Saturday, February 6, 2010



. . . Something To Think About. . .

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

4 minutes later:

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

6 minutes:

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

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 all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly.

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.

1 hour:

He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

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.

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

The questions raised:

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

*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?


knitblitz said...

That's so weird, because we know someone who plays guitar at a metro stop in DC. Not sure which one. Could that make a difference? Or the fact that our friend is playing electric? He makes his living doing that!

Gina - RoseThistleArtworks said...

Cool! Do people stop and actually listen to your friend? I think the weird thing here is that people are willing to pay $100 to go to a concert and listen to Joshua Bell, but wouldn't stop to listen when he gave away a free concert of the same music. People tossed some money to him, but it appears on the video, the only one who stopped was someone who recognized him.
And how have you been, knitblitz?! Thank you for stopping by and commenting. :) It's great to e-see you!

Simbolos said...

I really enjoyed of His blog, very interesting.
hug from Brazil!

glassidentities said...

I think part of it is that the people paying 100 to go see him are a targeted market.. chances are most of the people in the subway did not even know who he was or listen to that type of music to start with. If it is not the type of music that you enjoy.. then possibly having it playing while you are trying to think.. or talk with someone.. or you are just focused on what you are doing... would be more distracting than anything.. I know for me if that had been rap music ( which some people pay to go see/listen to ) I would have not only kept walking without even slowing down.. but would have been annoyed it was there. I do think we need to slow down and look around and think about what we are missing... and at the same time I think this shows that that is all about "perception" One may think so many people missed something so wonderful.. and others may think they missed something annoying. Thank you for sharing the post... it has given me something to think about.. and.. some music to enjoy :)

Brian said...

What a beautiful gift to give to the city. It's too bad too many people are in such a hurry through life, they don't recognize the free gift till its too late.

Thanks for sharing this story.