A man stood 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 thousand seven hundred 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.
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 recognition.
The exact analysis would betray the fact that this was a social experiment.
This is a real story. No one knew this at the time but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best 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 theatre in Boston and the seats averaged $100.
Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organised by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people.
The question tested were:
* In a common place environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? Yes/no
* Do we stop to appreciate it? Yes/no
* Do we recognise the talent in an unexpected context? Yes/no
Point to Ponder:
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 in our life?