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C-c-c-combo breaker! April 8, 2007 10:18 PM   Subscribe

Okay. We've seen it. Now stop. The Pearls Before Breakfast piece has now been posted six times (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) in the last 32 hours. Is this a new record?
posted by Rhomboid to MetaFilter-Related at 10:18 PM (167 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

Wow.
posted by Many bubbles at 10:27 PM on April 8, 2007


I cannot believe you dragged Killer Instinct into this.
posted by phaedon at 10:27 PM on April 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


How many sides does a rhomboid exhibit?
posted by Rumple at 10:27 PM on April 8, 2007


I'll stop to listen when I have more time, the guy seems to be there pretty much non-stop.

(The shoe shine lady must be out of her gourd by now, number of times this dude shows up to play.)
posted by maxwelton at 10:29 PM on April 8, 2007


These pearls.....they vibrate?
posted by Ufez Jones at 10:33 PM on April 8, 2007


James Brown got a lot of love. Not sure how much, but there were at least four. But this—yes. Wow. Heckuva job, all around.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:35 PM on April 8, 2007


Encore! Encore!
posted by gomichild at 10:40 PM on April 8, 2007


Wow, I guess washingtonpost.com's URL structure allows for a zillion different variables that can't easily be grabbed as a double.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:41 PM on April 8, 2007


Am I the only one who found the assumptions and the conclusions made by this particular "test" completely tooth-gnashingly annoying? The not-so-subtle disdain shown for all the people who seemingly didn't "appreciate" the great music with either time or money as if maybe getting to work or to pick up their kids was somehow more important...
If we can't take the time out of our lives to stay a moment and listen to one of the best musicians on Earth play some of the best music ever written; if the surge of modern life so overpowers us that we are deaf and blind to something like that -- then what else are we missing?
The whole thing is just dripping with casual snobbery as if there really is some sort of objective measure of beauty and/or truth and that once and for all we can point our fingers at people who don't get it and say "see, look at these philistines..." And yet the article clearly had some breakthrough quality to all the people who read it and were moved by it. I'm a little baffled.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:43 PM on April 8, 2007 [24 favorites]


Thanks, jessamyn. I stayed out of the thread(s), but those were my feelings exactly.
posted by mediareport at 10:46 PM on April 8, 2007


(I especially loved the way they deliberately avoided music that might be familiar to people as a test of their ability to be moved by "greatness." Ugh.)
posted by mediareport at 10:47 PM on April 8, 2007


So it looks like six may be a record, yes: James only (!) managed five, though the first three happened within thirty seconds of each other. Take that, swinepearls!

It was an interesting end to 2006 for deathish doublepostery in general. First you have James throwing in the towel the first four times: 1, 2, 3, 4.

Then Gerald Ford dies twice: A, B.

Not to be outdone, James manages then to die again.

And then, shortly thereafter, Saddam Hussein kicks it four times: I, II, III, IV.

All in all, a weird goddam xmas.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:52 PM on April 8, 2007 [8 favorites]


jessamyn, I completely agree. As someone who lives in DC and walks past buskers all the time, I rarely if ever stop. That is because I am usually on my way to work or school and often running late and don't have time to stop to listen. Unlike NY, they aren't in the subway itself, where you have nothing else to do sometimes but listen to them. In DC, they are always at the entrances and exits. And being inundated with buskers (although it is not as prevalent as in NY) every day inures me to even noticing them. If they replaced some boring ad in the metro with an actual Picasso, I bet I wouldn't notice because I tune out the things I see every single day.

The author of the piece is an ass.
posted by Falconetti at 10:53 PM on April 8, 2007


And yet the article clearly had some breakthrough quality to all the people who read it and were moved by it. I'm a little baffled.

I think the people who posted it would either count themselves among the casual snobs even if they reel from that term. I notice many of the comments in the original thread were of the form "Well, ahem, I am one of those people who stop to listen..."

Or, they would feel the need to defend themselves as to why they wouldnt have stopped on their morning commute. (on preview: as Falconetti has done here.)

Its divisive. Its a stunt. Perfect weblog fodder.
posted by vacapinta at 11:01 PM on April 8, 2007


I'm guessing it might have been posted so many times because the original post presents it in a completely opaque way. No way to tell from that post, title or body, what the hell the link is about.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:05 PM on April 8, 2007


though, ok, the tags are informative at least.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:06 PM on April 8, 2007


though, ok, the tags are informative at least.

Actually, I just added those a few minutes ago, The original post just had the tag "music."

Man, just thinking about that article annoys me now.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:14 PM on April 8, 2007


This may be the first time I've seen a negative reaction to a Gene Weingarten article. He's the best writer at the post, by far.
posted by empath at 11:31 PM on April 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


I really wanted to hate that article, but I was too busy buying lottery tickets.
posted by mullacc at 11:32 PM on April 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


i, too, agree with jessamyn. Especially because the pice itself mentions the importance of context when viewing a work of art but promptly dismisses it with more snobby anecdotal nonsense.

The thing that especially drives me crazy in the article is that it doesn't once note the following:

we hear classical music, if we hear it at all, only as it's played by virtuosos and geniuses. Perhaps we were involved in a high school orchestra and so were privy to the horrific mutilations of exceedingly simple pieces at one time, or maybe you heard some guy on a subway massacre something (and even that's a rare occurrance) but on a whole our understanding of classical music is from the albums we hear played in bookstores and larger music chains or restaurants. Your average joe who isn't a musician or involved in some form of the business of music only ever hears masters doing true justice to the music. For the vast majority of us that still has not been enough to cause more than the odd Moonlight Sonata to resonate with us. The idea that it should resonate enough to give us pause during a hurried commute in a poor venue is patently absurd. If we hear a virtuoso really nail a piece, we don't hear the virtuosity. We just hear the same piece we've always yawned at and ignored because we've always heard it played by virtuosos.

