Something to think about….
Washington, DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007. The man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approximately. 2 thousand people went 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 his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.
4 minutes later:
The violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.
A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.
A 3-year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly.
The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.
He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.
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.
This is a true 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 this:
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 ever made.
How many other things are we missing?
The BIGGER question for which I have done considerable empirical research (and yes, it has been published in scientific, peer-reviewed journals) and am now working on a documentary on: WHY is it that the mainstream public must insists on behaving like baby birds, mouths open, just waiting to be fed by the media and institutions like the music industry to be told what is “quality” in the arts? Why have they come to a point where they cannot *recognize* it on their own? This is the sad result of a systemic problem of the commercial, connection-based, profit-driven arts industry and a public who behaves like the drugged, walking dead, preferring to spoon-fed what is “quality” in the arts. Wake up, America!
notforpublicconsumption/plfrank: drpfrank @ hotmail.com for feedback or to be a part of documentary in progress.
I was about to do a snippy snip on the post notforpublicconsumption posts but, no, I want you to have the whole context. The thing is that this post touched me in a way and the thing that touched me in particular was this:
In a common place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?
This is a big part of my photography. Admittedly, I don’t really care about beauty when I photograph but that’s something for another post. Perhaps. But I do care about the interesting in the commonplace and the mundane. All around us are things which are interesting if you only look at them the right way. But you’ll have to slow down or even stop. Which brings me to a thing Dorothea Lange said:
The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.
And that has been true for me. Fiddling with cameras for a couple of years has made me see the world differently and it’s a much more interesting place than it was before.