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Hosting Angels Unaware

Pearls Before Breakfast

Each passerby had a quick choice to make, one familiar to commuters in any urban area where the occasional street performer is part of the cityscape: Do you stop and listen? Do you hurry past with a blend of guilt and irritation, aware of your cupidity but annoyed by the unbidden demand on your time and your wallet? Do you throw in a buck, just to be polite? Does your decision change if he's really bad? What if he's really good? Do you have time for beauty? Shouldn't you? What's the moral mathematics of the moment?

On that Friday in January, those private questions would be answered in an unusually public way. No one knew it, but the fiddler standing against a bare wall outside the Metro in an indoor arcade at the top of the escalators was one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made. 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 answer, which should have been obvious to anybody who's been in D.C. for any amount of time, is not just "No." but "Hell no!"

Be sure to watch the videos!

-The Gneech


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 9th, 2007 02:19 pm (UTC)
This is what I'm trying not to let this city do to me. What's the point of being financially successful if all you're doing with your time is trying to be more financially successful and you lose your soul?
Apr. 9th, 2007 02:36 pm (UTC)
I found the article fascinating, anyway. I could have told you the result myself, though, knowing how people in DC act. -Frisk
Apr. 9th, 2007 02:41 pm (UTC)
I think you're being a little too hard on D.C. As the article notes, it's all about context, and having a world class violinist busking is too out of context for most people. I wouldn't be surprised if the same thing would happen in any major city in the US.
Apr. 9th, 2007 03:06 pm (UTC)
See, that's why you don't see street musicians during a morning commute... try it again on the evening commute, or better yet on the mall on a nice Saturday or Sunday... Context is big, but for classical music, most people aren't willing to be late for work.

VH1 did a series of 'guerilla concerts' with famous bands randomly showing up somewhere unexpected to play a song or two. Those drew big crowds.
Apr. 9th, 2007 05:44 pm (UTC)
The bits about the people working there – the croissant shop guy, the shoe-shine lady – touched me most. And the line about the kids.

And re. the videos: d—n, but he sounded good, poor mic, low-bitrate encoding, dubious acoustics and all. D—n.
Apr. 9th, 2007 06:03 pm (UTC)
I'm wondering how different instruments might affected the experiment's outcome. Would a saxophone be more effective than a violin? How about a guitar?
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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