Perhaps there would have been something to this article if it had acknowledged whatever it is in our lives and the society around us that simply does not make room or time for this music, whether we're in a rush to get to work or in the comfort of our living room, and explored THAT... then maybe this would have been more than a stunt. and I say this as someone who does not listen to or have any real appreciation for classical music.
posted by shmegegge at 11:44 PM on April 8, 2007 [11 favorites]


also, what was that bit where he claims to have the REAL lowdown on the meaning of "Just Like Heaven?" For christ's sake.
posted by shmegegge at 11:45 PM on April 8, 2007


Put it on the sidebar. People who won't search first will see it and it will cut down on the postings.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:57 PM on April 8, 2007


And yet the article clearly had some breakthrough quality to all the people who read it and were moved by it. I'm a little baffled.

FWIW, in discussions with non-MeFi friends who have been musing on this story in their journals, the story seems to be resonating with some folks on a level of "wow, I do have a bit of a tendency to be numb to beauty and random experiences in daily life: this is a great reminder to stop and smell the roses". Many of them had much the same sorts of criticisms that have been raised here about the setup and tone of the article, but they were taking some inspiration from it in spite of the icky-snobbery tone.

As for comments of the "I would have liked to stop" variety -- well, I made one in that first post, but it wasn't with the intention of making myself look better than all those philistines -- it was pointing out what I thought was the unfairness of the setup, putting on the experiment at a time and place where much of the potential audience is under real-world pressure to get to work on time. I wasn't trying to ally myself with the snobs, but to express sympathy with all the other working stiffs the article seemed to be sneering at. So they quoted a few folks who didn't stop and weren't interested in stopping until they were told what they missed -- how many other people in that crowd could have been longing to stop but rushing to clock in? And how do we know that the interviewers didn't get some comments to that effect which weren't quoted?

Yeah, I lived in DC, and at times when I wasn't rushing to get to work or doctor's appointments or anything else with a firm schedule, I liked to stop and listen to buskers. That's not because I'm somehow better or more artistically sensitive or musically knowledgable than the non-stoppers -- I wouldn't have recognized Bell, wouldn't have known by sight that the instrument was a Strad, wouldn't have been able to identify the piece being played. No, I would have stopped, if able to do so, simply because I like music, and one of the things I liked most about pedestrian life in the city was the freedom to just stop for a minute or two and enjoy an interesting shiny distraction. Sometimes those distractions were odd graffiti, or an interesting store window display, or a wedding party spilling out of a church, or a cute stray cat...sometimes those distractions were buskers.

And as for the shoeshine lady quoted in the article, griping about how nobody stopped when the homeless guy died in the station -- well, back when I was living in the city, I twice came across homeless-looking guys that had blacked out and tipped out of their wheelchairs. The first time was in the middle of the day, on a grubby commercial strip in Shaw. I stopped, as did at least a dozen other people; folks were coming out of barbershops and other small businesses across the street, calling 911 on their cellphones, trying to get the guy to talk, or just stopping to ask if he was OK. The second time was also in Shaw, and I was apparently the first and only one to notice a guy flat on his face next to a tipped-over wheelchair -- but I wasn't surprised at the lack of a crowd, as it was fairly late at night and I was walking my dog through an out-of-the-way alley between a parking lot and a row of burnt-out buildings. He was out cold and I didn't have a cell phone in those days, so the pup and I went trotting out to a busier street in search of a pay phone -- a cop car passed before I saw a phone, so I just wound up flagging them down for help instead.

Hell, for that matter, I broke my leg in a freakish accident one evening, out walking with the dog again -- and good Samaritans came out of the woodwork. People came out of their homes from across the street, people stopped their cars and got out -- somebody called for an ambulance, another person got my name and home phone number and called my then-boyfriend to tell him where I was and what happened, somebody else took my dog's leash and walked him around until my SO and some friends showed up, and other folks just stood around talking to me and holding my hand until the ambulance came. Total strangers, each and every one of them.

This was in the very same park where I got the creepy bestiality come-on mentioned elsewhere in MeTa.

Cities are like that. You can find evidence of dehumanization and disregard for beauty -- or you can find wonderful examples of human compassion. It probably depends where and when you look...and what you're looking for.

posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 12:18 AM on April 9, 2007 [5 favorites]


No Jessamyn, you're not alone.
posted by davy at 1:35 AM on April 9, 2007


The whole thing is just dripping with casual snobbery as if there really is some sort of objective measure of beauty and/or truth and that once and for all we can point our fingers at people who don't get it and say "see, look at these philistines..." And yet the article clearly had some breakthrough quality to all the people who read it and were moved by it. I'm a little baffled.

Yeah I thought so too. I commented but it was so late in the first thread I didn't really bother getting into detail. I even thought the way they described the instrument as being over the top. If you read the quotes from Bell, it's clear he doesn't share the author's overall snobbery.

But yeah the article was absolutely dripping with elitism.
posted by delmoi at 1:47 AM on April 9, 2007

mathowie: Wow, I guess washingtonpost.com's URL structure allows for a zillion different variables that can't easily be grabbed as a double.
I'm not sure how doubles are checked for, but if you strip the query string then the URL in four of the five posts (one didn't actually post a link to the article in question, oops) are identical.
posted by Doofus Magoo at 3:12 AM on April 9, 2007


I'm pretty sure the last 2 or 3 were done on purpose. I (remarkably) managed to exercise restraint on this score. I know! I don't believe it either.
posted by Eideteker at 3:18 AM on April 9, 2007


Or you could just block all links to domains that have been linked before. We've seen wapo.com before, and don't particularly need to see it again. Not the best of the webs.
posted by Eideteker at 3:20 AM on April 9, 2007


I went and downloaded the 16MB Chaconne piece to revel in its wondrousness, but there is no way that slow dirge of a tune would be able to distract commuters from their commute. A good busker has to be a showman, and song selection is part of showmanship.
posted by planetkyoto at 3:36 AM on April 9, 2007


Yeah, I can't stand classical music snobbery.

