Monday, January 5, 2009

Joshua Bell Experiment

My Dad recently shared a newspaper article with me about an interesting event. It was a social experiment that was designed to test people's perceptions, expectations, and what society values. It was carried out and reported on by the Washington Post last January.

This experiment involved placing a violinist near a metro station in Washington D.C. early in the morning as people were going to work. He played for 45 minutes as busy commuters passed him by. Over 1,000 commuters passed him during this time and few of them tipped him and even fewer commented or even took notice of his performance. The performer ended up earning $32.17 for his concert.

The amazing part of the story is that the violinist was Joshua Bell one of the most accomplished concert violinists today. Previously that week he had sold out the Kennedy Center Concert Hall where patrons paid an average of $100 a ticket. During this metro experiment he had performed several difficult pieces with a 1713 Stradivarius violin worth 3.5 Million dollars but the commuters thought he was just a street musician and therefore treated him as one.

I thought this story was interesting on many levels. I can't really blame people who are rushing to work for not taking the time to listen, but I'm sure there would have been a huge crowd had they known the details behind the performance. This story made me think about how quick I am to judge other people from a brief first impression. It also made me wonder how many times I am in too much of a hurry to recognize art, beauty, excellence, or opportunities that may be all around me on a daily basis. I found some footage of this experiment on YouTube entitled "Stop and Hear the Music."
Next time I report on something in the news I'll try to address it before a year has passed. I guess I just like history more than current events.


MEM (Mary) said...

Fascinating. The experiment reminded me of this quote by C.S. Lewis which I had to google & copy & paste because I couldn't remember all of it- (It's kind of long)

"It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you may talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and corruption such as you now meet if at all only in a nightmare.

All day long we are in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in light of these overwhelming possibilities it is with awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never met a mere mortal, Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations, these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit -- immortal horrors or ever lasting splendours."

NatureGirl said...

Thanks for the comment on my blog. The wii is fun, but still a completely unnecessary addition. You have got some interesting stuff here, I will keep checking in.

Big D said...

I can relate-I can't tell you how many people pass me on the street and not know they have passed a wealth of movie trivia without even asking a single question.

Sad isn't it.