Monday, April 09, 2007

Would YOU have recognized what you heard?

My favorite Washington Post writer, Gene Weingarten, had an incredible article in yesterday's Post Magazine. He got Joshua Bell, one of the world's foremost concert violinists, to play in Washington's L'Enfant Plaza Metro stop, on a Stradivarius violin, for 45 minutes on a January morning at rush hour. The results were not surprising to me: few people noticed the world-class artistry just a few feet away from them as they sped past on their way to work. Check out the videos embedded in the article and you can see what I mean. There's also a recording on the Post's web site of Bell's entire performance, which I highly recommend even if you put it on in the background and do something else. There's crowd noise and conversation in the background, but there's no mistaking Bell's talent. This man is clearly no ordinary street musician. Weingarten participated in an online chat this afternoon, which revealed how the Post arranged the performance. And the feedback from readers is quite interesting.

The sad thing is that if I'd been there that morning, I might have stopped for a few minutes to listen, but I doubt I'd have recognized Bell or even realized that he was anything other than a better-than-average musician. And I've heard Bell in concert before. Although if I'd happened by while he was playing Bach's Chaconne, I hope I would have paused. That's just one of the most beautiful pieces of music Bach ever wrote.

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