Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Open thread - Tuesday

I received this story by e-mail:

In Washington, DC, at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, a man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During this time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

After about 3 minutes, a middle-aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule.

About 4 minutes later 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 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 the whole time. This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent - without exception - forced their children to move on quickly.

At 45 minutes the musician was till playing 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.

After an hour he finished playing and silence took over. 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 earlier, Joshua Bell sold-out a theatre in Boston where the seats cost an averaged $100 each, just to sit and listen to him play the same music.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the D.C. Metro Station, was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities.

From the Washington Post:

As it happens, exactly one person recognized Bell, and she didn't arrive until near the very end.

Stacy Furukawa positioned herself 10 feet away from Bell, front row, center. She had a huge grin on her face. The grin, and Furukawa, remained planted in that spot until the end.

"It was the most astonishing thing I've ever seen in Washington," Furukawa says. "Joshua Bell was standing there playing at rush hour, and people were not stopping, and not even looking, and some were flipping quarters at him! Quarters! I wouldn't do that to anybody. I was thinking, Omigosh, what kind of a city do I live in that this could happen?"

When it was over, Furukawa introduced herself to Bell, and tossed in a twenty. Not counting that -- it was tainted by recognition -- the final haul for his 43 minutes of playing was $32.17. Yes, some people gave pennies.

"Actually," Bell said with a laugh, "that's not so bad, considering. That's 40 bucks an hour. I could make an okay living doing this, and I wouldn't have to pay an agent."