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Thread: Something to Think About...

  1. #1
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    Something to Think About...

    Below is a story that was emailed to me. Perhaps some of you have heard about this. I found it very interesting. After I read it, I couldn't help but think about all the artwork that I view as it comes through this forum. Would I recognize a masterpiece worth millions if it appeared on my screen? I wonder...

    ----------------------------------------------

    Washington, DC Metro Station: on a cold January morning in 2007. The man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about an hour. During that time approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

    After 3 minutes: a middle aged man noticed the musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried on

    4 minutes: The violinist received his first dollar. A woman threw the money in the hat without stopping and continued to walk.

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

    10 minutes: A 3-year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The child stopped to look back at the violinist again, but the mother pulled hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head back all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly.

    45 minutes: 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.

    1 hour: He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded.

    Findings; 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 theatre in Boston where the seats averaged $100 each .


    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 take 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 significance is hiding in the insignificant. Appreciate everything."
    Eckhart Tolle

  2. #2
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    That was an interesting story, thanks for sharing it.

    My point of view on this particular situation is that among all the ones paying 100$ for a seat at his concert, only a small percentage has the intellectual instruments and the knowledge needed to understand such music. Most of them go there for social reasons. Just like for understanding a novel we need to understand the natural language it is written with, the same goes for most of the other arts. There are of course some things we instantly feel as "great, important" (like the Cappella Sistina from Michelangelo) but that's a different thing.

    What I am saying is that it is not really important that he was a great musician and that he was playing an intricate piece; I saw people getting bored at Perlman playing the Caprices from Paganini -- I can't think of a more fascinating and impressive artistic experience -- and this happened cos they simply could not understand what is behind that music, why is it difficult, where is its beauty, the whole life of sacrifices needed for being able of playing it, the story of Paganini and his take on composition and his unique technique, and so on.

    By the way, Bell is a good player but by no means "one of the best musicians in the world", unless we extend this number to include various thousands of musicians. Edvin Marton owns a Stradivari too (and that violin that was actually played by Paganini) but he is not an amazing player, he is average. Etc.

    To finish and answer the question at the end of the story : I think we have no faults for not understanding and appreciating all the beauty in the world. We simply can't, cos for appreciating some kind of beauty we need to obtain the necessary knowledge and the intellectual instruments. The children are turning the head to him and listening to Bell in street just like they turn the head to watch everything that looks interesting or unusual to them, but this doesn't mean they understand Bach or pizzicato or that they perceive that particular music as beauty. My final word is : there is a lot of beauty in the world, and it is great that we can slowly become able of appreciating it, by putting efforts into it -- just like someone is putting efforts into creating it

  3. #3
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    I would say that given the context the outcome was completely predictable.
    The people were all on a deadline to catch their subway and not to be late to wherever they were going. Or perhaps they were late already. No time for a guy playing a violin. Perhaps only a homeless person with a love for music has the time to stop. Sad.
    Granted it is a shame our culture is set up this way.
    But context and expectation is key to seeing a masterpiece I think. Hang a Picasso in a secluded area of a hushed and beautifully lit museum, with others crowded around intently viewing it-then you stop to look--particularly since that is what you came to do anyway, and as Andrea said, perhaps you have the background to appreciate it-you see it as a masterpiece.
    Hang the same piece in the back of a run down restaurant, with the waitresses scurrying by, and no one will likely stop to look, if they notice it at all.
    Last edited by Rob in Denver; 02-02-2010 at 03:52 AM.
    "If I could only learn to be humble, I would be so proud." Author Unknown.

  4. #4
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    Still, it cuts both ways. It's not just that you need a proper environment to appreciate a painting by Picasso; the environment of reverence set up in the museum also lends credit to Picasso.

    To give an example from a less exalted field, it's well known that most people will prefer swill to excellent wine if you switch the labels. They are keyed off by the labels, and follow their expectations, not their perception.

    Expectations and prejudice define most people's responses to a great degree. It takes an exceptionally unprejudiced, keenly aware person to appreciate something without being keyed by its presentation.

  5. #5
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    There is also the matter of snobbery, putting one's self forward as an expert in any field, for example wine, you can influence others views.

    A favourite trick of a well know wine buff here when he found himself surrounded by wine snobs, was to announce that a wine was excellent but for the 'tram lines' and hold it up to the light. Soon everyone else in the room would be doing the same and agreeing with him.

    As with wine in both music and art there is too much snobbery... It's all too personal. We all experience things differently and react to things in vastly different ways.

    So something that really catches your eye or triggers a memory that keeps you enraptured, something that makes your heart beat faster may just be another picture on the wall to someone else.... But to you it's art.

    Show the same picture to someone who has read a book or two on drawing and they might pull it apart because it offends their technical sensibilities or to bolster their own fragile ego.

    But to you it's art.

    It's the same with music, I understand Paul McCartney often went busking during his 'wilderness years' I don't believe he ever drew a crowd.

    Sadly classical music attracts more snobs than wine.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by IrishRose61 View Post
    Nicely put, Neil.

