Saturday, March 14, 2009

Social Perception Experiment: Violinist in the Metro

A man sat 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 thousands of 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.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but 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 other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

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 any recognition.

No one knew this 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 theater in Boston and the seats average $100.

Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of an social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:

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?
"My additional thoughts would only be that so many people do things because they are "fashionable" that they forget to look at things with their own eyes, listen with their own ears, and appreciate anything with their own hearts."
From Egodialogues.com

6 comments:

Jon Kidd said...

hear hear!

davidly said...

I hasten to add - yet in support of the sentiment here, I feel - unfortunately people don't get paid to spend a few more minutes taking in the beauty all around them on their way to whatever mandatory and responsible thing it it they have to do with their day.

Contrarily, it could be that they all have horrible taste.

HOWMusic(k) said...

Why am I not surprised...

Gobbledygook said...

The last comment is the most telling.

Patto said...

Dedro,
thanks for this,
and for the rest!

Fritz Vogt said...

I wonder if they set up the experiment to get those results. Lots of music has endured times and is not appreciated by the average person. I go to the symphony and don't appreciate the work of many of the concertos by famous composers even though I paid lots of money for my season tickets in the good seats.