Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Stay awake - stay alert - true story

A man sat at a metro station in Washington, DC and started to play theviolin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated thatthousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way towork.Three minutes went by and a middle-aged man noticed there was a musicianplaying. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurriedup to meet his schedule.A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threwthe money in the basket and without stopping, continued to walk.A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, butthe man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother taggedhim along, hurrying, but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finallythe mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head allthe time. This action was repeated by several other children. All theparents, without exception, forced them to move on.In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed fora while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace.He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no onenoticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatestmusicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces everwritten, with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars!Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out a theater inBoston with the seats averaged $100.00 each.This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro stationwas organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment aboutperception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in acommonplace environment at an inappropriate hour...Do we perceive beauty?Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpectedcontext?One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the finest musiciansin the world playing some of the most wonderful music ever written, howmany other things are we missing?

1 comment:

firebird said...

When I was riding the subway to work, it would really make my day to hear a musician playing in the station! And I would rather be late to where I was going than miss the performance! It is also very important to show that their performance is appreciated--especially since so few do in that setting. My guess is that there are relatively few people who have a taste for solo Bach violin music. (I'm one of them--I probably would have been VERY late to work that day!) And it takes some experience to tell the quality of a performance in an unfamiliar style of music. (But that didn't stop the kids from being fascinated!)

I have a feeling the study results would have been different if they had chosen a more "mainstream" style of music. And in rush hour, not everyone has the luxury of being late to work--even a couple of minutes! It is sad, isn't it...