It's especially grating here since it's fairly clear from the videos why the majority of people are walking by: there are some horribly scratched notes thanks to excess bow pressure, poor expression of the pulse and phrasing in the spread chord sections, and intonation that leaves much to be desired, particularly during the pedal-note double-stopping.
posted by chrismear at 3:38 AM on April 9, 2007 [7 favorites]


perhaps. yet his ambient informatics were exquisitely ubiquitous.
posted by quonsar at 4:15 AM on April 9, 2007 [3 favorites]


I agree with jessamyn that a lot of subway commuters wouldn't stop for just about anything. When I'm in a tube station I usually don't want anything else other than to get out fast. If put Joshua Bell in really scruffy clothes and put him on the National Mall or something I think they would find a much bigger crowd, since it is a place where people with time congregate.
posted by grouse at 4:51 AM on April 9, 2007


I agreed with Jessamyn as well, but didn't feel like getting into in the thread, for whatever reason.

I felt like the writer had never been a commuter.

The bit about the iPod wearer blew me away. How dare he wear his iPod and shut out the slim possiblity of transcendent music at 9 in the morning!
posted by miss tea at 5:18 AM on April 9, 2007


The bit about the iPod wearer blew me away. How dare he wear his iPod and shut out the slim possiblity of transcendent music at 9 in the morning!

And how do they know this guy wasn't listening to Joshua Bell on his iPod?

Archie Bell and the Drells? The Joshua Tree?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:42 AM on April 9, 2007


Tall and handsome, he's got a Donny Osmond-like dose of the cutes, and, onstage, cute elides into hott.

[vomit]

What an asshole. "Did you listen to the violinist? No? Well, aren't you a jerk, 'cause he's FAMOUS."
posted by desuetude at 6:02 AM on April 9, 2007


Every day I encounter people who refuse to acknowledge how incredibly awesome I am. Philistines!
posted by OmieWise at 6:11 AM on April 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think that the writer of the article has forgotten that people have the ability to listen to music by virtuosos wherever and whenever they want due to the wonders of the phonograph, the 8-track, the record, the minidisc, the cassette tape, the compact disc, the mp3, and the like.

If I hear someone playing awesome original music on the subway, and I'm not in a hurry, I might stop to listen.

If I hear someone playing awesome non-original music that I may well own in some format, why the hell should I stop to listen in a crowded, stinky, noise, drafty subway station, instead of just thinking "ya know, that guy put me in the mood for some Chaconne. I'ma gonna listen to me some when I get home, in my comfy couch, with a drink in hand and my feet propped up."
posted by Bugbread at 6:35 AM on April 9, 2007


he should have played Freebird!
posted by blue_beetle at 6:36 AM on April 9, 2007


The fact that 6 people think the story is worthy of making a front page post, it's obvious that this violinist struck a chord.
posted by Dave Faris at 6:41 AM on April 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


This must have been the first time I have seen the adjective "hott" in a major respectable publication. It won't be long before it makes it into the OED.
posted by grouse at 6:43 AM on April 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


Man, just wait until they get Eddie Van Halen to play a vintage Stratocaster in the subway at 9 am!
posted by klangklangston at 6:45 AM on April 9, 2007


it's obvious that this violinist struck a chord.

Oh you are in so much trouble.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:52 AM on April 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


oh for christ's sake
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:01 AM on April 9, 2007


Seems like more people are going to see and post this today, on monday.
posted by delmoi at 7:02 AM on April 9, 2007


well, go figure. it's a great link here, and it's repeat just proves it.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 7:02 AM on April 9, 2007


Hee! I just saw that. Also it's been double posted on MonkeyFilter as well.....
posted by gomichild at 7:03 AM on April 9, 2007


Doofus Magoo: I'm not sure how doubles are checked for, but if you strip the query string then the URL in four of the five posts (one didn't actually post a link to the article in question, oops) are identical.

But stripping the query string isn't a safe, general-purpose solution. For example, consider the hypothetical http://www.interestingarticles.com/article.php?id=100.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 7:40 AM on April 9, 2007


What pissed me off was that The Washington Post squandered such a great opportunity. They procured the services of a great musician and get him to play in a subway station? Why not ask him to play in a park or a square, in a mall, even? Anywhere people might actually want to stop, and have the time, to listen and enjoy. Who likes hanging around in subway stations?
posted by normy at 7:47 AM on April 9, 2007


Well you can't have snobbery can you. That would be, like, so unfair.

But that experiment is terribly annoying because it violates basic economic logic: why would people pay for music they've already heard? That's just crazy. And then there are all the class issues involved. But I suppose it would have to appeal people in a kind of 'what consumer experiences are you missing' way. Maybe instead of roving from new restaurant to new restaurant kites will start looking for the latest, hottest busker.
posted by nixerman at 7:49 AM on April 9, 2007


We as a society are dumbed down musically. Also, context is everything. Our brains are not wired to expect a virtuoso busking. And most people don't know what excellence really sounds like.

American Idol, anyone?
posted by konolia at 7:50 AM on April 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


American Idol, anyone?

Go Sanjaya, go!
posted by ericb at 8:00 AM on April 9, 2007


konolia: "We as a society are dumbed down musically. ... American Idol, anyone?"

