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March 19, 2010

Take Time To Listen To The Music

It was a cold January morning in 2007 at Washington DC Metro Station. A man played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approximately 2,000 people walked 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 and stopped for a few seconds, then hurried to keep his schedule.

4 minutes later the violinist received his first dollar. A woman threw the money in the till and without stopping, continued walking.

At the 6 minute mark a young man leaned against the wall to listen to the playing, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

On the 10 minute mark a three year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly, as the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several children. Every parent, without exception, forced them to move on.

45 minutes after he started playing, only six people stopped and stayed for awhile. About twenty people gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace.

He collected $32.

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

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 Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

This is a real 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:
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, how many other things are we missing?

This story is verified on Snopes.com. The picture is of Joshua Bell.

44 comments:

Jana said...

What an interesting story... wonder how many amazing things we miss out on in our hurry to go about out daily lives

Nicely written!

Shadowthorne said...

Let's say that most people are blinded with beauty so commonplace around us. When they have to PAY, then the thing is cherished! :)

DJan said...

What conclusions did they draw? That we are only listening to what we pay for, as Shadowthorne says? I heard this story before and was struck, as I am now, by the thought: what would I have done? Would I have stopped to listen or hurried along to my destination? Great story!

Margie said...

Hi TechoBabe
Amazing story!
Thank you for sharing it!

I think that many people miss out on the great beauties that life hands us each day!
They are there for us to take in and the joy they can give is just so incredible!

Hope you have a wonderful and joyful weeeknd!

Margie :)

JStar said...

Well I live in the DC metro area and this does not suprise me in the least and most wouldnt understand unless they live in a city...Someone playing an instrument at a metro station is not something new. People begging for money do this ALL the time along with other things to get money...This is why people were giving him money. We have become immune to homelessness issues here...We think everyone is begging and ignore, roll up our windows and lock our doors...feeling threatened...It isnt that his blessing went un noticed...We enjoyed as we walked by but were pro late and rushing....Which is the case here and shows clearly when driving the streets...Everyone is in a rush and dont have time to take a break and enjoy the beauty in front of us...There are some very talented homeless men and women out there and I have heard some amazing music passing by in the DC streets...

Kathy M. said...

Wow. What a great story. It makes me stop and think about what I'm missing. Thank you.

Jeanie said...

A very interesting experiment and a good case in point for my goal of living more consciously. I wonder if it would have been different if it were in a shopping mall or someplace where people didn't have the deadline of a train to catch.

janeywan said...

I saw this story on the news shortly after it happened. I wonder what I would have done. I'd like to believe I would have stopped, but can't say for sure, some days I'm a train wreck waiting to happen!

Syd said...

I wrote about this in one of my blog posts last year. It generated a lot of discussion. I like to listen to street musicians, but then I don't live in DC or have to catch trains to get to work. I do think that we overlook so much that is beautiful and inspiring.

Enchanted Oak said...

I remember this story. It is a story about the sheer madness that overtakes humanity when we focus on ourselves and not on the world around us. I want to be one of those who stop and listen.

♥ Braja said...

Read that one and loved it....

Kristina P. said...

I've always loved this story. I think it's awesome.

TechnoBabe said...

I can't say for sure that I would have stopped if I were one of the scurrying people with jobs to get to, but I know if I were with my hubby he would stop. And listen. He is auditory and I am visual. Music is something he would not miss. I don't know why I missed this story when it happened, but I am so glad I found it eventually. I can just picture those children drawn to the music and being pulled away by parents. Darn.

Big Dave T said...

I love street musicians and very well may have been one of those people who put a dollar in the hat, but I have to agree that in this day and age it's hard to find time to stop and listen to the music, or smell the roses . . .

Some day I'd like to take my accordion out on some street corner and play. People would probably pay me to stop!

Shadow said...

we are missing way too much...

Julie said...

WOW! This makes such a great point! I love street musicians, poets and artists. Some are extremely talented. I find it interesting that the children wanted to listen, but most of the adults didn't.

Shadowthorne has an excellent comment. If people knew the musician was famous, I bet a lot of people would have stopped. It's the same thing in all of the arts. If the established machine says something is great, then people flock to it. Thanks for another awesome post!

English Rider said...

I think that the experiment was setting Joe Public up to fail, like survey questions that are slanted to get certain results. I can just imagine the "See, we were right. They are unworthy." self-aggrandizing researchers, nodding to one another after wards.

chitowngreg said...

Great story. I know it was only 45 minutes, but he was making money at the rate of nearly $100,000 a year on a totally impromptu basis (assuming an 8 hour day and 52 week year). Maybe people were paying more attention than we're giving them credit for or it's just a great spot to ask for money!

Suldog said...

GREAT STORY!

I often wondered what would happen if some of the most famous people in the world performed their art without anyone knowing the name attached to the performance. Here is some idea of it.

