Pearls Before Swine...er, Breakfast?
I knew that our population as a whole was drifting away from an appreciation of fine music and making its way towards the apathetic digestion of MP3 and spoon-fed label music. I knew this because of the many signs and indications we've seen along the way since the introduction of the iPod back in 2001.
What I didn't expect was that the general public could ignore a masterpiece when it was staring them in the face.
I was wrong.
The Washington Post, one of my favorite political and editorial rags, decided to see exactly how far we have gone away from appreciation of the fine arts. To provide the basis for this test, they hired none other than Joshua Bell - internationally acclaimed violin virtuoso to position himself at L'Enfant Plaza in downtown Washington DC.
The results are humbling and tell at least the partial story of why we will never EVER see a dedicated high resolution audio format ever again. It is unmarketable. Given the results of this test - there is no reason any company, manufacturer or industry organization should ever spend any serious efforts in deluding themselves that the public really wants high definition. They don't. And when a $100/ticket (cheap seats, mind you) artist is plunked down (with reasonable acoustics I might add) a scant 10 feet away, the resulting apathy is deadening.
I for one, can't say for a shadow of a doubt that I would have stopped to listen - but if past indication means anything I would have. Alas, to me this is a social commentary - not to be diverted by the whims of audio aficionados or enthusiasts.
Joshua Bell played for 45 minutes in downtown Washington DC near the metro and only seven people stopped what they were doing to hang around and take in the performance. Twenty-seven people gave a grand total of just over $32, most without breaking stride. That left, according to the Washington Post's count, 1,070 people who hurried by, oblivious to the performance, some only a few feet away.
A sad commentary indeed - but informative to those who wish to get a good look at where our society is and how our fast pace may be robbing us from even the smallest enjoyments of life itself.
Read the original article at the Washington Post.
Recent Forum Posts:
Put him on Time's Square and he'd make $300/hr from the tourists.
Central Park has a variety of FREE classical concerts during the summer and always have crowds.
I wouldn't have noticed Mr. Bell's special talents. Had I been in NY on that day, it would have been as a tourist. I love street musicians and definitely would've stopped. I'm sure I would've been impressed. But I probably wouldn't appreciate fully his special ranking as a musician. I don't know **** about classical.
Now if Ron Carter had been out there playing jazz bass, I would've been stopping strangers on the street to convince them that this guy is way better than the majority of jazz bassists in the world. I would've recognized his talent in a second. He's one of the musicians I've been using to test speakers as I've been recently shopping.
CD's are slightly less sound quality than vinyl, but the trade off of convenience is worth it for most. Mp3 is lower than CDs but the convenience trade off is worth it. Pirated mp3s are even worse. The world's most popular digital music player won't even expose the difference between a song ripped at 320 kbps and one much lower, ipod sound quality is worse than a decent CD walkman… but the convenience trade off…
The backlash is inevitable and already occurring. A recent local newspaper interviewed a small record store that's been selling fewer CDs but has seen a resurgence in vinyl sales.
Me, I'd have stopped! Unless I knew I'd get fired or miss an appointment I dare not miss, I wouldn't have blown a chance to see a legend play a $3 million dollar violin ten feet from me! And I'm familiar enough with him to be pretty sure I'd recognize Bell. Maybe I wouldn't if he sat next to me in a bar and ordered a beer, but combine the face with the sublime sound and you'd have a dead giveaway!
The majority of people who are going through a city train station have been ‘conditioned’ to ignore the bums, panhandlers, musicians, singers, and whatever else comes at them. This is magnified when trains are leaving every few minutes. When one has 15 minutes to wait for the next train, they relax and begin to pay more attention to their surroundings. When the next train is pulling up any minute you still feel pressed to reach your goal of getting on it.
The focus of attaining this goal leaves them predisposed to ignore the distractions that may otherwise nudge at their attention.
To really put forth an honest experiment they should have done something similar on a sidewalk. I think that more people would have listened to the music and spent a minute or two to stop and appreciate it.