Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Look and Listen

One of the things about creativity is that you have to have your bunny ears up and your eyes wide open for observation all the time. Everything is interesting. I thought this Washington Post article demonstrated that nicely (albeit late-- it's from 2007).


Joshua Bell, world-renowned as a prodigious violinist from Bloomington, Indiana, hooked up with some journalists to do a "social experiment" in which he casually strolled into a subway station (L'Enfant in DC-- many busy government workers going by). He was wearing normal street clothes as opposed to his tidy, dapper look while performing on a stage where the cheapest tickets go for $100. He began to play a piece by Bach; Bell referred to it as, "not just one of the greatest pieces of music ever written, but one of the greatest achievements of any man in history." Each piece he played in the subway was similar in greatness. Oh, and he plays on a violin estimated to be worth $3.5 million (from 1710!).

So, what happens when we see "art without a frame," as the writer so eloquently put it?
Over a 1,000 people walked by Bell in the 45 minutes he played.

It took 3 minutes before anyone even noticed Bell, but that man kept going.

After 6 minutes someone stood and listened for a bit.

As the 45 minutes went on, seven people stopped to listen for a brief moment, and 27 threw in some change. Approximately 1,070 didn't notice anything. Children more frequently paid attention than adults. One man, unfamiliar with classical music, stopped to listen and said, "Whatever it was, it made me feel at peace." Only one person recognized the musician. The reporter writes,
"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?"
I think being attuned to finding something interesting in everything helps you to take in moments like hearing Joshua Bell play in a subway. I'm not saying that if I were busy on my way to work in a bureaucratic bureau, that I wouldn't have maybe passed him by too. Trying to be more aware doesn't hurt anyone. It's a good practice that turns into healthy routine-- like taking your vitamins. A daily dose of Vitamin See.

(don't forget to check out the article link for an interesting discussion of the philosophical side of it all. Kant is the big reference point for them.)

1 comment:

  1. That's really fascinating. I like to think I would stop. I have stopped to listen to street musicians and am always glad I did.