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An interesting e-mail....on perception...we semi-colons would more than likely have stopped...

KathiM's picture
Posts: 8077
Joined: Aug 2005

Washington DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approx 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 till and, without stopping, continued to walk.

6 minutes:
A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

10 minutes:
A 3 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 other children. Every parent, without exception, forced them to move on.

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.

1 hour:
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 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 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?

Hugs, Kathi

nudgie's picture
Posts: 1482
Joined: Sep 2006

This does not surprise me. Society today places too much on appearance and not what makes the individual.

lmliess's picture
Posts: 331
Joined: Dec 2008

...if ther is ONE thing this cancer crap has taught it is to slow down and enjoy the beauty of each day. Whether it be a sunset, a flower, or my daughters big brown eyes when she is giving me her smirky smile when she wants a cookie! It is too bad sometimes we have to get knocked down hard to do this. Maybe that is the 'gift of cancer' they talk about.

PhillieG's picture
Posts: 4912
Joined: May 2005

He shouldn't quit his day job I guess. That's almost funny but not surprising in America.
I bet he would have fared better in Europe

Posts: 881
Joined: Feb 2007

I would have missed the train. I have a compulsion to stop & listen to sidewalk musicians, watch chalk artists, get mesmerized with fountains...the list goes on. But what a great commentary on our society. Some of those folks would have paid hundreds of dollars for a seat at the theater where Mr. Bell performed, but didn't recognize the same beauty when it slapped them in their faces. The message? Slow down. enjoy beauty in whatever form it comes.


PGLGreg's picture
Posts: 741
Joined: Jul 2006

Do you really not know why their mothers hastened their children on? Making a social contact with a stranger outside any regular context is dangerous. You just don't do that, and you sure don't let your child do it. It has nothing to do with an inability to enjoy the finer things in life.

PhillieG's picture
Posts: 4912
Joined: May 2005

Did I read this response correctly????
I guess you were kidding Greg and I fell for it!

I think the Parents certainly could have taken the time to stop and smell the roses or hear the music as they case was. It has little if nothing to do with talking to strangers. To ME, it's about slowing down and taking time to listen to the music or watch the sunset which I feel is very important to teach kids. There is a big difference between sending a kid out alone to talk to strangers in a subway and holding their hands or letting them sit on your lap while you listen to some beautiful music. I do not think it is good for children to be taught that you never stop at all for anything. It makes them grow up to be self centered people who can not appreciate the finer free things in life.

lesvanb's picture
Posts: 911
Joined: May 2008

I've noticed that on days that I'm feeling better it's actually easer for me to be engrossed in the distractions in my life and sidetracked –bills to pay, schedules, worries about upcoming tests etc. I look back on when I was most ill– which was often sitting on a toilet seat–and remember the songs that I sang, how I taught my dog to give me her paw, the clouds passing by in the window, and how the bidet's water spray gave such exquisite relief from the discomfort of my raw butt from too many trips to the bathroom.


snommintj's picture
Posts: 602
Joined: Mar 2009

I know the experiment was designed to show America's lack of appreciation for true talent and beauty, but they could have picked a better time. Come on, first thing monday morning, the violin, Bach, the metro. They picked the worst place to be at the worst time and he still made $32 in one hour. Last time I checked that was in the top 2% of American salaries. Plus, I don't have to stop and pay my respects to appreciate what's going on around me. Yeah, the kids were stopping to check out what was going on because they're kids, not because they appreciate classical music. I'm sure a toy monkey playing the drums would have been a bigger distraction than some dude with a violin.
Personally I enjoy Bach and the Violin. Never once have I jammed it on a monday morning. It's more of an unwinding music than a gettin' geared up kind of music. That's probably why there isn't any Monday morning concerts being promoted. One thing that I've learned about myself is that I have an excellent autopilot switch in my brain, I think most people do. I think it's probably best to not try and stimulate my senses while I'm on autopilot, I'm probably not going to enjoy it as much as I could.
When I was in college I ran across this music experiment. It was concerning the sounds from similar instruments of varying value. All the subjects were music students and they were played the same song by the same musician on different instruments. Some were told which song was played on which instrument, some were lied too, and some weren't told at all. The ones that were told to be of highest value were picked to be the best sounding and those who weren't told picked the highest valued instrument 55% of the time. I think the conclusion of the experiment indicated that a well trained hear could slightly distinguish the difference in values.
Either way he could have played it on a violin or a viola and I couldn't have figured it out.

