In Washington , DC, at a Metro Station, in 2007, this man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station. After about 3 minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that 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.
The musician played continuously for 45 minutes during which time only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace.
After 1 hour he finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed and no one applauded.
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 before, Joshua Bell sold-out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100 each 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.
This experiment raised several questions:
*In a common-place environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?
*Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?
* If Bostonians or other self-appointed connoisseurs of high culture were told that high culture consisted of someone standing on their head, drinking beer and letting out the occasional burp, would they pay $100 to watch? I suspect the answer is “yes”.