Stopping to hear the music

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Found once again floating around the Internet. I wanted to place it where I might find it again.

The Washington DC Metro Station was  bitterly cold on a January morning in 2007. A musician played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approx two thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After three 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 till 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, as 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. Every parent, without exception, forced them to move on.

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. So far he had collected $32.

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

No one knew that 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 Joshua Bell had sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100 a piece.

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 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: 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 …

How many other things are we missing?

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About Gandalfe

Just an itinerant saxophonist trying to find life between the changes. I have retired from the Corps of Engineers and Microsoft. I am an admin on the Woodwind Forum, run the Microsoft Jumpin' Jive Orchestra, and enjoy time with family and friends.
This entry was posted in Music. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Stopping to hear the music

  1. Graham says:

    How many other things indeed. You would probably get similar results if you could persuade Jagger or MacCartney to do the same type of thing. We see and hear only what we want to, most of the time.

  2. JaAG says:

    I can’t imagine walking by a professional and not recognizing the skill. It is sooo incomprehensible, almost foreign to me.

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