Wow, I've never really thought about that. American Idol as an archetype of droll mass-produced pop music? Now that's a new angle. Perhaps you could write more about this unique point of view, konolia? I think we'd all be interested to hear it.
posted by Plutor at 8:11 AM on April 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


oh hey, didn't anna nicole smith's death get more doubles than this? or am I thinking of many many posts on the same TOPIC from different SOURCES? i forget.
posted by shmegegge at 8:34 AM on April 9, 2007


In the city where Gerald Ford was president, Anna Nicole Smith recently died on the Metro while Joshua Bell was playing James Brown-meets-Saddam Hussein on a portabello mushroom and NO ONE FROM METAFILTER STOPPED TO SIDEBAR IT....
posted by mattbucher at 8:39 AM on April 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


mattbucher, I can't help but imagine Hal Douglas doing the voiceover for that.
posted by Dr-Baa at 8:45 AM on April 9, 2007


normy: Why not ask him to play in a park or a square, in a mall, even? Anywhere people might actually want to stop, and have the time, to listen and enjoy.

Because they didn't want people to listen and enjoy. They wanted to write this self-righteous piece.

I don't know about D.C., but in NYC, good musicians in a park will draw a crowd, if the weather is nice.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 8:47 AM on April 9, 2007 [3 favorites]


planetkyoto: "A good busker has to be a showman, and song selection is part of showmanship."

I just commented about this in the original thread. Bell's performance is really bad form as busking goes and it's kind of sad, too, because he's a really, really great fiddle player with excellent taste in music. He was totally set up. Go to his website, click on "music," and scroll halfway down the page to the Heartland Anthology. my god what awful web design... He's quite familiar with good music that earns money on the street.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:51 AM on April 9, 2007


"Because they didn't want people to listen and enjoy. They wanted to write this self-righteous piece."

Amen.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:51 AM on April 9, 2007


What annoys me about the article is the buildup. It's like a lot of recent nonfiction - interesting topic, but fully half of the effort of the article is going into extended puffing-up of "get ready - brace yourself for the interesting facts to come, that only I your author have plucked from their obscurity - notice how interesting this topic is - Kant has something to say about how interesting this topic is- etc". I want to shake the writer and say, "ok, ok, I know it's interesting, that's why I'm reading for sweet mercy's sake. Now just tell me what happened already, or get out of my face."

That's actually what I find annoying about the way that first link is described too. Yes, I know that your link is supposed to be thought provoking. Want to tell me what it is so I can decide whether I'm interested in thinking about that topic right now?
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:52 AM on April 9, 2007 [3 favorites]


Sometimes, when I'm in the library, I look up and see all the other people sitting quietly alone reading the newspapers or browsing magazines and I think, what would it be like if a 50's musical or a Pepsi commercial suddenly broke out here? What if the tall good-looking kid over there jumped up on his table, swept his laptop and his books off onto the floor with one pass of his leg, grabbed the cute girl passing by and tugged her up onto the table with him, started singing of his love in a clever tribute to all the major divisions of the Dewey Decimal System? What if then that group of Japanese exchange students from the nearby private college, dressed alike in the white untucked shirts and loosened ties of their uniforms, started circling the table in a dance that reflected with subtle nod their eastern heritage? Then, would the rest of us join in? Would the guys who hang around the library to escape their dingy rooms grab the reference librarians and the purple haired pouty youngsters and waltz them through the stacks? Would the genealogists in the local history room toss away their canes and run and jump across the floor like they were twenty again? What if we all just DARED TO LIVE? But that never happens either.
posted by TimTypeZed at 8:59 AM on April 9, 2007 [9 favorites]



Am I the only one who found the assumptions and the conclusions made by this particular "test" completely tooth-gnashingly annoying?


No, you were not. I was barely able to read the article because of that. Every other paragraph was laden with the assumption "You poor, uneducated schmucks. Wow, I feel so sorry for you. You're so dumb. So unappreciative. Hell, let's get down to it and just take everyone that didn't stop to listen out back and shoot them in the head."
posted by smallerdemon at 9:00 AM on April 9, 2007


TimTypeZed, At least we have this.
posted by Dr-Baa at 9:02 AM on April 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


Dr-Baa, that link was super! The dude's a better performer, but it doesn't work until the second person joins in, and then it's wonderful! Thanks.
posted by cgc373 at 9:40 AM on April 9, 2007


There used to be an old guy playing the erhu on the 6 platform at Grand Central during late rush hour and into the evening for years. He looked a lot like Deng Xiaopeng, and was far and away the most skilled and nuanced erhu player I'd ever heard. It's an instrument that, like the violin, captures the timbre of the human singing voice, and even if you're not familiar with classical or vernacular Chinese music, the long glissandos and sharp changes in dynamics match perfectly with the cadences and tonality of spoken Chinese.

I often stopped to listen to the old erhu player, in part because I thought the train platform was an excellent place to listen to the instrument being played. The acoustic properties of a tunnel, with a lively set of vertical and lateral echoes and an endless sound-suck in front and behind seem to extend the resonating body of the erhu down the length of the platform. Very few instruments can inhabit a crowded platform so well.

And what music! I would close my eyes and imagine myself places I'd never been, in deep wet ravines looking up to bare mountains, sudden shifts of color as silk ribbons floated on a pulsing breeze, wrapped themselves on currents of air; a descending pattern would feel like dancing hands alternately mussing and straightening my clothes, and the wind, always the wind, ever-present, whether in smooth curls and legato stretches or in the rustling whicker of a half-staccato half-arpeggio, the wind would carry on.

