Tuesday, April 10, 2007

If No One Hears

Yesterday, I read a very interesting article in the Washington Post about Joshua Bell, who is an internationally acclaimed violin virtuoso. By "acclaimed," I mean he is indisputably one of the best classical musicians in the world. This year, he was the recipient of the Avery Fischer prize as the best classical musician in the U.S. (an award so prestigious, apparently, that one has not been awarded in three years.) This guy earns roughly $1000 a minute playing packed-out concert halls. He is just that good.

Back in January, the Post arranged for Bell to play during the busy morning at the L'Enfant Plaza stop on the D.C. Metro "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?" Bell donned jeans and a baseball cap, put a couple dollar bills in the violin case at his feet and played for about an hour as commuters went their busy ways.

Playing his $3.5million violin (handcrafted in 1713 by Antonio Stradivari himself), Bell played classic masterpieces "that have endured for centuries on their brilliance alone, soaring music befitting the grandeur of cathedrals and concert halls." Of the nearly 1,100 people who passed him as he played that hour, a few stopped to listen for a bit, twenty tossed some change his way, but most were so wrapped in up their commute they ignored him completely (I'm sure I would have done the same - talk about pearls before swine...) Interestingly enough, only one person out of over a thousand recognized him.

The article itself is fascinating - but equally interesting was Off The Wire's insight that this is "An Exquisite Picture of the Gospel." Bell was playing next to vending machines where folks would line up to buy lottery tickets, even during their busy commutes. Wireman observes:

As the article says, lotto tickets are hot items in the metro area. People spending their money on a chance to win a million or two, while a chance in a lifetime plays right before them. Hundreds of people walk by without even hearing a note. It is quite astounding.

One person recognized him and knew the worth of what she was hearing. One.


Allie said...

Reminds me of this verse:

"'We played the flute for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge
and you did not mourn.'"

Matthew 11:17

vandorsten said...

Allie... nice.

Travis said...

I wrote about this earlier this week as well...loved the article. But that's a great point I hadn't thought of, how easy it is to walk by the allure the Gospel and miss out on the truest beauty in eternity.

vandorsten said...

trav - so true. where did you post that?