The ex-reviewer sent across an interesting article about Joshua Bell's anonymous busking experiment with the Washington Post. Set up at a metro station in Washington D.C during rush hour, the point was to answer one fundamental question: "In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?"
Bell is regarded as one of America's, and perhaps amongst the world's, foremost classical violinists. He uses one of the most well-known violins ever made, one that he paid an unbelievable, staggering near 4 million USD for. I came across this incident a couple of months ago while randomly reading about busking. To be honest, I didn't pay it much attention but once you're done with the article, you can't help but see some of the significance of this experiment.
"Each passerby had a quick choice to make, one familiar to commuters in any urban area where the occasional street performer is part of the cityscape: Do you stop and listen? Do you hurry past with a blend of guilt and irritation, aware of your cupidity but annoyed by the unbidden demand on your time and your wallet? Do you throw in a buck, just to be polite? Does your decision change if he's really bad? What if he's really good? Do you have time for beauty? Shouldn't you? What's the moral mathematics of the moment?"
In the article, the music director of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, Leonard Slatkin, when hypothetically asked about the outcome of such an experiment, said it would be a hit in Europe, that a crowd would gather around. I can't help but wonder what sort of reaction Bell, or indeed anyone creating any manner of beauty, would have gotten in India where street performers aren't exactly in abundant supply. Especially not street performers doing Bach and Schubert — not really a part of the average national cultural experience. Does the experience of beauty transcend nation and culture? I wonder what it would have been like for him in Bombay, perhaps at the super busy Churchgate or Andheri stations at rush hour?
The full article is here and at the very end is a Q&A with the author, which is as interesting as the main article. Though the article contains streaming video, you might, like me, not be able to view it.