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Old 01-10-2009, 03:47 PM   #1
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Street Musician...

A Violinist in the Metro

A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle-aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the 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 tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a 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 one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best 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 his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats averaged $100.

This is a real 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 priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

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 best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?
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Old 01-10-2009, 03:51 PM   #2
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Thanks for posting - great article, great 'experiment' and fascinating responses . . . I wonder how many people will read it and do this ?
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Old 01-10-2009, 04:13 PM   #3
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Old 01-10-2009, 07:17 PM   #4
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Time lapse video of when Bell did this:

YouTube - Stop and Hear the Music

One person DID recognize him, otherwise he was just another busker.
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Old 01-10-2009, 07:33 PM   #5
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Do we stop to percieve beauty?

No, we're too busy bustling to and from our miserable jobs like mindless robots that the simple pleasures in life just fly right over our heads.
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Old 01-10-2009, 07:41 PM   #6
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I've been working to help out a musician I believe in with all of my being, and to see this makes everything I'm trying to do seem even more daunting. It's sad, really.
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Old 01-10-2009, 08:13 PM   #7
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It really is sad how it all works... I missed meeting Bono at a book signing because of my daily schedule and didn't stop and make it happen.. It does seem weird to say to your boss.. "oh, I'm sorry I'm late... I missed my train today.. there was this most awesome violinist playing at the station and I couldn't help but stay and listen".
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Old 01-10-2009, 08:17 PM   #8
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My take is:

For adults, marketing, preception and presentation all factors here.

He probably would have had more listeners if he was sitting down and not dressed in a suit. As a whole, we as adults tune out beautiful things and tend to be more caught up in earthbound pursuits and are more proned to be enslaved to materialestic world.

Music is a gift from Heaven and exists there.

Children come from Heaven; this is why the 3 year old paused the longest, and had to be dragged away:along with most children in the Metro that day.



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Old 01-10-2009, 10:57 PM   #9
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Well i'd say rather then music/children come from heaven that the 3 yr old is interested in the beautiful music and doesn't have the worries of his parent who could be running late/worried over something/preoccupied and the child has no responsibility at all leaving him more open to appreciate the music.

It is sad though. We do seem to be running from one place to another not stopping to take the time to appreciate things as much as we could.

I just know for a fact i would have definately have stopped and listened because the violin is my favourite instrument and i would have been at it. hahaha
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Old 01-10-2009, 11:04 PM   #10
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I actually do notice these people and have very vivid memories of some of them. About 5 years ago when I worked at the research institute, there was a guy who always played Beatles songs on his acoustic guitar and he was brilliant. He really changed up the songs and I looked forward to seeing him every day. There was another guy on the subway this summer who used plastic buckets as drums and he was really fun to watch.
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Old 01-10-2009, 11:09 PM   #11
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Having lived in NYC for 26 years (with another two in Chicago), I've passed many a subway musician. Sometimes I stopped and listened, other times, I kept on walking. I couldn't say if it was the quality of the music that made me stop, or perhaps the times I stopped I was not in a rush...I really don't know.

I'll say this, though...reading the first post in this thread made me truly sad. I'm not kidding, and I'm not saying that my reaction was correct....I just know that it bothered me on some deep level.
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Old 01-11-2009, 02:19 PM   #12
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well... i'll say this. there's always musicians in penn station... last night there was a huge crowd surrounding a small group of musicians by the LIRR mcdonalds. that all said... it wasn't rush hour, it was on a weekend.

if i hear a great song on the radio, or one comes up randomly on my iPod, or i'm listening to a song i really like when i'm driving and i get to where i'm going before it ends... if i'm not in a hurry i'll stay in the car and listen to the end of the song. if i'm running late, i get my ass inside and get to work.

most people in a subway are going somewhere... many need to get there quickly. i'm sure some just don't appreciate the beauty of the music being played, and thats' sad... but i'm sure many more just need to get somewhere.
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Old 01-11-2009, 05:56 PM   #13
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Say this for those New Yorkers, $32 in 45 minutes is a pretty good paid solo gig.
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Old 01-11-2009, 07:10 PM   #14
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psst... it was in DC
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Old 01-12-2009, 04:30 PM   #15
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Doh!

I never said I could actually read.
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