Tuesday, January 06, 2009

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 average $100.

Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was
organized by the Washington Post as part of an 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 andlisten to one of the best
musicians in the worldplaying the best music ever
written, how many other things are we missing?

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