Experiment in DC: Top Violinist Performs As Busker

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by rexcasual, Mar 27, 2008.

  1. rexcasual

    rexcasual Member

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    If you had a chance to hear one of the world's finest violinists for free on your way to work, would you recognize greatness? Would you stop? Would you drop some money in his hat?

    Joshua Bell performed last January in Washington DC at the L'Enfant Plaza station during the morning rush hour. Incredibly, only one person recognized him. Very few people stopped to linger. No one applauded. He played some of the world's most acclaimed classical compositions, on an extremely rare and valuable Stradivarius violin, for one hour.

    His reward in dollars and cents: $32.17. Of that total, $20.00 came from the lone fan who actually recognized him. Yes, people tossed pennies.

    The Washington Post was worried that the crowd that could potentially gather as a result of their stunt might pose a security problem, if the mass of pedestrian traffic was blocked. They expected that government workers might prove to be sophisticated enough to recognize the extraordinary free show. It never happened. It turns out that people on their way to work have little to no time to deviate from schedules.

    Art without a context framing it may prove to be a humbling experience.


    Pearls Before Breakfast - washingtonpost.com
     
  2. D_Hyacinth Harrytwat

    D_Hyacinth Harrytwat Account Disabled

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    This is beyond sad but it's true - people often confuse buskers for beggars.
     
  3. D_one and done

    D_one and done New Member

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    wow what an interesting experiment. and i bet if soulja boy were performing there really would have been a security problem. how sad lol.
     
  4. Shelby

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    Some of the worlds most acclaimed classical compositions just don't get it done for a lot of folks.

    It's kinda like Mark Twain said - 'Wagner's music is better than it sounds.'
     
  5. mindseye

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    And then again, the acoustics in L'Enfant Plaza are terrible. As accomplished as Joshua Bell is, and as rare as his Stradivarius may be, I suspect that more people may have "recognized greatness" if greatness was what they heard.

    As it is, we'll never know how many people walked past him and muttered, "That guy looks just like Joshua Bell, but he sounds terrible!"
     
  6. tripod

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    Americans are by and large culturally bankrupt... only one person recognized his trademark boyish haircut? If he was in Europe things would have been waaaaaay different, especially in Germany or Austria.
     
  7. DC_DEEP

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    Yeah, I saw this in the Washington Post about a week after it happened. I've been a great fan of Joshua Bell for years. He must have been about 16 the first time I saw a clip of him playing an arrangement of several of Brahms' Hungarian Dances.

    Fate is cruel, though; I had walked through that very exit where he was playing, just an hour before he "set up" there. I almost never have need to use that particular station, but on that day, I did, and missed him.

    Mindseye, all the underground stations have horrid acoustics, but he wasn't in the cavernous part where everything echoes, he was near the escalator. Not great acoustics, but not as bad as some places. I DEFINITELY would have recognized him!
     
  8. rexcasual

    rexcasual Member

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    None of us can judge the sound properly, not having been there, but the reporter who was there thought the acoustics were better than expected, considering the challenging location.

    Here's the audio from the Washington Post. The article posted in the OP above also has some video clips.

    Josh Bell's Full Performance - washingtonpost.com
     
  9. D_Hyacinth Harrytwat

    D_Hyacinth Harrytwat Account Disabled

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    What's ironic is that most people have heard of Wagner, could tell you the name of at least one of his compositions, and are happy to hear Wagner just because it's Wagner. But you're right, there are so many other amazing compositions that will never cut it. In the clip, Bell was playing the Bach Chaconne - 14 minutes of hell for the performer - and no one would understand the piece.
     
  10. Drifterwood

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    Reminds me of my posts here.
     
  11. mindseye

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    I stand corrected. I've been there, and can't imagine that it'd be an adequate performing space, but I'll trust the word of an eye(ear?)witness.

    I suspect most people could not name of one of his compositions. Most people, however, will recognize one of his compositions, albeit as "kill da waaaabit, kill da waaaaaabit".
     
  12. ManlyBanisters

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    Yes dear... :rolleyes:
     
  13. tripod

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    Or the scene in Apocalypse Now where they turn on the helicopter's P.A. system while invading an "enemy" village because it, "Scares the Gooks!"

    In fact, I doubt that Bell performed any Wagner anyway... not many works for solo violin in his catalog (he might have adapted some preludes or overtures though)... although the quote from Mark Twain was cute.
     
  14. rexcasual

    rexcasual Member

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    Toronto has licensed subway buskers and I was quite impressed by a Chinese erhu player (it's a sort of two stringed violin), who was giving an amazing performance. It is the kind of music a lot of Westerners don't "get". The artist was extremely talented, but it seemed very few people appreciated his set.

    Too damned foreign. :rolleyes:
     
  15. rexcasual

    rexcasual Member

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    Don't you owe the public here some cash? :tongue:
     
  16. B_dumbcow

    B_dumbcow New Member

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    How could they pass him by? If someone that talented was playing, I think I would notice them... Maybe thats because I can play the violin and understand it...

    If that was 50 cent buying a coffee, there would be hoards of people.

    people don't know talent even if it slaps them in the face.
     
  17. Pecker

    Pecker Retired Moderator
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    Had it been Itzhak Perlman instead, commuters may have given him more room as they passed by for fear he might be contagious.
     
  18. DC_DEEP

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    I would have given Perlman more room, but not for the reasons you state. I'll probably catch hell for saying this, but in my opinion, Perlman's fingers are super-fast, but not completely accurate. His pitch just seems close, but not close enough, to me. Bell is a vastly better violinist.
     
  19. Pecker

    Pecker Retired Moderator
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    Of course there's a difference. Kind of like the difference between the styles of pianists Vladimir Horowitz and Artur Rubenstein, the former being almost mechanical to the latter's lyricism.

    I, too, prefer Bell to Perlman. My favorite, though is Stern.
     
  20. D_Hyacinth Harrytwat

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    I saw an erhu player at the corner of Spadina and Dundas once and you honestly couldn't hear him above the noise of the crowds unless you were 2 feet away from him. This was last February and his poor fingers must've been frozen.

    What I HATE is that guy who plays near the ACC with the glamour rock guitar solos in the underpass before and after all the NHL games!
     
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