On a few occasions, a woman several years older than me attended the old man, and by their looks and manners I took her to be his daughter. When I asked her about him, she told me that 40 years ago, her father was the greatest player of his generation, a national treasure on the mainland, but because of an aristocratic forebear, was forced to flee and eventually established a family, and a family laundry business, near Chinatown. His family was large enough and he was old enough to retire from the day-to-day business, and he would take his erhu to the station and play for the love of playing. On the way home he would donate the money he made to a temple and pray for the success and happiness of his children and grandchildren.

During a break from playing, he explained to me, through his daughter translating, that he played there for two reasons, mainly. The subway platform had the best acoustics for erhu he'd ever heard, and the bustle of the rush hour crowd brought him back to his youth. He could close his eyes and imagine himself places he had been, forty years younger.

I haven't seen him there for a few months, but there is a younger man, who doesn't play quite as beautifully but is still worth a stop and a listen, playing at different stops up and down the 6 line, filling the endless hallways with the teardrop strains of memory and imagination.
posted by breezeway at 9:54 AM on April 9, 2007 [15 favorites]


I agree with jessamyn and the others, the attitude in the article made me angry as I read it. Then I started imagining it was one of fraiser crane's droning monologues, it made it much easier to read.
posted by necessitas at 10:10 AM on April 9, 2007


TimTypeZed: there is also this.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:13 AM on April 9, 2007


Wow, I've never really thought about that. American Idol as an archetype of droll mass-produced pop music? Now that's a new angle. Perhaps you could write more about this unique point of view, konolia? I think we'd all be interested to hear it.

No, why don't YOU do it? Seeing as it's all fresh and everything in your mind. The rest of us are past jaded. *wink*
posted by konolia at 10:17 AM on April 9, 2007


David Marchese's take on it, at Salon.
The apathy came as a surprise to Weingarten, whose article evinces the kind of elitist snobbery that's exactly what classical music doesn't need. From the description of the crowd at one of Washington's most "plebian" subway stations ("ghosts" with "ID tags slapping at their bellies") to Bell's shock at the fact "that people were actually, ah ... ignoring me" to the title's insulting swine allusion, the reader is treated to highbrow condescension of the highest order.
posted by jamaro at 10:22 AM on April 9, 2007


There used to be an old guy playing the erhu on the 6 platform at Grand Central during late rush hour and into the evening for years. He looked a lot like Deng Xiaopeng, and was far and away the most skilled and nuanced erhu player I'd ever heard.

Really? I hope this isn't the same one who sounded so grating that I'd almost offer to pay him to stop playing. I'm not saying that to be cool & snarky -- it was seriously painful to listen to. It could be I'm completely uneducated (or ineducable) about Chinese music.
posted by footnote at 10:33 AM on April 9, 2007


What annoys me about the article is the buildup. It's like a lot of recent nonfiction - interesting topic, but fully half of the effort of the article is going into extended puffing-up of "get ready - brace yourself for the interesting facts to come, that only I your author have plucked from their obscurity - notice how interesting this topic is - Kant has something to say about how interesting this topic is- etc". I want to shake the writer and say, "ok, ok, I know it's interesting, that's why I'm reading for sweet mercy's sake. Now just tell me what happened already, or get out of my face."


Spot on. I hate that kind of writing.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:35 AM on April 9, 2007


Sawlady, a NYC busker, blogs about it too.
posted by yeti at 10:45 AM on April 9, 2007


Wait, wait, wait. This article was posted six seven times, and all of you "I agree with jessamyn" people waited until the MetaTalk thread to share your opinion on it?
posted by danb at 10:45 AM on April 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


Probably not, footnote. This guy was really old and wizened, age-spotty, and his tone was pure and clear. There are other erhu players on the lines, some of whom play along to boom-box orchestras, and some who even amplify their playing, which can really grate. Though if you don't like the music, I guess anything could grate.

I'm also a very calm subway rider, and I view most of my time out and about as a constant research opportunity: I keep an attentive ear out for stories or phrases or sounds that I can process into my own work (I'm a playwright). I notice many people consider time underground to be pretty grueling, and are easily irritated by unusual sounds.

In short, I don't know, but I doubt you heard the same guy. Like I said, I haven't seen him in months, and his young (forties or fifties) replacement isn't at all in the same league as he was. But if you were to listen to some solo erhu music, you might discover whether it was the instrument you disliked, or the player.
posted by breezeway at 10:50 AM on April 9, 2007


Maybe this is a good time to bring up my idea of a deleted.metafilter.com, that could be linked to on the New Post page (or have the most recent five or so actually visible there (or just their links)). I mean, it's easy to miss one post (especially if the accompanying text is vague) but the odds go down with each visible deleted double.
posted by Many bubbles at 10:51 AM on April 9, 2007


Wait, wait, wait. This article was posted six seven times, and all of you "I agree with jessamyn" people waited until the MetaTalk thread to share your opinion on it?

I didn't actually see any of those threads before this one. I read the story from another source though.

And what's it to you, really?
posted by grouse at 11:03 AM on April 9, 2007


Maybe this is a good time to bring up my idea of a deleted.metafilter.com, that could be linked to on the New Post page (or have the most recent five or so actually visible there (or just their links)). I mean, it's easy to miss one post (especially if the accompanying text is vague) but the odds go down with each visible deleted double.

well, there's this, and this
posted by delmoi at 11:13 AM on April 9, 2007


That article is what happens when you have an 'important' writer and the editor is too scared to cut out the pointless waffle.

PS. Classical music sucks.
posted by reklaw at 11:17 AM on April 9, 2007


PS. Classical music sucks.

Some of it blows, some it is very interesting and if you close your eyes while listening, interesting visions occur. But what sucks is that there are still hordes of people who go off and train for years to be animatronic instrument players.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:23 AM on April 9, 2007


I agree with Jessamyn's sense that the article was full of casual snobbery.

