Friday, January 12, 2007, 7:51 am: The start of Joshua Bell’s 43-minute nightmare.
The idea: Bell, one of the world’s greatest violinists, busks for change as an incognito street entertainer in a Washington D.C. Metro subway station.
The audience: 1,000-odd, rush-hour passersby.
The result: Seven people stopped to listen to Bell. He collected a grand total of $32.17 from 27 people, excluding $20 from the one person who recognized him, thus having her hunger for celebrity fed.
Despite being an internationally acclaimed virtuoso and performing moving masterpieces on one of the most valuable violins ever made, Joshua Bell’s audience was blind to his performance, his idea.
That case study, an awkward and at times painfully humbling experience for Bell, was initiated by the Washington Post as an experiment in “context, perception and priorities,” and to assess whether beauty alone could engage and interest busy individuals.
Sadly, and despite the fact the Joshua Bell routinely enchants audiences worldwide with his breathtaking virtuosity, it could not.
There’s your modern day marketplace parable: Preoccupied, stressed out people; an exceptional, refined idea; and, in affect and effect, nothing. Nada.
A brilliant and meaningful idea, even if placed directly in people’s paths, is simply not enough to engage them today.
Please don’t delude yourself into believing that it is. The results will break your heart and your spirit.
Vision without action is a daydream.
Action without vision is a nightmare.
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