Stuff I Found

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Josh Bell plays at L'Enfant Plaza

In an interesting experiment, the violinist Josh Bell performed at Washington DC's metro station, L'Enfant Plaza (which happened to have pretty good accoustics). The experiment was mainly to see how many people would take notice... after all, this is quite a famous musician here!

The result? Not a whole lot of people seemed to care. Most people didn't give him a second glance and walked on by.

Is this surprising? Personally I think it's not. I also believe the article and the entire intent behind the experiment is snobby rubbish. The article seems to imply that most people are just too dumb to recognize genius... though I think the result of the experiment just proves that success is not defined by talent alone.

Joshua Bell is very successful... but it's obviously not because he can draw crowds just by playing his violin. He obviously can't. So why do people buy his albums and tickets to his concerts? Why is he so darn successful, while there are many other talented people out there who just don't make it?

The point is this: success is not purely a result of talent. I've talked to classical music lovers who agree with this, but only when applied to celebrities they don't like, such as Britney Spears, or perhaps even a rich popular film composer like John Williams or Danny Elfman. But a lot of people look at highly successful "classical" performers or composers and jump to the snobby conclusion that it is all a result of their superb genius. And if you're trying to sell tickets and albums and make money, you might as well.

The hundreds of people who just walked right past Josh Bell show two things. Firstly, that no matter how famous Josh Bell might be to classical music lovers, he's just not that famous in general. More famous than most of us, certainly, but not a movie star. Secondly, classical music just isn't that popular. Duh. Do you really need an experiment to prove that? Sure, it's still a big industry, and opera tickets are sold out frequently, but in the big scheme of things, most people just prefer a different sort of music. Either that, or classical music lovers are really the dumber ones.

Those behind the experiment knew very well that not many people would notice, didn't they?


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