Sunday, April 08, 2007

Josh Bell Plays Free Concert (and no one listens)

No one knew it, but the fiddler standing against a bare wall outside the Metro in an indoor arcade at the top of the escalators was one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made. His performance was arranged by The Washington Post as an experiment in context, perception and priorities -- as well as an unblinking assessment of public taste: In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?

This is a fascinating article, (via Daniel) and it'll be interesting to listen to the commentary from the Classical Music Industry in the next couple of days.

My two cents - While it is a depressing to think that few people noticed/cared that JOSHUA BELL WAS PERFORMING. I'm not sure that The Bach Sonatas and Partitas were the best choice for a subway station concert. They might be masterpieces, but the unaccompanied Bach is also difficult listening! It seems unfair to expect an audience unfamiliar with the music, to simply sit down and listen in the middle of their morning commute. (Even concert goers get a program - which gives them hints on what to listen for and expect). The general public is not familiar with the form/style of baroque music, and without context the audience doesn't have a chance!

Also, it would be interesting to do similar experiments in different cities and see if the arts-friendly/creative class cities did any better than Washington D.C.

UPDATE: The special edition "behind the scenes" tour of this article is avaliable right here!
Here is one of the great joys of journalism -- you get outrageous opportunities, such as being able to sit next to Joshua Bell in his apartment, and have him explain classical music to you.