A violinist was busking at a metro station in Washington DC on a cold January morning during rush hour.
He played six Bach pieces, lasting around 45 minutes. During his performance, 1097 people passed him by. Of that total 7 stopped to listen, and 19 gave him money. He collected $32 in total. When he finished playing nobody applauded; no one even noticed he had stopped playing.
The violinist was Joshua Bell, former child prodigy and now one of the world’s great violinists. He had just played six of the most intricate pieces of music ever written, on his $3.5 million violin. Two days before Joshua Bell had given a sell out performance in Boston at $100.00 a ticket.
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 people’s priorities.
For me it raises one interesting and fundamental question: Like the kid who films the paper bag blowing in the wind in American Beauty, how many beautiful things do you pass on the street every day of your life without ever noticing one of them?