I find it most disheartening that the parents prodded the children to keep moving...

Gabriella Moonlight said...

Sadly I think we miss way too much in our culture. I wish we could somehow make ourselves and our culture slow down to the speed of life.

This is a great reminder, thank you!

Nezzy said...

I'm sure in this mad, mad busy life we live we let many awesome things pass by without ever realizing that we just missed out. Great post, hon.

God bless and have a fabulous Friday!!!

lisleman said...

thanks for finding and sharing that story.
Thinking about that roof top concert the Beatles did one time, it does seem to make a difference of the popularity of the music.
But still it's an interesting point and I agree we all miss so much by rushing around in our somewhat pretend busy lives.

Everyday Goddess said...

It says so much about our shallowness. And so much about how amazing we once were as children. What happened?

Ina in Alaska said...

Wow that was very interesting! I play tennis on Friday mornings with a lovely group of senior ladies, I am a fill in player for one of their group who is a snowbird. One of the ladies is an artist and she enjoys painting landscapes out in her yard in the summertime. She was telling us this morning that:

1. A man will stop and ask her if she wants him to pose

2. Women and little girls will hurry by like she is doing something crazy

3. Little boys will stop and watch her and give very good pointers. If the same little boy is with a man, the man will not ask to pose but will enjoy the art with his child.

Joanna Jenkins said...

Wow! I would have loved to hear him play.

But, having been one of those people on a subway platform for years, I'm sad to say I'd probably have only gotten to listen until my train came-- But I'm pretty sure I'd have given him a dollar. Big sigh.

Life was so fast back then. I'd like to think I'd have taken time to listen if it happened to me today.

I'll be thinking about tis one for a long time Techno. Thanks you.h

Happy weekend.
jj

Stacy (the Random Cool Chick) said...

I remember reading this somewhere and was amazed - and just as amazed now again! :) You're right...what are we missing? I guess that's where the 'stop and smell the roses' comes into play, too! ;)

Have a great weekend!

jozien said...

Yes, i read about that story back then, isn't that amazing.
:) i wonder if it's like being on your blog, there is always such a crowd. I will read your wonderful posts and then hurry on, without commenting

Ronda Laveen said...

This is a fantastic story, TB. Says so much about what and how our societe consideres value and beauty. Wow! How sad for us, huh? The kids were right on, though. Too bad the parents will ruin their perfect instincts.

I will be thinking about this one for a long, long time. A famous musician, playing a near perfect instrument and giving a free concert to the masses and no one catches his brilliance. Sad, sad, sad.

Dave King said...

It's a wonderful story, though I have to admit to not being particularly surprised. People do not, by and large, react to the art, but to the social clues that surround it.

Tracey said...

This doesn't surprise me one bit. There are a lot of people in this world who are missing A LOT.

Thanks for posting this. Thanks for stopping by.

Hope you have a happy weekend.

Hugs!!
Green-Eyed Momster

Mama Zen said...

I love that the children stopped!

Brian Miller said...

have heard this one before...but love it every time i read it...so humbling...

Gappy said...

I think all buskers are used to being routinely ignored. It's a shame though I think. There is such a wealth of talent out there on the streets.

I love this post, and the visual image it conjures up. I wonder how the musician felt after the experiment.

Maggie said...

Life is so chaotic and we waste our time being in such a hurry all the time we really don't take a moment to sit back and see the wonderful things we have all around us. I'm trying to take some time to myself and start enjoying my life more and more little by little.

terri said...

I've seen this story several times and the impact never diminishes. I guess we all need constant reminders to stop and smell the roses.

gayle said...

This is a wonderful story and does have me thinking ........what am I missing!

Fancy said...

What a wonderful story, Technobabe! I think we should all learn to appreciate beauty in all its manifestations; taking time out to enjoy the simple pleasures of life as much as possible.

Have a great weekend!

Ocean Girl said...

Hello TechnoBabe, what a story. If I had been there would I have noticed it? It made me wonder.

LadyFi said...

It's an amazing and sad story, isn't it?

You might like to read my take on it way back in Jan of last year:

http://ladyfi.wordpress.com/2009/01/14/extra-ordinary/

TheUndertaker said...

Hey that was a great story and a great reminder to stop and appreciate what goes on around us. We get so busy in our little lives that we just forget the beauty that surrounds us!

Mrs4444 said...

I think I've seen the video of this, or maybe I just imagine it? I'm positive that I would have stopped to listen; I'm a noticer :)

Unknown Mami said...

This makes my soul ache.

Marla said...

Oh, I love stories like these. They always make me think and reconsider the way I do things. Thank you for posting this.

James said...

This is a very thought provoking post. It makes me wonder how many things I miss by not paying attention. Sometimes it's best to turn off the auto pilot.