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slow down

This is a video of an experiment.

It shows a violinist at a metro station in Washington DC playing the violin. He played for about 45 minutes. More than a thousand people passed him during that time. It was three minutes before anyone slowed to listen. Another minute before he got his first coin. A young three year old gave most attention – his mother dragged him away; as did all parents of interested children.

Someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while.

The violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the most talented musicians in the world. He had just played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, on a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

It was part of a social experiment by the Washington Post.

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?

From the article:

Leonard Slatkin, music director of the National Symphony Orchestra, was asked the same question. What did he think would occur, hypothetically, if one of the world’s great violinists had performed incognito before a traveling rush-hour audience of 1,000-odd people?

“Let’s assume,” Slatkin said, “that he is not recognized and just taken for granted as a street musician . . . Still, I don’t think that if he’s really good, he’s going to go unnoticed. He’d get a larger audience in Europe . . . but, okay, out of 1,000 people, my guess is there might be 35 or 40 who will recognize the quality for what it is. Maybe 75 to 100 will stop and spend some time listening.”

So, a crowd would gather?

“Oh, yes.”

And how much will he make?

“About $150.”

Thanks, Maestro. As it happens, this is not hypothetical. It really happened.

“Well, who was the musician?”

Joshua Bell.


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5 thoughts on “slow down”

  1. Thanks for reminding us of this Bosco.
    This is a Very telling story, a parable of Western culture I think. Although I’ve already seen this once, I don’t think one can hear this often enough. I have no doubt I too would have walked on – which as I write puts me in mind of others who pass by on the other side.

    Lent in the gift of space awakens us to attentiveness if we hear its call

    I’ll repost this one on my own blog

    Thank you

  2. I love this. People just walk through life and never see the glories of nature, or in this case a terribly talented violinist. Sad that life as we know it helps us miss so much of the beauty of life.

  3. Why is this in anyway surprising – we are bombarded with music every where we go and it is just background noise we filter out.

    The music he is playing is complex with complex phrasing and in the time you pass it almost certainly does not resolve to anything meaningful so as to stand out.

    This is why street fiddlers play things like jigs 4 bar phrases that totally resolve after 8 bars – the whole thing will be just 16 bars long, you get the gist of it fairly quickly and you like or not as the case may be.

    Concert Hall music does not really translate to the street, nor to the sports arena where Rock concerts are held.

    You play to the venue and the audience – surely

  4. I was at the train station on Ash Wednesday with the Ashes To Go initiative and 55 people stopped for ashes. I was shocked by that number(more than imagined)but I am more shocked by this story and it’s lack of interest on the part of the travelers. Beauty is so often ignored in our fast-paced society . How will our children learn to appreciate the beauty all around us if we don’t stop.

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