Y'all are a bunch of wankers!

Top violinist nearly ignored in subway station


Famed musician Josh Bell and his Stradivarius gave a free, albeit unadvertised, concert in the Washington Metro.  Hardly anyone paid attention.

Very interesting examination of human behavior.
Permalink AMerrickanGirl 
April 7th, 2007 6:34pm
While I occasionally listen to classical, I'm not a fan enough to recognize him or the pieces he played.

I would have been one of the people to pass him by.
Permalink xampl 
April 7th, 2007 7:03pm
77,700 hits in Google, no wonder nobody stopped, nobody knew who he was (I assume the OP didn't know either?).

In either case, someone should update his Wikipedia entry.

"Had quarters tossed at him in the DC subway station" really should be on there.

Permalink Send private email Сергей РахманиноB 
April 7th, 2007 7:03pm
The story would've been better if a police officer came along and asked him for his permit, and then smashed his violin for giving him backtalk.
Permalink Michael B 
April 7th, 2007 7:08pm
If he was driving a BMW, they would have stopped for him because the world's best violinists drive BMW's.
Permalink Send private email Michael V 
April 7th, 2007 7:10pm
I didn't really like the pieces he played. Sue me.
Permalink Me 
April 7th, 2007 7:51pm
The article's too long, and written in an annoying "wait 'til you hear what happens next" tone that doesn't work because nothing exciting happens.  So maybe I missed something while skimming it, but it just doesn't seem like a  big deal.  How many people are really up on classical music these days?  How many people even listen to classical music?
Permalink Send private email Ward 
April 7th, 2007 8:10pm
I do.
Permalink Colm 
April 7th, 2007 8:13pm
The question is, do you have to know the tune in order to appreciate his technique and abilities?

I'm convinced that people don't know music, period.  If they did, place, time, context wouldn't matter.

It is appalling how completely ignorant Americans are.  It explains why hip-hop is so popular--black people figured out how to exploit the utter ignorance of the populace.

You don't have to like the music to appreciate the incredible ability that guy has.

WTF.  I'm embarrassed more and more every day to be an American.
Permalink Send private email sharkfish 
April 7th, 2007 9:21pm
When I lived in NYC, sometimes violinists from Juilliard would play in the subway, and I would always stop and listen and marvel at their talent.

Good music is good music.  Too bad people don't pay attention to what's going on around them.
Permalink AMerrickanGirl 
April 7th, 2007 9:35pm
Idiocracy; watch it, learn it, get used to it.
Permalink Bot Ubuntu 
April 7th, 2007 9:51pm
On another note; if I were a top violinist and wanted to really play, I would be annoyed at a bunch of random ass people staring at me up close.  I might have to close my eyes or something.
Permalink Bot Ubuntu 
April 7th, 2007 9:52pm
Why would he be annoyed?  He agreed to play in the subway - what did he expect?
Permalink AMerrickanGirl 
April 7th, 2007 9:54pm
You should have scrolled to the end.

When it was over, Furukawa introduced herself to Bell, and tossed in a twenty. Not counting that -- it was tainted by recognition -- the final haul for his 43 minutes of playing was $32.17. Yes, some people gave pennies.

"Actually," Bell said with a laugh, "that's not so bad, considering. That's 40 bucks an hour. I could make an okay living doing this, and I wouldn't have to pay an agent."

Let me get this straight.

They chose a subway station.

They chose the entrance of the subway station.

They chose morning rush hour - the one time of day everyone has to be somewhere.

They chose the one train station in America where most of the people passing by work for the government.

He played for 43 minutes.

He made $50+.

One person recognized him (that they know of).

Very few people stopped.

Everyone seems to think this is an indictment of American culture.

Dana, sharkfish - how many subway performers who are standing at the entrance of the subway at 8:30AM did you stop for?
Permalink Send private email Сергей РахманиноB 
April 7th, 2007 9:55pm
If they can play, I stop, give them some change, period.  If they suck, I walk on by.
Permalink Send private email sharkfish 
April 7th, 2007 9:56pm
The classical violinists I give at least a dollar.  Change seems so paltry.
Permalink AMerrickanGirl 
April 7th, 2007 9:57pm
At the entrance to the subway, while you're late to work?
Permalink Send private email Сергей РахманиноB 
April 7th, 2007 10:00pm
>Everyone seems to think this is an indictment of American culture.

But why? I mean, really, wtf?

