Premier violinist Joshua Bell, playing Johann Sebastien Bach's Chaconne on his multi-million dollar Strad anonymously in a D.C. subway stop...what happened?
Three minutes went by before something happened. Sixty-three people had already passed when, finally, there was a breakthrough of sorts. A middle-age man altered his gait for a split second, turning his head to notice that there seemed to be some guy playing music. Yes, the man kept walking, but it was something.
A half-minute later, Bell got his first donation. A woman threw in a buck and scooted off. It was not until six minutes into the performance that someone actually stood against a wall, and listened.
Things never got much better. In the three-quarters of an hour that Joshua Bell played, seven people stopped what they were doing to hang around and take in the performance, at least for a minute. Twenty-seven gave money, most of them on the run -- for a total of $32 and change. That leaves the 1,070 people who hurried by, oblivious, many only three feet away, few even turning to look
This should give solace to even the most untalented of us and confirm that secret belief that the world just doesn't understand.
IF A GREAT MUSICIAN PLAYS GREAT MUSIC BUT NO ONE HEARS . . . WAS HE REALLY ANY GOOD?There might be one demographic worth playing too:
It's an old epistemological debate, older, actually, than the koan about the tree in the forest. Plato weighed in on it, and philosophers for two millennia afterward: What is beauty? Is it a measurable fact (Gottfried Leibniz), or merely an opinion (David Hume), or is it a little of each, colored by the immediate state of mind of the observer (Immanuel Kant)?
There was no ethnic or demographic pattern to distinguish the people who stayed to watch Bell, or the ones who gave money, from that vast majority who hurried on past, unheeding. Whites, blacks and Asians, young and old, men and women, were represented in all three groups. But the behavior of one demographic remained absolutely consistent. Every single time a child walked past, he or she tried to stop and watch. And every single time, a parent scooted the kid away.A lot fewer people than I expected actually stopped and listened, but based on follow-ups by the reporters, those few people really dug it. So my take on it is that no matter how small the audience, the musical experience is worthwhile for the artist and the audience.
The article gets better and better as it goes along, and it's worth the time to read it all:
Pearls Before Breakfast - washingtonpost.com