So Joshua Bell decides to dress ordinary and play in the Subway to see what happens. Everybody should recognize the celebrity, give him a ton of money and appreciate his playing, right? Of course this didn’t happen and everyone is in shock. How could we live in a society where we cannot appreciate true art? Can we not take the time out of our commute to listen?
I do not feel that this lack of appreciation or obvious recognition proves anything. First, the context of this experiement is very important. When you decide to go to a concert, you pay for your ticket, you may dress up, you may go to dinner or cocktails after, but most importantly, it is something you’ve decided to listen to. In our society (especially in larger cities) we have media, music, art thrown at as constantly. It is only a matter of survival to block some of this out. Otherwise, we would walk around like over stimulated zombies all the time, and many of us already do. The fact that this was in a large city also contributes to how much people will respond. If they were to try this in a smaller town (lets say our Saturday Market for example) where art isn’t constantly being thrown at us, they may have gotten a larger audience and more recognition.
Secondly, I want to point out that the difference between Joshua Bell and many other performers is going to be subtle. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to belittle what the “superstar” performers do. It’s just that many people won’t hear the differnence between him and another performer without extensive training in music or listening. The beauty of what he does compared to the average performer (be it in the subway or on the concert stage) would be the subtlties. I just can’t see that being recognized to someone who is preoccupied with getting to work. It may have made a considerable difference if it was the lunch hour or the afternoon.
I do think it’s important that our society gives people exposure to art and music. However, I also believe in the importance of choice. After someone has had the proper exposure to something, isn’t it wonderful that they can choose to make it important in their lives? It is equally wonderful that they can choose to never look or hear art again. That choice shouldn’t make them more or less of a person.