Joshua Bell and the experiment

Dateline: Mon 30 Apr 2007

Bloomington native and Indiana University alumni Joshua Bell -- the genius violinist -- participated in a fascinating experiment with the Washington Post recently. The article was excerpted and run in this week's editon of The Week magazine.

Bell, 39, wearing jeans, a long-sleeved black t-shirt and a baseball cap, showed up Jan. 12 at a Metro stop in Washington D.C. He took a violin from a small case (a $3.5 million Stradivarius) and proceeded to play for about 45 minutes.

He was largely ignored. "At a music hall, I'll get upset if someone coughs or if someone's cell phone goes off. But here, my expectations quickly diminished. I started to appreciate any acknowledgment, even a slight glance up. I was oddly grateful when someone threw a dollar instead of change."

Bell played 6 pieces as 1,097 people streamed by him. Only one man lingered to hear Bell's music. Several children tried to stop, but were pulled away by busy parents.

The experiment was based on a theory proposed in "Timeless Beauty," a book by British author John Lane. He wrote about "the loss of appreciation of beauty in the modern world. People still have the capacity to understand beauty...but beauty has become irrelevant to them."

The Week concludes" "...if the surge of modern life so overpowers us hat we can be oblivious to a world-class musician playing ome of the best music ever writte, then what else are we missing?"



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