Fascinating article in the Washington Post about an informal experiment in music appreciation (or rather, depreciation). Violinist Josh Bell played the role of nondescript street musician at rush hour in D.C.'s L'Enfant Plaza.
The idea was to see how morning commuters would react to the finest fiddle playing with all the trappings of The Concert Performance abstracted away. The result--not so much:
"It was a strange feeling, that people were actually, ah . . ."
The word doesn't come easily.
". . . ignoring me."
Bell is laughing. It's at himself.
"At a music hall, I'll get upset if someone coughs or if someone's cellphone 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 in a dollar instead of change." This is from a man whose talents can command $1,000 a minute.
I've got to say, when I lived in Germany I got more audience reaction (and money) than Bell when I'd practice tenor sax in the U-Bahn. And I ain't no Josh Bell of the tenor, let me tell you.
(So now I don't know whom to think worse of--the Americans who ignored Bell's playing, or the Germans who paid mine inordinate attention.)