He should borrow a cheap violin and try it again on a friday after work, I bet he makes at least $100.

PhillieG's picture
Posts: 4912
Joined: May 2005

If someone like Ray Draper was out there playing Michael Jackson songs on his tuba, he could have made hundreds of $$$. But he's dead (too).

I don't think the value of the instrument really had any influence on how many or few people stopped. You could give a chimpanzee a stradivarius violin and that won't make him a musician. Unless of course the chimp was Bubbles... Joshua Bell could play a child's violin and make it sing. I don't think the time or place would make that much of a difference in America either. Everyone is running around like they're about to shlt their pants (and we ALL know that feeling) instead of enjoying the music or the beauty in things.

Just a question to everyone out there. Has anyone seen one of these? Replace the (dot) with a period . The Friggin CSN site won't let us post photos or even the (.)jpg anymore.
It's called a sundog and they are rather common. They can be seen year round but are more common in spring, summer or fall. I see hundreds a year and most people I know have never even seen one. Too busy to look at the sky I guess but once you see one, they stick out like sore thumbs.
This I saw in the summer
It's a Circumhorizon arc and is more rare but take a peek upward someday, you may see something cool.

shmurciakova's picture
Posts: 910
Joined: Dec 2002

Personally I think this story ROCKS. I have noticed something similar in my job. I am a Forest Ranger and over the past 10 or so years I have noticed that fewer and fewer people are backpacking/camping out. More and more simply mountain bike or jog a 25 mile (give or take) trail in one day rather than taking 2-3 days to walk...Why is this? These days people cannot be bothered or take the time to spend 3 days walking. They don't have time. They don't MAKE time. Some even walk through, all 25 miles in one day. I don't get it. I have never been one of those rush, rush people and I sure as hell am not one now. Smell the roses people!! I'm sorry, but it is a reflection of our American society and our departure from nature and what really matters in this life.

PhillieG's picture
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Joined: May 2005

While hiking and backpacking are fantastic activities (I've hiked up Mt Washington NH twice plus road my bicycle up the auto road) there is also a lot of enjoyment to mountain biking. I started doing that in the early 1980's when it was mainly a West Coast activity. Very few people on the East Coast rode mountain bikes. At the time, almost every park was open to the bikes. As usual, as it caught on some bikers rode recklessly and didn't take into consideration that around a blind corner may be a family with little kids so within a few years, they were banned from many state parks. Horses were still OK even though they crap all over the trails. That, I felt, was unfair. But I regress...I've always felt that there are great benefits to both modes of seeing nature. In one aspect, you can cover more ground in a shorter time on a bike but there are places that are hard to get to with a bike and they enjoyment of carrying your gear on your back while you find a place to camp is hard to match. Grinding your bike up a single width trail in your lowest gear is a challenge as is riding down an open trail and a good clip and while wearing toe clips, jump and lift your bike over a log that is covering the trail which is a real rush. I've even flown over my handlebars and had a nice flight.

I'm sure many are in a rush like you said, many Americans do not stop to smell the roses (or the horse manure) and it's a shame. Shmurciakova, I wish I had your job. That would be the idea job for me, I wouldn't feel like I was working if I could spend that time in the woods like that. I see your point but just to let you know, there are some out there who do enjoy the outdoors whether if it's on a bike or a hike and we take the time to smell...the roses

shmurciakova's picture
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Joined: Dec 2002

I didn't mean to imply that mt. biking is not fun, or that people who bike don't smell the roses. I just meant it is FAST, clearly running is also faster than walking...walking w/o overnight gear is a lot faster than walking with it..
FAST being the operative word. Get 'er done and get out. I know not everyone has the luxury of time, but it is rather sad and I think it is a reflection of our fast paced society. I liked the story about the musician just because it was like "hurry up son, no time to dilly dally" and of course the people didn't realize they were in the midst of genius.
-Susan H.