I think one reason we might have seen this posted repeatedly si that the original post wasn't that great/informative:

Have you ever stopped to listen? I do, when it's not bad, always. I've missed trains, I've been late. I've given all the money I had on me. I've been reminded of - X -. I wish I had been there; I fucking love that Chaconne. It's like the perfect prayer.

"I love that fuckingChaconne" didn't tell me anything (I'll admit it, whta the fuck is a "Chaconne"?) so I didn't read the OP. I did stumble across the WA Post article some other way and then when I saw (one of) the doubles I thought "mmmm . . . not surprising that got posted."

So I guess waht I have to say is:
(a) I appreciate informative, not cryptic FPPs
(b) Cortex' latest nuke made me laugh, and
(c) Maybe sidebar this thread so the madness stops.
posted by donovan at 11:25 AM on April 9, 2007


But what sucks is that there are still hordes of people who go off and train for years to be animatronic instrument players.

Why does that suck? I guess there's the adjective animatronic, which implies you find their playing lacking in some way, but surely not every musician can be brilliant. What's the alternative? Should people not train to be instrumentalists anymore?
posted by ludwig_van at 11:31 AM on April 9, 2007


footnote writes "It could be I'm completely uneducated (or ineducable) about Chinese music."

Erhu music is very much an acquired taste. I don't know this particular musician, so I don't know if he was good or not, but when I first heard erhu I found it grating and annoying, and at some point, I don't know when, I started finding it really nice, and can't really remember what I used to find grating or annoying. With beer, at least, when I acquired the taste, I can still remember what I used to dislike about it.
posted by Bugbread at 11:39 AM on April 9, 2007


The alternative, if I'm digging what Burhanistan is saying, is havign people go off to train for years to be expressive, holistic players. How much of a problem this is with actual adult professional I don't know, though—I associate super-stiff rote performance more with young players indoctrinated into lessons and such by their parents than i do with older players. But I don't hang out with chamber musicians often, so, eh.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:40 AM on April 9, 2007


I'm not sure, It was a couple years ago, tho I think the "get your war on" reposts (tho many done jokingly) still rank as the most overdone...atleast above six.
posted by samsara at 11:43 AM on April 9, 2007


I also agree with Jessamyn.

danb, I missed the first thread, but I tried to post a comment in all of the other threads. They were deleted by the time I hit post.
posted by graventy at 11:51 AM on April 9, 2007


Yeah, parts of the article were grating, but I thought the stunt itself was interesting enough for me to read through it. And I felt that the writer supplied enough counter-argument to his own opinion so that readers were left in peace to make up their own mind.
posted by Kattullus at 12:08 PM on April 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


And what's it to you, really?

I guess my tone wasn't clear -- I'm not miffed, just amused. You'd think that with seven threads on the same topic people would have found an outlet for their commentary.
posted by danb at 12:19 PM on April 9, 2007


I think it's sad that all you bumpkins just walked right past that article (seven times!) and didn't recognize what a masterpiece it was. It was typed on an 1895 Ford Typewriter, fer Christsakes!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:27 PM on April 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


Though I doubt anybody will take the twenty minutes to read Kelley Eskridge's 1994 short story "Strings" (especially since I have to link to the Wayback Machine because the site's copies are offline in preparation for an upcoming collection, and there's no one-page version so you have to click, click, click, click through eight pages to read the whole thing), it's a worthwhile meditation on the idea of rote performance versus romantic expressionism in classical music.
posted by cgc373 at 12:38 PM on April 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


You'd think that with seven threads on the same topic people would have found an outlet for their commentary.

Bit unclear on how deleted threads work, are we? And folks who didn't bother to reply in the blue weren't starved for an outlet for our commentary; we simply chose to move on, then nodded to jessamyn here when she put our feelings so well.
posted by mediareport at 12:50 PM on April 9, 2007


"The whole thing is just dripping with casual snobbery as if there really is some sort of objective measure of beauty and/or truth and that once and for all we can point our fingers at people who don't get it and say 'see, look at these philistines...'"

You say that as if there is not some sort of objective measure of beauty and/or truth and that once and for all we can point our fingers at people who don't get it and say "see, look at these philistines..."

There are ancient and enduring differences of opinion on this matter. Also, the argument you're criticizing doesn't require universalism, it only requires a relativistic context wide enough to encompass both the music and the audience.

Not that I'm defending the article, mind you. I didn't read it. It didn't seem interesting to me and it still doesn't. I'll take your folks' word that the writer is an insufferable ass.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 1:03 PM on April 9, 2007


I'm sorry, I didn't read the article, just the part excerpted in jessamyn's comment.

I assume the article was about Alanis Morrisette's cover of "My Humps."
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 1:33 PM on April 9, 2007


Whatever you think about the article, it sure has seen significantly wider play in the blogpress than anything I've seen in a long time. It's been on half the blogs I read, which seems weird to me, as I didn't think it was that compelling one way or the other.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:01 PM on April 9, 2007


I read the article the way people listened to Bell. In a hurry, with partial attention. I didn't really get the snotty tone. Maybe I'll go back and re-read it, but probably not. What I really thought was cool was that this brilliant, famous musician agreed to do this stunt.
posted by theora55 at 2:36 PM on April 9, 2007


I don't know about D.C., but in NYC, good musicians in a park will draw a crowd, if the weather is nice.

I lived in DC and commuted on Metro for many years, and often saw buskers outside of the stations playing to decent crowds. But those scenes were always later in the day, around noon at the earliest through the evening, never during the morning rush; and they were typically outside of stations in neighborhoods with some residential zones and plenty of leisure-time attractions -- shops and restaurants and theaters. L'Enfant Plaza is pretty much a wasteland of office buildings, outside of the 9-5 workweek that area is pretty dead. It's really not a neighborhood where you'd go to just hang out and relax.

