Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The subway violinist

I always loved stories since I was a kid. Even to this day I will spend countless hours listening to my grandma and my aunt, both almost a century old, tell me stories from other simpler times. The next story I found, is a true story and shows that although we are supposedly civilized and advanced we can't appreciate art if it hit us in the head. This is because all the art that critics appreciate is under context. 

Would anyone take Picasso's art seriously if it was not decided (after his death) that they are masterpieces by some "knowledgeable critics". Don't get me wrong I am not saying Picasso wasn't painting masterpieces. I only say that we can't appreciate it unless someone else tells us that this is art. Everyone appreciates art differently and the next story shows that we are hardly out of the jungle as a species. Personally I think we are as dumb as rocks and history is my best witness but anyway here goes:

The Subway Violinist

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 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 top 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.

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?

I hope you enjoyed his music a bit more than the people in the subway. It's funny how many people say big things like "Carpe Diem" and they spend their day in the couch watching TV or playing video games all day long. You live 27.000 day if you are lucky enough. Every day you spend without bettering yourself or actually living is a day wasted. I know this is a bit different than my usual posts but I think it is good food for thought.

Till next time...