Sunday, June 26, 2011

Pearls Before Breakfast

I ran into this story today and it really got to my heart strings.

January 12th, in the middle of morning rush hour, Joshua Bell performed
six classical pieces. 1,097 people passed by. Almost all of them on the way
to their morning jobs. They didn't know it but the musician they heard
was one of the most renowned violinist in the world.

He always performs with the same violin. And no other would do even
for this gig. It was handcrafted in 1713 out of the finest spruce, maple
and willow. Bell bought it a few years ago, the price tag at 3.5 million

Three days before doing his stunt in the Metro station, Joshua
Bell had filled the house at Boston's stately Symphony Hall, where
pretty good seats went for $100. But on this Friday, he was just another
performer competing for the attention of busy people on their way to work.

He started with what is considered one of the most difficult violin
pieces to master: Bach's "Chaconne." It is an exhausting 14 minutes
of single, succinct musical progression repeated in dozens of variations.
It is said to celebrate the breadth of human possibility. He clearly wasn't going
to cheap out of this performance. He played with gusto, his body leaning into
the music and arching on tiptoes at the high notes. The sound was symphonic.

Three minutes went by before something happened. 63 people had already
zipped on by when, finally there was a breakthrough of sorts. A man
altered his gait for a second, turned his head to notice that there was
some guy playing music. He kept walking, but it was something.
Things didn't get much better. In less than 3/4 an hour that Bell played,
seven people stopped what they were doing to hand around and take in the
performance, at least for a minute. 27 people gave money, most of them
on the run--for a total of $32 and change.

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.

Bell afterward said that, "it was a strange feeling, that
people were actually, ah...ignoring me. At a music hall,
I'll get upset if someone coughs or it someone's cellphone goes off.
But here my expectation quickly diminished. I started to appreciate any
acknowledgment, even a slight glance up. I was oddly grateful
when someone threw a dollar instead of change."
This is from a man whose talent can command $1000 a minute.

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
-W.H. Davies, "Leisure"

British author John Lane writes about the lost of appreciation
for beauty in the modern world. This experiement at the Metro
station may be symptomatic of that, he said -- not because people
didn't have the capacity to understand beauty,
but because it was irrelevant to them.

If we can't take the time out of our lives to stay a moment and listen
to one of the best musicians on Earth play some of the best music
every written; if the surge of modern life so overpowers us that we
are deaf and blind to something like that--then what else are we missing?

{Story found here.}

1 comment:

Baby Sister said...

Oh wow. That's an incredible story. Thanks for sharing!!