Monday, April 9, 2007

Would you stop for Joshua Bell?

There was a great article in the Washington Post the other day. The writer, Gene Weingarten, persuaded Joshua Bell, a world-famous violinist, to busk in a Washington D.C. metro station during rush hour. Normally, a Washingtonian might have to shell out $100 or so to hear Bell play. Would they stop to listen, maybe toss a couple of bucks into his violin case? What do you think?

I won't give away the story. Read it instead: Pearls Before Breakfast

It's a long article, but very well written and worth reading. It goes beyond the gimmick and raises some really interesting issues about art, context, and modern life. There are video clips integrated into the story, which struck me as a great idea. I wish I could have video clips in my books!


Patbrace said...

Loved the article about Joshua Bell. I remember a night in New Orleans, a couple of years before Katrina, hearing a solo sax player wailing out blues across the street from my hotel. I thought then that the street musicians in New Orleans must be among the best musicians in the world.

"Nobody stopped to hear him
Though he played so sweet and high.
They knew he had never been on their t.v.
So they passed his sweet music by.
I meant to go over and ask for a song,
Maybe put on a harmony.
I heard his refrain as the signal changed,
He was playin' real good for free.
....Joni Mitchell

Patbrace said...

I listened to the recording of Joshua Bell linked to your blog, and I have to say, if I had heard him play the first piece I would probably would not have stopped. My ear is not trained well enough in classical music to pick up the artistry of what he was doing. BUT, I would have stopped for the Ave Maria. Why? Because I know and love the song, and I would have been drawn to it.

When I play the guitar at church I have noticed that the small children who accompany their parents to communion, and thus walk in front of the musicians, are all eyes, totally captivated by what my fingers are doing or by what the cellist is doing. I don't know what it means.

slatta said...

I have a theory. As a adults, we have come to learn how context affects our understanding of our experiences. But young children lack that contextual understanding of experience. They can recognize a musical experience for what it is, in its purest form.

In your experience, the children who are watching you play the guitar are not thinking about the significance of communion--the context of this particular musical experience--but of the lovely sounds coming from your guitar.

What do you think?

Patbrace said...

Ah, if only I could be certain that the sounds coming from my guitar were lovely....

But your theory would probably work where the cellist is concerned. He's a true musician.