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 (iTunes — Feed — Site).