There used to be an old guy playing the erhu on the 6 platform at Grand Central during late rush hour and into the evening for years.

Wow. I think I saw this fellow when I was visiting a friend in New York eight or nine years ago...I had no idea what the instrument was but thought it was just fabulous to be able to have such a random musical encounter while doing something as mundane as waiting for the subway. What a wonderful story, breezeway -- thanks!
posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 2:42 PM on April 9, 2007


The alternative, if I'm digging what Burhanistan is saying, is havign people go off to train for years to be expressive, holistic players.

As someone about to graduate from music school, albeit not as an instrumentalist, I'd say that this is certainly the intent of the instrumentalists' curricula, and I'd imagine it would be the same at any conservatory.
posted by ludwig_van at 3:18 PM on April 9, 2007


Huh. I usually agree with Jessamyn, but I don't here, and since everybody and his/her brother/sister is leaping onto the I-hated-it bandwagon, I'll pipe up to represent the opposite view: I thought it was pretty damn good, and I think all this "OMG elitism!" stuff is kneejerk. If it's so bad and elitist, explain to me why so many people were struck by it that they posted it to MetaFilter? I read the article and I didn't at all get the sense that the author was mocking people who didn't stop and listen, just commenting on the fact that modern life doesn't really allow most people the freedom to do so. And I'm about as anti-elitist as they come.
posted by languagehat at 3:20 PM on April 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


If it's so bad and elitist, explain to me why so many people were struck by it that they posted it to MetaFilter?

More to the point, it was such a good hook, such an easy-payoff setup, that it didn't have to be good. It falls a flat for me because the premise is strained: the same story could well apply to any reasonable talented busker, and that's a lot of them. Wrapping it around a superfical high profile stunt with loaded cultural signifiers like a Stradivarius is cheap mirror work, is my take.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:30 PM on April 9, 2007


the same story could well apply to any reasonable talented busker, and that's a lot of them.

Yes, of course, but nobody would read the story or post it to MetaFilter. Joshua Bell and the Strad are the hook. Journalism needs hooks. That's why when Bono goes to some suffering shithole, it gets on TV, whereas without Bono nobody ever hears of it except people who read the New York Review of Books. Fine, you don't like the need for celebrity hooks, that's understandable, but don't take it out on this article. It's journalism, Jake.
posted by languagehat at 3:39 PM on April 9, 2007


My girlfriend and I have a running joke about having a giant paper-mache Bono head that we wear when we want someone to take our opinions seriously.
posted by klangklangston at 3:46 PM on April 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


My next sock puppet is going to be called Bono, and I'll only use it for serious business.
posted by grouse at 3:52 PM on April 9, 2007


Ah, languagehat just beat me to it. The point of the article wasn't that people aren't leet enough to appreciate the music, but that they don't get the opportunity to since modern working life places such constraints on their time, and ability to stop and smell the roses. A key factor is that all (or many) children wanted to stop and listen, but their parents invariably dragged them away. Elitism has little to do with the core point; it's not about the music at all really, its about our collective loss of curiosity and our ability to appreciate the world around us.

grouse's comment highlights this: "I agree with jessamyn that a lot of subway commuters wouldn't stop for just about anything. When I'm in a tube station I usually don't want anything else other than to get out fast." But that is exactly what the article is trying to show, that work and communting is such a major drain that people of all backgrounds consciously block out any possibilities of beauty and art between 7.30am and 6.30pm.

All that said, I found the article annoyingly written with a definite superior tone, so I skipped most of it. And I didn't bother commenting in the thread because it seemed fairly banal. But I think its fascinating and telling how much the article resonantes with so many people.
posted by MetaMonkey at 3:52 PM on April 9, 2007


Fine, you don't like the need for celebrity hooks, that's understandable, but don't take it out on this article.

Yes, but it's a different story when you wrap in the celebrity classical musician and the $3.5M axe: not "people don't stop to listen to music" but "people don't stop to listen to this really amazingly talented, famous guy with a really expensive violin".

Gimmick in the service of getting printed is understandable, but that doesn't make it not gimmicky, and the gimmick in this case simultaneously makes the story quotable and buries the interesting social question the story is ostensibly about. Eh.

It's journalism, Jake.

I told you never to call me that in public.

posted by cortex (staff) at 3:55 PM on April 9, 2007


But that is exactly what the article is trying to show, that work and communting is such a major drain that people of all backgrounds consciously block out any possibilities of beauty and art between 7.30am and 6.30pm.

Well, the author certainly does mention something like that, tucked in near the end. But I don't think that's the only message, and because of the tone of the article, I was struck more by these ideas: (a) these plebes wouldn't know a virtuoso performance on a Stradivarius if it bit them on the bee-hind, and (b) a major part of the musical judgment of most people is prejudice. I think these two conclusions are there, and I think they are cynical and cannot be justified wholly by this experiment. But maybe I am the cynical one.
posted by grouse at 4:05 PM on April 9, 2007


languagehat writes "I read the article and I didn't at all get the sense that the author was mocking people who didn't stop and listen"

Casting the commuters as swine before which pearls are tossed didn't really do much to convince me that the author wasn't mocking the commuting swine.
posted by Bugbread at 4:21 PM on April 9, 2007


Seeing how this post is getting more action than the one on the blue, I'll link to this here, too:

