Ear of the Beholder

Fern wrote a really interesting post today. He referenced an old Washington Post article reporting on how world-renowned violinist Joshua Bell agreed to go busking in the L'Enfant Plaza train station in Washington D.C.

Suprisingly at first, Bell, who may well be the best violin player in the world today, and his $5.5 million Stradavarius failed to garner much attention in the busy station. In fact, the man who commands $1000 an hour in appearances made a scant 32 bucks in fourty-five minutes of playing.

I don't think it was a fair test* but that's not the point. How much do we really look outside the box of our preferences? How do we let new things in?

I think I'm fairly open as far as my musical tastes. Like Joan Jett, I love Rock and Roll. (And back in the day, I loved listening to Joan Jett) But that doesn't mean I don't love other things. I'll admit it, I like showtunes. I'm a sucker for a Rogers and Hammerstein musical. I like some classical - Vivaldi, Beethoven, Strauss. I'm really not that much into jazz, but I do like Big Band. I don't like country, but I like Southern Rock. I can't stand hip-hop.

New York has some of the best street musicians you will ever see. I saw a guy once on the Staten Island ferry who was simply mesmerizing. And they don't always play "my" kind of music. But I like to give them a listen anyway.

Earlier in the summer, a good friend invited me to an opera she was in. It was the first I'd seen since I was a kid, and the first my wife had ever been to. Granted it was La Boheme, which is as approachable as opera gets. But still, it was a complete change of pace, a different musical style. I may not be running out an buying the whole Puccini catalog, but I loved it, and so did my wife.

How often you you listen to something outside the box for you? Would you stop and listen to a talented street performer, even if it wasn't your "cup o' tea?" Is there anything in your musical collection that would surprise people who know you? (Like my Saw Doctors CD's)

*I replied to Fern's post on the Christian Musician Forum as to why I think the test was unfair:

...I can't imagine that I would during a morning commute. I've done
that deal, and generally, there are scant minutes to spare to catch your train
or subway. Most transit commuters I know are like me and have their
mornings timed down to the second. I'd be interested in seeing the effects
of an experiment like this on a weekend, when people are less bound by the
constraints of time. As beautiful as the the music is, I doubt it would
cause me to be willing to miss my train. But if I were not pressed, I might have
stood there all day.


  1. I like your reply.
    And to answer your questions - if the street musician is good or playing an unusual instrument I would stop to listen. Just today I bought a CD from a musical saw player in the subway. Her website is http://www.sawlady.com
    Funny that the CD you have which is unusual also has to do with 'saw' :)


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