Song of Surrender

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

PTP – the deciding factors?

By S. Janaki
 
This is a little story of a musical experiment, a true one, which throws light on people’s priorities, taste and perception. It raises several questions too:

$ In a common-place environment, at an inconvenient or inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?

$ If so, do we stop to appreciate it?

$ Do we recognise talent in an unexpected context? 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.

About 3 minutes:

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 45 minutes:

The musician played continuously. Only six 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 one hour:

He finished playing and there was silence. 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.

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

Food for thought:

Coming to our very own Chennai season, you now wonder – can you blame the members of the audience for getting up after the clock strikes eight to go to their homes far and near? Can you blame them for slinking out of the hall for a cup of hot tea or coffee with sizzling snacks after being chilled to the bone by the A/C blast? Or when they rush out for a break after a hi-decibel onslaught?

1 comment:

  1. Yes, this experiment was conduced sometime in 2009, if I remember right. They had posted the video of the entire performance on their website. There was one woman who stood and listened, obviously recognizing the violinist but again probably thinking: "Nonsense! Joshua Bell at the subway?!" Then, after the performance, she makes bold to approach him. He confirms her suspicion, and then it was worth watching the expression on her face!

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