If Amazing Music Is Being Performed And No One Stops To Listen -Is It Being Heard?

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I teach a similar variant to this philosophical debate question in my Technology 221 class: “If a tree falls in a forest and no one (or thing) is there to hear it -did it make a noise?”  Of course it did…err… I mean in didn’t according to the third law of “what is a sound” (no reception, therefore no sound…).

Well, an OUTRAGEOUS “research experiment” was performed in the midst of downtown Washington D.C. that attempts to answer the title of this article… Joshua Bell, one of the foremost classical violin virtuosos of our time, was asked to pose as a common street musician and play for about an hour, at rush-time (8:00 a.m.), in the lobby of the L’ENFANT Plaza.  Yes, you read that right, Joshua Bell as a STREET musician!

The point of the research was to find out if “gorgeous and timeless” classical music, played by a virtuoso, on a peerless STRADIVARIUS violin, would stop people in their “tracks” and have them take notice.

The musicologists at my college are going to be “aghast” and “feign injury” when they hear the results.  In some ways, the results were shocking and in some ways, they were predictable (chances are you may or may not like the results! ;) ) Get it? No? … Moving on…

In summary, Joshua Bell (a child prodigy!), made in sum and total $32.00 in change and “tips” for this “stint”.  A far cry from the $100.00, “middle-of the road”, cost of the seat prices to see him in concert!  You won’t believe the humility of this man as he goes through 45 minutes of this “experiment”; Few people even acknowledged his existence, let alone his skill (I wrote an interesting article about the skills of a musician: Talented Musicians? Are We Simply Talented Or Is It Visible Mastery? ).

There are so many implications and thought provoking streams that this “study” will produce;   Some “off my top” thoughts to ponder: Does main-stream America really care about “classical music” anymore.  Are we so busy in our day-to-day, minute-to-minute, lives that we really don’t stop to “smell the flowers”.  What would have happened if, instead of Joshua Bell, we had a half-naked woman (or man?) in a bikini playing the violin?  Is the classical music that is part of our “canon” even “in” the culture of today’s main-stream working person?  Is the “common” person no longer aware of what true musical virtuosity is?  Are we still devaluing people  based on their appearance and circumstance.   And on an on…  Im still trying to “take this all in”. 

The full article (it’s long and a GREAT read) and video of the event can be found here:
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Kudos to Matt Mullenweg for sharing this GREAT FIND!  I might have missed this one for awhile without seeing it on his site! 

I’d love to hear your thoughts about the impact and implications of this “experiment”!  Please comment about this if you spent the time to read this here; expand the dialog! :) I would love to hear from you.

[tags] Joshua Bell, L’Enfant, Washington D.C., violin, experiment, Stradivarius, classical music [/tags]
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Joseph M. Pisano, Ph.D. is an industry innovator, education clinician and lecturer, trumpeter and conductor, and the creator of many education websites. He is currently the Vice President of Innovation and Engagement at Keystone Ridge Designs, Inc. After twenty-three years as a professor and administrator at Grove City College, he made the move into industry in 2018.  As one of the youngest full professors in Grove City’s history, he served in various roles over his tenure including the Technical Director of the Pew Fine Arts Center, Assistant and Associate Chairs of Music and Music and Fine Arts, Director of Music and Fine Arts Technology, Director of Jazz Studies, Stage Manager, and he finished his tenure as the Director of Bands where he directed the college’s Symphonic Concert Band, Wind Ensemble, Marching Band, Pep Bands, and various small ensembles.

He been named a TI:ME Teacher of the Year, received the JEN Jazz Educator Award, the PA Citation of Excellence, and named a “member for life” of the PA Intercollegiate Bandmasters Association. He is a past Vice President of the Technology Institute for Music Educators, an associate member of the American Bandmasters Association,  a past President of the PA Intercollegiate Bandmasters Association, and a member of various education and music honoraries. He has written for numerous publications including DCI Magazine, Teaching Music Magazine, and was the Educational Editor for In-Tune Monthly Magazine for eight years; he has contributed hundreds of articles to various publications. He is an active conductor, trumpeter, clinician, and educator. Find out more at his website jpisano.com.

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