In the beginning was the dance…..

As an experiment, Joshua Bell, a world famous violinist, played in a metro station in Washington, DC. Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theatre in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

The organizers of the experiment were warned to expect a large crowd, and to plan for extra security. The violinist brought his 1713 Stradivarius violin — worth $3.5 million — and began to play the six most beautiful songs in his repertoire by Bach, for about 45 minutes. The world’s greatest violinist playing the world’s greatest music on the world’s greatest instrument.

A thousand people walked by, most on their way to work. You can see it on video here. Children would tug on their parents’ sleeves, but the adults were too preoccupied. A 3 year old boy stopped to look at the violinist, but his mother hurried him along. As the child continued to walk, he turned his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

A man 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.

One woman threw a dollar but didn’t stop, and continued to walk on.

One woman alone recognized him and stopped to listen. She gave him a bigger tip ($20) than the other thousand people put together. They were in a hurry, hurrying past Joshua Bell because they had other things to do.

Only 6 people stopped and stayed a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk at their normal pace. He collected $32 in all.

When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

This is a real 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 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?

How might we hear the music – and dance with unbridled joy, shaking off the heavy constraints of schedules and expectations for a time?

‘Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who could not hear the music’. (Angela Monet)

Jesus said, Matthew 11:16-17
“But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’ (Matthew 11:16-17)

Source material:
Washington Post
Ortberg, John (2009-12-22). The Me I Want to Be (p. 100). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

(You can find the clip on Youtube)

posted 03 Jul 2014 by Sandy