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MusicianSomething to think about….

Washington, DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007. The man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approximately. 2 thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After 3 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 hat 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. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but 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 their children to move on quickly.

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.

1 hour:

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

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.

This is a true 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 this:

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?

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Comment by Dazzling Zoomer Gal Diana on January 25, 2010 at 4:24pm
In Toronto and Montreal we spend almost 5 months travelling daily underground through an astonishing network. Musicians abound. Very good musicians from all over the world. Not quite on the level of Joshua Bell (swoon) but some have been darn close. And I've often stopped and bought their CD.

The location does not lend itself to pausing for long in contemplation, which has always been my argument with this (true) story (it's been around for quite a while).

One enters into a Metro Station for the explicit purpose of getting from point to point quickly. Even a moment can mean a missed train. I move like lightning in T.O. and Montreal when I'm using the system, so does everyone else. If I have time, I will take the time, absolutely. What is defining, is that children do indeed pause to listen when the music is stellar, I've seen this happen, and I used to indulge my step-children when they were little, out of respect for them and the musician. If they liked something - we would talk about it, and if there was a CD, I bought it for them.

I think the lesson here is not that we should pay more attention - it's very difficult to do when one is in a rush and moving at a clip with a mass of humanity. In the Athens metro there are fabulous wall murals. We have art on our "Red Rocket" walls too. One stops when one can, and when it is safe to do so. Even if one can not stop - the sound of good music is not wasted, it penetrates, it can be uplifting.

It's that if our children tug at us - insistent to listen, then we should take a cue from them - and try and stop to hear what they hear, if we can. And respect and some help to those who are working in a difficult and cold venue for some money and with the hope that their music makes the stress of the commute easier? Absolutely.

I don't think we miss much, when we have the time to focus and relax.



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