a wandering woman writes

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Rings a bell

I did a brief but energetic jota last week when I read that a story I blogged back in April about Joshua Bell's poor earnings as a busker in a DC metro station had earned a Pulitzer.

As I told the story in my original post:

"El País told me last week that during one hour in the metro station at L'Enfant Plaza in Washington DC, 1070 people rushed right by the violinist playing in his heart out. Twenty seven people threw him a coin, nickels, the odd quarter. He made a little over 32 dollars in that hour. Rush hour. One woman, a young employee of the US Commerce Department stopped, stared and listened. For an hour.

She recognized the violinist, since she'd seen him perform 3 weeks before in the Library of Congress.

The violin was a 1713 Stradivarius, and the 40ish man playing it, in baseball cap and jeans, was Joshua Bell.

Leonard Slatkin lost a bet in the whole deal, according to El País. He was sure a crowd would form, and 50 and 100 dollar bills would hit Bell's violin case.

Made me wonder what prodigies and wonders I walk by every day, going where I have to go, without ever knowing......"

I hadn't read the original story, Pearls Before Breakfast, written by Gene Weingarten for the Washington Post, but I'm delighted the prize led me to it.

Seems the Washington Post was behind the whole experiment:

"His performance was arranged by The Washington Post 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?"

The original article looks at the results from all sorts of view points and includes video clips of Bell playing while the harried crowd hurries by him and interviews with both Bell and manuy of the commuters who passed through the station that morning. It's pure pleasure to read and plenty of fun to chew on, afterwards, as well.

Heads up. There's beauty all around.


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