PhillieG's picture
Posts: 4912
Joined: May 2005

I must have been in a hurry to read your post ;-)
I agree, it's all hurry up. Fast food, fast cars, fast women...well, it's all hurry, hurry, hurry. I often stop in NYC and listen to musicians. Maybe I can imagine me being out there trying to get 2 coins to rub together. Good Lord, I hope not. I'm not that good

trainer's picture
Posts: 242
Joined: Sep 2008

I definitely stop and smell the roses now and listen to music on the streets. Having cc reminded me there is so much to enjoy in this world. Once I even stopped what I was doing after I noticed some ants and followed one for a few minutes just to see what he was doing and where he was going. Call me crazy. I will also stop and watch the clouds build up. I even take the paper to work and read it first thing. I won't get fired, I'm the boss! If it gets slow mid-afternoon, I'll close the place and tell the others to go home. Mary and I will usually catch a matinee if the timing is right. Guess what, hasn't affected work one bit!

It's interesting to see what you can when you just slow it down. After all, what's a few minutes longer to get somewhere? When we get to San Fran, there's always music in the BART tunnel and on the streets. For example, I'm visiting my brother for the July 4th holiday in a small town ( 470 people) in SW Colorado, Creede. One of the bars was having a fund-raiser for a cancer sufferer today. It had a band playing outside and we enjoyed the music from his deck, since downtown isn't all that far away. Will go there tomorrow and make a contribution. Big parade Saturday. Everyone brings folding chairs and lines the downtown, which is about 4 blocks long. A resident who owns a WWII fighter plane officially starts the parade by making a couple of passes down the main street. It's as Americana as one can get and the floats would never make it to the Rose Parade, but they are clever and colorful and all manned by residents. Many are horse-drawn. The parade is officially over when the floats reach the end of the downtown, where kids from windows will pelt the floats with water balloons and the people on the floats return fire with their own water balloons. Then since this is a mining town, there is the state mining skills competition where miners compete with sledge hammers and pneumatic drills. Raises quite a racket. It is totally a relaxing weekend with plenty of fellowship and no strangers in town.

So after a breakneck business career, I am enjoying the fun of life again. This is the one thing I owe cancer, and the only thing except for discovering this board and all of you.

Oh, one more thing. The town has a great fireworks display and they shoot them off the top of a small mountain and we see it from my brother's deck. The kids make S'mores around a bonfire and it's a great end to a great holiday. Volunteers all day have been carrying fireworks up the mountain on a trail using horses and ATVs. Hard to find this kind of pitch-in volunteerism in the big city.

Kathleen808's picture
Posts: 2361
Joined: Jan 2009

I think this story is great. The thing that stuck for me was the reactions of the kids. I teach kindergarten (5 and 6 year olds) and I tell you they teach me so much everyday. They teach me about wonder, curiosity, joy and taking time to live life fully.
Hawaii also nurtures that take time to enjoy the beauty of this earth.

kimby's picture
Posts: 804
Joined: Oct 2007

At the U of Michigan Comprehensive canzer* Center, they really do quite a large amount of complimentary therapies: massage, music therapy, harpists, etc. In the waiting area for the lab there is a grand piano. Last week while I was waiting my turn and enjoying the VOLUNTEER pianist (who was marvelous, I might add) one of the phlebotomists came out and asked him to play 'quieter'. She stated that the patients were complaining that they couldn't hear their names called and if he couldn't play quietly that he'd have to stop. He very quickly picked up his belongings and left. I was not pleased. From what I could see it was the staff that didn't want to be bothered to find the patient. We were all enjoying the entertainment. I went to the complimentary therapy office and notified them before going to my appts and I would have spoken directly to the pianist if he had moved a little more slowly.

What a shame that there just doesn't seem to be time or energy enough for anything so simply pleasurable. sigh.


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