performative Group Horror Fiction” (as Technoccult has called it). Thus:
There was, yes, ritual murder and much running through the woods:
And the whole thing culminated in a mass sacrificial death inside a giant, burning wicker man.
The people who threw the virtual event/story/party issued a public thanks afterward:
Thank you everyone who volunteered their time and labour to create this strange event, the worst TEDx in history. To be clear: this was a piece of experimental horror fiction. No TED attendees were harmed in the making of this event and we aren’t associated with either TED or either of the Wicker Man films.
— TEDxSummerisle, March 20, 2013
You can read the entire saga, told as a sequentially archived list of tweets, at the TEDxSummerisle site linked above or at Storify. And I must admit: although I don’t usually go for this type of thing myself — as in this type of experimental fiction using the very form of Internet communication to flashy effect — I’ll be damned if the TEDxSummerisle shtick didn’t bowl me over. And yes, as I’m ashamed to admit, I thought it was real for the first, oh, fifty or so tweets that I read. I encourage all interested Teeming Brainers to check it out.