What do you have time for?

Time to listen?

A man entered the metro station in Washington DC one cold January morning in 2007 and started playing the violin. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time more than two thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle-aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the case and continued to walk.

A few minutes later a man leaned against the wall to listen, but soon looked at his watch and left.

The one who paid the most attention was a three-year-old boy. His mother hurried him along. Several other children also stopped to listen, but all the parents hurriedly moved them on.

In 45 minutes, only six people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave the musician money but continued to walk their normal pace. The man collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one applauded. The only person that spoke to him had recognised him.

The violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the top musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars handcrafted by Antonio Stradivari in 1713.

Two days before playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theatre in Boston, with ticket price of $100.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organised by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities.

In a common environment at an inappropriate hour:

Do we perceive beauty?

Do we stop to appreciate it?

Do we recognise the talent in an unexpected context?

Here’s the point: If we don’t have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing some of the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?



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