*thunderous roll of the eyes*
Permalink Get Over Yourselves Already 
April 7th, 2007 10:15pm
He picked up 5 people completely stopped and watching him by the end as you can see in the video.

This story not surprising and is in no one a cultural indictment. It's rush hour. That subway station isn't particularly frequented by tourists. This is the life of busking. He did pretty well for only an hour. I hear lots of great performances on the streets of our cities. Sometimes people stop for a bit, but the purpose of the subway is to get where you're going, not to stop and listen.

Up on the mall in front of the smithsonian on a weekend is a better location if you want an audience, or at the various monuments.
Permalink Practical Economist 
April 7th, 2007 10:18pm
Am I supposed to feel guilty for ignoring a street performer? 

Stupid that I can't perceive talent?

Uneducated because I don't recognize the music?
Permalink Michael B 
April 8th, 2007 12:01am
it's no surprise. I've seen some pretty good musicians in teh street being ignored. It's hardly the environemnt for violin sonatas.

Playing in the street is a lot more about showmanship and a lot less about music. Average Joe doesn't know good music from the hole in his arse. Fact.
Permalink $-- 
April 8th, 2007 5:46am
I've seen violinists in the Paris metro play Bach duets and pick up a fortune (like three days pay each for half-an-hour's work). But they didn't choose the rush hour and didn't play near the entrance on a freezing cold day.
Permalink Send private email Stephen Jones 
April 8th, 2007 12:47pm
I was a street musician for a while (in the south of france). Standing any place and just passively playing is a mugs game. Some days you'll do OK (say 50, 60 bucks an hour), many days you won't (20). Even if you're good.

The way to do it is to have a short (10-15 min) set, with a bit of singing, finger snapping, preferablt some patter or sight gags, play a terrace and then hit them with the hat. Then do another.

You can get anything from 20 to 80 bucks for 1 ten minute stint, and if you work a line of terraces with a different routine for each, it can sort of multiply as you work along - if your act is really good.

If you move from town to town like this, you can make nice money. Guys that are into more interactive stuff (like magicians) really clean up though, as they have more communication, and less people to share with than most bands. Also bands usually fall foul of infighting and stuff in the end.
Permalink $-- 
April 8th, 2007 3:44pm
I didn't say it was an indictment of American culture.  I said it was an interesting look at human behavior (didn't specify whether I thought it was good or bad behavior, BTW).

And when I heard good musicians in the subway, I would always stop if I had time, or regret that I could not on the days when time was short.

Hearing beautiful music from a person of great talent always elevated my mood.
Permalink AMerrickanGirl 
April 8th, 2007 4:01pm
The angle I was thinking about was just the idea that orchestra musicians should busk. That would be a good thing for both them and the general public. Public gets free entertainment and culture and the busker gets a great reality check and exposed to real people.

I also think that busking and panhandling in public areas should be protected by a constitutional amendment, or the right to seek voluntary donations gathered under free speech by court precedent.

Unfortunately, the article didn't cover this at all.

It was also annoying that they did not have any complete excerpts of pieces from the performance since the guy was totally awesome, and likely the best in the world as it is said.

If I were him, I never would have taken the world's most valuable Stradivarius into the subway though. Doing that regularly would eventually lead to tragedy.
Permalink Practical Economist 
April 8th, 2007 5:07pm
I also worried about the Stradivarius in the subway.  All it would take was one lunatic, and you've got kindling.
Permalink AMerrickanGirl 
April 8th, 2007 5:35pm
PE, not really. I mean, you do see string quartets and stuff sometimes, in central london. Mostly students making extra dosh and so on. But few would choose the outdoors over a decent indoor location.

But outdoors in the city sucks for music, especially classical music. Classical music has dynamic range. City centres have so much background noise you end up playing at nearly full volume all the time. Also playing music is physically and mentally demanding, you have fumes and variable weather/temperature to deal with.

A better idea is to let people play in the foyers of big art galleries, and so on. Some of them do book musicians for that.
Permalink $-- 
April 8th, 2007 6:54pm
and busking and panhandling are such different things ... they really shouldn't be categorised together at all.
Permalink $-- 
April 8th, 2007 6:55pm
In both cases you are asking for money in a public place. I don't think we should give musicians the right to beg without a license without giving the genuinely poor the same rights.
Permalink Practical Economist 
April 8th, 2007 9:02pm
well, you should include market traders and charity collectors then.
Permalink $-- 
April 9th, 2007 2:29pm
Permalink Practical Economist 
April 9th, 2007 6:55pm

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