Friday, August 13, 2010

Top violinist plays for $32

I do not know where this came from originally, it came just now by email (thanks Noel)


In Washington , DC , at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007,
this man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes.  During
that time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them
on their way to work.  After about 3 minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that
there was a musician playing.  He slowed his pace and stopped for a few
seconds, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule. 

About 4 minutes later: 

The violinist received his first dollar.  A woman threw money in the hat
and, without stopping, continued to walk. 

At 6 minutes: 

 A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his
watch and started to walk again. 

At 10 minutes:

A 3-year old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly.  The
kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and
the child continued to walk, turning his head the whole time.  This action
was repeated by several other children, but every parent - without exception
- forced their children to move on quickly.

At 45 minutes:

The musician played continuously.  Only 6 people stopped and listened for a
short while.  About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal
pace.  The man collected a total of $32.

After 1 hour:

He finished playing and silence took over.  No one noticed and no one
applauded.  There was no recognition at all.

  No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest
musicians in the world.  He played one of the most intricate pieces ever
written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.  Two days before, Joshua
Bell sold-out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100 each to sit
and listen to him play the same music.

This is a true story.  Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the D.C. Metro
Station, was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment
about perception, taste and people's priorities. 

This experiment raised several questions: 

      *In a common-place environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we
perceive beauty? 

      *If so, do we stop to appreciate it? 

      *Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this: 

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians
in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the
most beautiful instruments ever made . . .

How many other things are we missing as we rush through life?


Unknown said...

We visited Padstow recently and an accomplished folk musician was playing his guitar and singing. We sat opposite, ate our picnic and were entertained for well over an hour. He was fantastic and yes I did leave him some money.

DocRichard said...

And there's that Joni Mitchell song about a busker who "played real good for free".

I still cherish the memory of a saxophonist dressed as a black and white cat playing in the London underground.

Good buskers and graffiti artists are the biz.

weggis said...

Look Doc.

If all those 2,000 people had stopped to listen there would be some out-of-town day tripper from their equivalent of Somerset complaining that he can't get in or out of the station and peeps should keep to the left!

Instancia said...

The modern urban environment may sadly be "commonplace" for increasing numbers herded by economic forces into the megalopoli, but it is degraded and degrading to the senses and the spirit.


Reality is that people generally see what we are used to seeing, what we are expecting to see, or what we want to see. A good test for this is to get really interested and immersed in some new aspect of life over several weeks or months, say insects, the soundscape, graffiti, for 3 examples. Go around looking or listening out for this particular facet of life and you'll be amazed what you start sensing in familiar places that you never even noticed before.

DocRichard said...

Instancia, you are 100% right. Couldn't be righter.

Weggis, I am sorry to say you are a bit right too. Though they don't all have to stop, and some of them no doubt took a bit of the music into their souls as they walked on. But they should have given a dime or two.

But your attempt to force this lack of response to high art into evidence to back your insistence that Londoners should continue to walk in an inefficient and chaotic way fails at all levels.