Wednesday, November 18, 2009

How Many Other Things Are We Missing?

I just read an interesting anecdote in an email I received from the songwriting group I belong to. I'll try to summarize it and then this post will be my response.

On a January morning in 2007 in a Washington DC Metro Station, violinist Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world, performed a little social experiment on an unwitting audience of about 2000 people on their way to work. In the course of about 45 minutes, he played 6 Bach pieces while men, women and children passed through the station. In that whole time only 6 people stopped to listen, about 20 threw some money into the hat, and Bell collected about $32.00. Now the crowd did not know who this musician was. They didn't know he had played very intricate musical pieces on a very expensive violin and had appeared just two days ago in Boston in a sold-out show to a crowd who paid about $100 per ticket.
The question raised from this experiment is if we do not have time to stop and listen to a very talented musician playing beautiful music with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made, how many other things are we missing?

I think this is an important question for us to consider. We lead busy lives, always scrambling to get to work on time, get to appointments on time, get to school on time--our goal is simply to get there. But what if we're missing something important along the way? How important is it to be on time anyway? What if someone falls down, collapses on the sidewalk? Do we step over that person because they're in the way? Or do we stop and help? And how about simply observing and appreciating something beautiful that pops up unexpectedly in our busy day?

What if you had been there to witness the violinist at Metro Station? Do you think you would have stopped to listen?


  1. I would have stopped and marvelled, then tipped more than I could afford. I love classical violin. ;-)

    You have a great point though, really makes you wonder. :)


  2. I would like to think that I would have stopped to listen but I guess it would depend on the situation I was in. Your post is a great reminder to slow down and connect with the beauty that is all around us. Thanks, Kathy!

  3. I probably wouldn't have stopped. There is a you tube video of this. I've seen it before. I'm sure you could find it in a search. It was interesting to watch the people walk by.

  4. Adam: That's nice.

    Paul: thank you.

    Susan: I just watched it! Based on that, I think that yes I would have stopped to listen. When someone plays that well, how could you not stop at least for a few minutes? I'm sure he would have gotten my attention.

  5. Amazing.

    I like to think I would have stopped: I've done it before in Boston for far less talented musicians.

  6. Yes, I just came across this in an email a few months ago!

    When I visited the UK last month, we took the London Underground (subway) a bunch, during which time we saw many musicians perform:
    trumpet, sax, violin, accordion, flute, drums, to name a few.

    Each time, we stopped, if only for a few brief minutes, to soak it in.

    Now, a world away, back here in the Southwest desert, I wish I would've listened even longer, heard even more.

    Thanks for this post, a reminder to slow down, listen, be.

  7. I think it would have depended on whether or not I had the time. My brain often seems to be elsewhere.

  8. As a music lover, most definitely! Somehow I'd find at least a few minutes to listen, and to let the musician know I appreciate his art.