Joshua Bell Plays Multimillion Dollar Fiddle in D.C. Metro

Recent­ly a Wash­ing­ton Post staff writer, Gene Wein­garten, decid­ed to con­duct an usu­al exper­i­ment about high cul­ture. He talked one of the world’s finest vio­lin­ists, Joshua Bell, into tak­ing his mul­ti­mil­lion dol­lar fid­dle to the Wash­ing­ton D.C. metro and play­ing incog­ni­to for com­muters dur­ing the morn­ing rush hour. The result? Hard­ly any­one slowed down, let alone stopped to lis­ten. Wein­garten’s arti­cle explores what hap­pened in fas­ci­nat­ing detail and rais­es trou­bling ques­tions about how we expe­ri­ence free cul­ture. Does art only mat­ter when we enjoy it in the right con­text? After a few min­utes in the sub­way, Bell said his own expec­ta­tions were rad­i­cal­ly low­ered, to the point that he was sick­en­ing­ly grate­ful when some­one dropped a dol­lar instead of a quar­ter into his (mul­ti­mil­lion dol­lar) vio­lin case. Check out his amaz­ing per­for­mance (appar­ent­ly the acoustics were pret­ty good in the metro sta­tion):

You can lis­ten to the full ver­sion of Bel­l’s impromp­tu con­cert on the Wash­ing­ton Post web­site here. Inci­den­tal­ly, he went on to win the pres­ti­gious Avery Fish­er Prize this week. Mean­while Garten, the Wash­ing­ton Post writer who mas­ter­mind­ed the stunt, dis­cussed the expe­ri­ence on On the Media last Fri­day (iTunesFeedSite).

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