Joshua Bell impersonating an itinerant playing violinist in Washington DC .Its a living. It was not an original idea in that this set-up had been enacted in New York and within other contexts as well. Bell played six Bach pieces for about less than an hour. About a thousand people went through the station, probably on their way to the office. He was said to have been given a cold shoulder. But not really. People did see him. He was noticed. Instead of playing Bach,if he had played the most sentimental, tear jerkingly Kistch pieces he could find from the John Williams/Spielberg catalogue, rolled Norman Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post covers into a Sonata suite, played crowd pleasing stadium favorites, or played atrociously loud and bad would that have changed the dynamic. It does remind me of Jackie Robinson playing for the Montreal Royals before making the jump to Brooklyn. He had an odd job as a luggage porter at Windsor Station and no one recognized him. And that was not a unique experience.
from the Washington Post: Almost all of them were on the way to work, which meant, for almost all of them, a government job. L’Enfant Plaza is at the nucleus of federal Washington, and these were mostly mid-level bureaucrats with those indeterminate, oddly fungible titles: policy analyst, project manager, budget officer, specialist, facilitator, consultant.
Each passerby had a quick choice to make, one familiar to commuters in any urban area where the occasional street performer is part of the cityscape: Do you stop and listen? Do you hurry past with a blend of guilt and irritation, aware of your cupidity but annoyed by the unbidden demand on your time and your wallet? Do you throw in a buck, just to be polite? Does your decision change if he’s really bad? What if he’s really good? Do you have time for beauty? Shouldn’t you? What’s the moral mathematics of the moment?….Read More:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/04/AR2007040401721.html
It also shows that the middle-classes are probably may be more closed minded, stingier than those beneath them, and reflect the better off classes disdain for the poor as a burden on their own resources. In Richard Hamilton’s Who Voted for Hitler, he was a bit surprised about middle class voting strength for national socialism. Or, like the Kitty Genovese example, no -one really cared if Bell dropped dead or not. Life goes on. Maybe bell was having an off day- the plebian metro, he had to compete with the panhandlers and buskers, and the grating whining sound of the instrument was annoying to customers. Maybe no one really cares about classical music. Like the Paris ballet where only 3,000 people in an entire nation that invented it bother paying attention. A weird child lip synching on YouTube has millions of views and Bell can’t get chump change off a dirty subway floor. Maybe that darn violin was haunted and it spooked the commuters.
…On that Friday in January, those private questions would be answered in an unusually public way. No one knew it, but the fiddler standing against a bare wall outside the Metro in an indoor arcade at the top of the escalators was one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made. His performance was arranged by The Washington Post as an experiment in context, perception and priorities — as well as an unblinking assessment of public taste: In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?
The musician did not play popular tunes whose familiarity alone might have drawn interest. That was not the test. These were masterpieces that have endured for centuries on their brilliance alone, soaring music befitting the grandeur of cathedrals and concert halls. Read More:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/04/AR2007040401721.html
Or, they smelled a rat. Joshua Bell was hoaxing them. Still, twenty gave him money, a total of $32 which for 45 minutes work is the wage of an electrician or plumber. It’s $1800 a week for forty hours. Not bad. But of course, context plays a role as well. The Milgram experiment and the subsequent Stanford experiment by Zimbardo lifted individuals out of their context, effectively giving them a pretext for a new identity, or an alter-ego or an unleashing of the repressed. Bell without his context; rob him of that, is just a middle aged guy hustling like everyone else. How would he have acted in a Milgram experiment. When Milgram in the face of criticism that his torturers were composed of some lower strata he upped the status and distinction ante and the results were even more appalling. Outside of his playing gifts, perhapll is just another clinically “normal” nice chap like say, Adolf Eichmann.
Finally, perhaps Bell is lucky he escaped with his life. And have his violin stolen or damaged. Like the equivalent of someone damaging Michelangelo’s Pieta or the Mona Lisa. When British model and former Miss England Danielle Lloyd went to a bar she was assaulted by two women and needed ambulance escort. These creatures become free game once they have to mix with the general prison population….
With Lloyd, is of note that she was with six,( 6!) friends but was thrown onto the bar and smashed out by only two women. What were her friends doing?….And for Bell, instead of dumping the burden on the bureaucrats, ask himself what is in me that people don’t care? Do I smell like a rich upper crust effete musician. Am I a douche? And how can one compare say the the magnitude, the force, the love of say Itzhak Perlman with Bell? ….And the question is a bit moot, since Joshua Bell would never be caught dead in a Washington metro, but would he drop money into a busker’s case?
Washington Post: Bell always performs on the same instrument, and he ruled out using another for this gig. Called the Gibson ex Huberman, it was handcrafted in 1713 by Antonio Stradivari during the Italian master’s “golden period,” toward the end of his career, when he had access to the finest spruce, maple and willow, and when his technique had been refined to perfection.
“Our knowledge of acoustics is still incomplete,” Bell said, “but he, he just . . . knew.”…
…Bell doesn’t mention Stradivari by name. Just “he.” When the violinist shows his Strad to people, he holds the instrument gingerly by its neck, resting it on a knee. “He made this to perfect thickness at all parts,” Bell says, pivoting it. “If you shaved off a millimeter of wood at any point, it would totally imbalance the sound.” No violins sound as wonderful as Strads from the 1710s, still.
The front of Bell’s violin is in nearly perfect condition, with a deep, rich grain and luster. The back is a mess, its dark reddish finish bleeding away into a flatter, lighter shade and finally, in one section, to bare wood….
…”This has never been refinished,” Bell said. “That’s his original varnish. People attribute aspects of the sound to the varnish. Each maker had his own secret formula.” Stradivari is thought to have made his from an ingeniously balanced cocktail of honey, egg whites and gum arabic from sub-Saharan trees.
Like the instrument in “The Red Violin,” this one has a past filled with mystery and malice. Twice, it was stolen from its illustrious prior owner, the Polish virtuoso Bronislaw Huberman. The first time, in 1919, it disappeared from Huberman’s hotel room in Vienna but was quickly returned. The second time, nearly 20 years later, it was pinched from his dressing room in Carnegie Hall. He never got it back. It was not until 1985 that the thief — a minor New York violinist — made a deathbed confession to his wife, and produced the instrument….
…Bell bought it a few years ago. He had to sell his own Strad and borrow much of the rest. The price tag was reported to be about $3.5 million.Read More:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/04/AR2007040401721.html
Is Joshua Bell a douche?
Does he try to frown while he’s smiling? Does he pee sitting down?…Is “listening” one of his favorite hobbies?…Do none of the presidential candidates “do it” for him?…Is his dog “part of the family?”…Does he use the word “gay” to mean happy, and pretend like he doesn’t know why people are laughing?…Is he looking for “grownup love?”…Does he want you to help with his splatter painting?…Does he think Obama looks good for his age?…Is he learning how to roll his Rs?…Did he start wearing Ray Bans before they were cool?…Did his 1/36th Cherokee friend, Jeremy Running Wolf Goldstien, teach him to say “Indian American” instead?…Did he sprinkle hope into the homeless man’s cup?…Does he ask if he can kiss you? ( From Hadas Margulies, The Faster Times) Read More:http://www.thefastertimes.com/loveanddeath/2012/01/31/29-ways-to-know-if-youre-dating-a-douche/