“He emerged from the Metro at the L’Enfant Plaza Station and positioned himself against a wall beside a trash basket. By most measures, he was nondescript: a youngish white man in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a Washington Nationals baseball cap. From a small case, he removed a violin. Placing the open case at his feet, he shrewdly threw in a few dollars and pocket change as seed money, swiveled it to face pedestrian traffic, and began to play.”
That’s the opening paragraph of an April 8 piece in the Washington Post Magazine that explores how disconnected modern urban American humans are from each other and the world around them. At least that’s my take on what the story’s about. In brief: Joshua Bell, a renowned violinist, went with his Stradivarius to a subway station in downtown D.C. There, he set up as a street musician and over an hour played some of the most celebrated and difficult pieces ever written for the violin. Bottom line: hardly anyone in the 1,100 people who passed Bell as he played seemed to register what was happening. The consistent exception: young children, who when they appeared seemed drawn to Bell and the music. Unfortunately, they were in the company of adults who hustled them on their way — to day care or other appointments.
Great idea for an article, even if the conclusion one is led to is somewhat disheartening:
“In his 2003 book, Timeless Beauty: In the Arts and Everyday Life, British author John Lane writes about the loss of the appreciation for beauty in the modern world. The experiment at L’Enfant Plaza may be symptomatic of that, he said — not because people didn’t have the capacity to understand beauty, but because it was irrelevant to them.
” ‘This is about having the wrong priorities,’ Lane said.
“If we can’t take the time out of our lives to stay a moment and listen to one of the best musicians on Earth play some of the best music ever written; if the surge of modern life so overpowers us that we are deaf and blind to something like that — then what else are we missing?”
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