    And I like classical music.. does that make me a snob? Hold on, let me get my glass of wine
    Hi Rose,

    Me too...........an ageing rock musician well past his sell by date..........I was raised on classical music!
    I do hope the labels are "original" Rose and you're not drinking "swill".................I have lived here in France for 12 years now..........and Bordeaux is the "WINE".............I have tasted maybe 50 different Bordeaux wines and found no pleasure at all...............maybe it's not the wine?

    I prefer the wines from Cahors..........Bourgignon .........Gaillac.........


    Taste.............like your "tastes"in Art,Music etc,etc, are personal.

    Extremely so................some years ago I spent some time in Normandie
    playing concerts all over the region...........I made a friend who tried to get me (un anglais) to eat snails...............one day he came across me in a restaurant eating a huge seafood platter where there were boulots...............................he said "What are you eating there?" pointing at the boulots..............."Seafood" I replied.

    "Snails of the sea" said Nicolas.............."Tomorrow I invite you to dine with me English" ............... I still like them today Rose..........Les escargots................Taste.
    Da go Te'
    Best to you

    Peter............
    Have a listen to or buy my music : http://www.reverbnation.com/playlist...artist_3522106
    and the Aubrey Small website:http://www.aubreysmall.com/
    My Facebook page:https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100010972992278

  7. #7
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    I would have stopped to listen. This I know for sure.

  8. #8
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    A most interesting thread, and I like the story.

    This is perhaps a romantic way of thinking... but I do not believe that the experience of great art (which like the experience of great beauty in Nature for example) is accessed via the intellect. Sure, proper education will school individuals about such things, but no amount of study can re-produce the breath-taking experience of truly great Art or Beauty.

    These things have a presence about them in the same way that natural phenomena have a distinct presence (I am not referring to religion which is also of the intellect) but a different kind of energy that will stop you in your tracks when you encounter it, but mostly people's minds are too filled with noise and so just walk by.

    Even so-called 'primitive cultures' where the intellect has not been schooled - people are moved by the same kind of presence, the common denominator of all such things being a purity of intention; like the extravagant art-for-art's sake. Seen in the way some small thing or creature will produce tremendous beauty or skill even for a disproportionately small gain.

    Perhaps its the day-to-day struggle about basic survival that makes us boring and desensitized to Art and Beauty... people bothering about their daily bread and running around like ants.

    In my experience, the appreciation of art, music and beautiful Nature requires a quietening of my intellect in order to appreciate things fully. Then, if I have been moved by something I afterwards use my intellect because I want to learn more...

    But of course context is everything to the noisy mind because it reads such signboards as markers so as to know how to react and interpret. And as said, none of this means the person can actually hear or see whats lies before them - they are merely on auto-react and are probably racing around elsewhere in their busy intellect.

    But all of us have experienced the those rare moments where regardless of context we actually SEE or HEAR something even if only momentarily. For me the impulse to make art is primarily inspired by moments such as these, which are not so easy to translate using intellectual skills.

  9. #9
    I think it's all situational and personal and experience. Would I stop?

    My quick answer: I don't know.

    Am I late for work? Would my boss understand that I stopped to listen to a "hobo" because he was playing masterful music? A musical hobo in the station cannot put food on my plate or a roof over my head... ya know?

    What if it were a day off, I'm just out and about? I like to think that I would stop and listen to such music on a day where my priorities didn't take the front seat of my life.

    Quite frankly, I'd rather listen to the hobo than pay 100 bucks for a seat in some theatre. Not saying that it might not be worth it, but I can find more important things to do with that 100 bucks right now.

    I am aware of music more than the average person. My husband is a musician, which has taught me a different way to listen. When he showed me, it really made me listen. Now I can listen to anything and tell you what I feel about it. I still have my preferences which can differ from his. However, without his knowledge, I would have never stopped to listen the way he does.

    In turn, he learned to see things differently because of me. We both gained from experiences of the other.

    So it's really not just one aspect of these things that have been mentioned in all the posts here, but a combination of them all and how important they are to you in that moment.

    Least that's my two pennies on it.

  10. #10
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    Great to see this thread resurface and I am fascinated by the response to it. It is also interesting that this resurfaced because it is a story I think of quite frequently in my day to day life.

    I was in a low budget thrift store the other day. Not a place you would think inspiration or beauty would surface - but along the far back wall were some framed and canvas art prints. I shuffled through them, most of them not signed and none of them I recognized as mainstream popular art prints but one in particular really caught my attention. The color, the light, composition, everything about it was beautiful - A masterpiece in my eye. It was priced at $20 dollars. Why? Why is this art print twenty dollars and not $50, $100 or $1000? Is it less a piece of art or less in beauty because it is in a low budget discount store? It inspired me, moved me, and showed me that beauty is all around us if we take the time to look and become aware. I agree with you Rowena, the noise in our minds from our busy lives can easily drown out the beauty that surrounds us.

    I too think I would stop and listen Albert... for the same reason I look at the wonderful artwork on this site... I am fascinated by the creation of beauty regardless of the context it is presented in.
    "The significance is hiding in the insignificant. Appreciate everything."
    Eckhart Tolle

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