World’s Greatest Violinist Plays to Subway Crowd

April 9, 2007

Joshua Bell

The Washington Post put together an amazing experiment on the power of context. They had Joshua Bell, a world-renowned violinist, perform in a Washington, DC metro station. He was ‘disguised’ as a regular street performer (i.e. he left the tux at home).

The article is a fascinating read and includes video of the experiment. During Bell’s hour long performance over a thousand people passed by, ignoring a performer who commands thousands of dollars a minute. Only a small handful of people took the time to stop and listen. As the article points out, context is everything. Looks like we’ll be handing out tuxes to all the Tropist signups from here on out.

- chris

(Thanks for the heads up David!)

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3 Responses to “World’s Greatest Violinist Plays to Subway Crowd”

  1. Gary Says:

    There is a great response to the Joshua Bell article by a NYC subway musician in her blog: http://www.SawLady.com/blog
    She interprets the situation differently from the Washington Post reporters… I thought you might find it interesting.

  2. tropist Says:

    Thanks for the heads up, it was quite interesting to read the perspective of a professional street performer!


  3. I’m guessing, at least, 1/3 of the people going through that area have headphones on and Bell wasn’t exactly positioned at a good waiting point. Gary, I bet the Saw Lady wouldn’t do much better in the same time/place. “Busking” is only part of the deal. . . . Chris, I’m glad that I noticed something that suits you. I enjoy your feed, daily, from my Google homepage.


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