Context

2 comments April 9th, 2007at 11:57am Posted by Eli

Very interesting story on Sunday’s WaPo: They conducted an experiment wherein world-class violinist Josh Bell busked energetically and anonymously on a $3.5 million Strad during the morning rush hour at the L’Enfant Metro station.

He made… about thirty bucks, and only seven people even stopped to listen. In short, almost no-one noticed that this was no ordinary street musician.

I thought the most telling observation was that every single kid who passed by during that time realized that something was up, which the writer attributed to their untouched purity and openness to beauty or something like that, but I don’t think that’s the reason. I think the real reason has to do with their sense of context, or lack thereof. Their parents “know” that any halfway decent musician would not be playing for spare change at a Metro stop, but the kids don’t. So they have no preconceived notions about what the performer’s level of quality must be. They also have not been hardened by years of hurrying past street musicians on the way to work.

I wish I could say that I would rise above my surroundings and recognize the beauty of the performance, but I’m not entirely sure that I would even recognize it if I were tipped off beforehand. I can see beauty in the must mundane and grungy surroundings, but I can’t hear it.

Entry Filed under: Music

2 Comments

  • 1. Rob  |  April 9th, 2007 at 1:44 pm

    Thanks for pointing out a wonderful article. I’d like to think I would have noticed this guy. First, as a musician, I’m fascinated by anyone who will play in public. Second, I actually met a friend, Cathasaigh, because I noticed her performing at the East End Food Co-op Art Fair. I know she’s busked several times in her career. Another person, an online friend Dorian Spencer, is a regular in New York’s busking spots.

    If anything, I’m hypersensitive to my environment. Still, the thought burns in me — what if I hadn’t noticed? This was a fascinating experiment!

  • 2. Multi Medium » Expe&hellip  |  April 9th, 2007 at 3:03 pm

    […] Thinking about the Josh Bell violin experiment, and the recent big-bloggers-vs-small-bloggers debates, it would be interesting to see what happened if one of the big bloggers started a new blog completely anonymously, and didn’t use their big blog to link to or promote it in any way. (Assume, for the sake of argument, that they can do this without diluting the content of either blog) […]


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