Brain Pickings

The Story of How Alice in Wonderland Was Born and Amanda Palmer’s Magnificent Brass Band Cover of “White Rabbit”

“One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small…”

The Story of How Alice in Wonderland Was Born and Amanda Palmer’s Magnificent Brass Band Cover of “White Rabbit”

Every year at the annual TED conference in Vancouver, Amanda Palmer performs an act of creative Robin-Hooding and assembles what she calls #ninjaTED — a variety show of music, literature, and eclectic performance magic at Vancouver’s Vogue Theater, featuring TED talent but open to the general public, with all proceeds benefitting the Vancouver Food Bank. The 2016 edition raised thousands of dollars and hundreds of spirits with glorious performances by astronaut Chris Hadfield, dance legend Bill T. Jones, poet Sarah Kay, musician Jill Sobule, and other wildly diverse artists.

For my part in the show, I decided to tell the story of how Alice in Wonderland was born — because the 2016 TED theme was “Dream” and this is the greatest dream-allegory of all time; because the Carroll classic is one of the most beloved and most philosophical children’s books ever written, with perennial themes of agency, integrity, and critical thinking; because I consider it one of the foundational feminist texts in literary history.

And since Alice in Wonderland originated the expression “down the rabbit hole,” which has become a central metaphor for our Information Age, I asked Amanda to bring her magic to Jefferson Airplane’s wonderful 1967 song “White Rabbit” — which she did, magnificently, with aurally psychedelic help from Vancouver’s Balkan brass orchestra, Orkestar Šlivovica, and musician Jherek Bischoff, who collaborated with Amanda on her sublime Bowie tribute. Please enjoy.

You can watch the full show here. Special thanks to Vancouver-based startup Huzza for generously livestreaming and recording the evening.

Complement with the best illustrations for 150 years of Alice in Wonderland and the story of how Arthur Rackham’s 1907 edition changed the business of book art, then revisit my conversation with Amanda about the future of art in the age of commerce.

Published February 19, 2016




Filed Under

View Full Site

Brain Pickings participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn commissions by linking to Amazon. In more human terms, this means that whenever you buy a book on Amazon from a link on here, I receive a small percentage of its price, which goes straight back into my own colossal biblioexpenses. Privacy policy.