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 approx. 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:
violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the hat
and, without stopping, continued to walk.
A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at
watch and started to walk again.
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.
The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened
short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal
pace. The man collected a total of $32.
He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one
applauded, nor was there any recognition.
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
Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro
station was part of a social
experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities, organized
by the Washington Post.
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?