Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Hidden Wonders

I keep track of Snopes' New Urban Legends, primarily because I have a bunch of people forward me conspiracy crap and I like to do my part in stopping it in its tracks. But every now and again, I get a good lesson myself. This morning's addition was true, and one to contemplate:

A Most Interesting Story

A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule. A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk. A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

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.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best 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 his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats average $100.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of an social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?

The original Washington Post story is here. It has video. It's worth reading.

As for me, I'm making one of those resolutions to find more beauty in my day.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

End of an Era

Bill was there for my first ICCT show, back when I was 18, playing the doctor in Blithe Spirit. He was in my first show back when I returned in my thirties, as the cab driver in Harvey. Geez, we were talking about him at Vicki's on New Year's Eve, when the subject of ICCT came up.

Like Dweeze, I wonder if anyone will mention at the memorial his half-joking idea of being stuffed and set in ICCT's lobby to hold programs. I remember him talking about it once, and someone saying he could incorporate animatronics so he could bow to people.

I wonder if he'll have the ring, and if we can rub it one last time, for luck.

I wonder if we could set off some of his special effects so he can go out with a bang.

I wonder if we could work "three and a quarter" into the eulogy, 'cause that's funny.

We'll miss you, Bill.