I was going through some old emails today, and I came across this Washington Post article that my friend Stephen emailed to me May 3rd, 2007:

“Pearls Before Breakfast: Can one of the nation’s great musicians cut through the fog of a D.C. rush hour?”

I don’t think I ever actually read the whole article until today. It’s very long–about 18 Microsoft Word pages–but it’s really, really good. It’s an experiment that the Post conducted: having Joshua Bell, one of the world’s greatest violinists, play in a busy Washington D.C. Metro station to see if anyone stops to listen:

“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?”

In addition to reporting on what happened and interviewing Bell and many of the passersby, the article reflects on the philosophy of beauty, comments on the intricacies of violin-making, and describes the pieces that Bell played. It’s very well-written, dramatic and poetic as well as journalistic, and it includes several video clips showing some of the people who stopped to listen and toss change (and many who didn’t). I would recommend reading the whole article, even if it takes a few sittings. It’s an interesting commentary on our culture, and an intriguing take on the human perception of beauty.



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