Sunday, 18 March 2012

Beauty is where you find it

Everything below is an extract from Mark Powley's Consumer Detox blog. I think it speaks for itself and I liked it so much I've simply reposted it. You can find the full (and much longer) Washington Post report here.

In Washington, DC, at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, this man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After about 3 minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule.

About 4 minutes later: The violinist received his first dollar. A woman threw money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

At 6 minutes: A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

At 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 the whole time. This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent – without exception – forced their children to move on quickly.

After 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.

After 1 hour: He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed and no one applauded. There was no recognition at all.

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 each to sit and listen to him play the same music.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the D.C. Metro Station, was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities.

This experiment raised several questions:
  • In a common-place environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?
  • If so, do we stop to appreciate it?
  • Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?
  • 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 as we rush through life?

1 comment:

  1. "What is this life if full of care we have no time to stand and stare........."
    The poem by William Henry Davies says it all without adding that those who go through life with eyes and ears closed to beauty are only half alive.
    I was on holiday in Cracow and Prague some years ago. it was shortly after the fall of communism in Eastern Europe.
    As a consequence there was no longer state support for musicians and everywhere we went, in every public square, open space, railway station etc., there were 1st class musicians 'busking' as the only means of survival.
    Unlike the musician in your story, there were appreciative crowds of shop workers, stall holders, ordinary passers-by, all of whom not only applauded but also threw money into the hats or instrument cases open on the ground.
    Perhaps the reaction you record was peculiar to


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