Weingarten did a Q&A about this article today on Washingtonpost.com (registration required).
posted by amarynth at 4:37 PM on April 9, 2007


languagehat, FWIW I was happy to join in on the criticism because as an area resident and WaPo reader, I've had similar issues with Weingarten for years. IMO he tends to go for cheap shots a lot -- his Post Magazine humor columns often fall flat as he works a lot with easy stereotypes like Mars-Venus gender difference stuff, but without taking it to Dave Barry-ish levels of absurdity that could keep it from coming across as bland and predictable; and his longer serious pieces like this one often seem to have a similar muddiness of tone. I think the last thing of his that I whole-heartedly liked was a long 2005 piece on a visit to Savoonga, AK, partly because it got him out of the usual insular Beltway POV and largely because he actually admitted that he had set out on the project planning the article as another cheap-shot-easy-punchline sort of joke, but the reality of the place smacked him in the face with his own ignorance and threw his preconceived ideas out the window.
posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 4:51 PM on April 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


Casting the commuters as swine before which pearls are tossed didn't really do much to convince me that the author wasn't mocking the commuting swine.

If I read it the same way, I'd certainly have the same reaction, but I didn't get the sense he was "casting the commuters as swine." Not even a little. But that's what makes a horse race.

I've had similar issues with Weingarten for years. IMO he tends to go for cheap shots a lot


Well, if I'd been reading him for years, I might have reacted the same way. I've certainly had similar experiences with writers (and readers who fell hard for a particular example of their shtick). All I can say is that I liked this particular piece. And the Q&A doesn't make him sound like a jerk. But I defer to your greater Weingarten experience.
posted by languagehat at 4:56 PM on April 9, 2007


"I told you never to call me that in public."

Aw, your secret sexy sex sex behind-closed-doors lovey-dovey naughty name is Jake. That's cute.

You like that, don't you Jake? Don't you? Jake. Don't you? Go to lunch, Jake. Would you please go to lunch? Go to lunch. Jake, go to lunch. Uh-huh, that's it, Jake. Oh yes, yes, please go to lunch.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 5:01 PM on April 9, 2007


But I defer to your greater Weingarten experience.

This is obviously more of a Beergarten crowd.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:02 PM on April 9, 2007


languagehat: I didn't get the sense he was "casting the commuters as swine."

I'm a bit mystified by this — the title seems to only have one interpretation, at least as far as I can tell. Who but Bach and Bell could be the pearls, and who but the commuters could be the swine?

In mitigation for Weingarten, though, I recently found that writers in British newspapers don't get to choose their own titles and subtitles, so perhaps he bears no responsibility for it.
posted by Aloysius Bear at 5:25 PM on April 9, 2007


And the Q&A doesn't make him sound like a jerk.

Not even the "take your meds" remark, the "I plan to keep writing cheap humor columns to annoy you, personally" jab, or the "uh, honey, no" reply to the woman explaining that she avoids making eye contact because doing so in the past has earned her sexualized verbal abuse from panhandlers? OK, maybe I'll grant the first two as wise-guy ripostes to criticism, but that dismissive "honey" in the last one really sticks in my craw. She had to be there? Maybe he needs to be in the shoes of a woman who's been called "cunt" after making eye contact with a stranger, and then patted on the head condescendingly for mentioning how that's affected her current behavior.

I'm perfectly willing to buy that he meant the article to be more a criticism of the inflexibility of the workday world, and sympathetic to the folks who are caught up in it. But the criticism here on MeFi, in various blogs and LiveJournals, and in the Q&A show that an awful lot of readers, including many with presumably no preconceived notions about Weingarten himself, saw it as a criticism of the folks who were too blinkered or uncultured to appreciate the aesthetic feast laid out for them. The wordplay of the title really didn't help any there -- it sets up readers to read through the article looking for the swine...and for all the vague generalities about the time-crunches of modern life, it's really only the busy workers who are shown directly; there's no interview with the bosses who might penalize those same commuters for showing up five minutes late.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think he's an utter hack -- the man can definitely string words together, and when he musters up the focus on something more in-depth than those "cheap humor columns", he's capable of doing some good work. (The Q&A at least reminded me of his article on the Great Zucchini, which was also several notches above his usual phoned-in humor pages.) That's what it makes it all the more frustrating when he goes for the cheap shots, lets his focus get muddled, or displays a real tin ear for tone -- and in this article and Q&A, to my eyes he's doing all of those things.
posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 5:39 PM on April 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


You like that, don't you Jake? Don't you? Jake. Don't you? Go to lunch, Jake. Would you please go to lunch? Go to lunch. Jake, go to lunch. Uh-huh, that's it, Jake. Oh yes, yes, please go to lunch.

Man, for some reason, that freaked the hell out of me, EB.
posted by Kwine at 5:41 PM on April 9, 2007


Who but Bach and Bell could be the pearls, and who but the commuters could be the swine?

I hasten to add that I don't agree with that characterisation of the commuters, but it's what the title is saying, as far as I can tell.

I wonder if some Mefites would have been as quick to cry elitism if the composer in question was 'popular' rather than 'classical'.

After presenting the apparently-Kantian argument that context matters, the author quotes W.H. Davies' famous line, What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare. Weingarten twists this line into supporting his thesis. Davies wanted people to spend some time in their day, week, or life in peaceful contemplation, free from quotidian pressures. He was hardly arguing that you must every waking moment 'standing and staring', and certainly wasn't saying that you must stand and stare, and silently contemplate truth and beauty, at 6.30am on your way to work. Telling others to stand and stare when you want them to, as Weingarten does, is rather missing Davies' point.
posted by Aloysius Bear at 5:44 PM on April 9, 2007


I disagree with Jessamyn and the other article-dislikers, and I agree with languagehat.

The article wasn't just about how modern life leaves us little time to stop and smell the roses ... it was also about how much our appreciation of art depends on context, and that, when ripped out of its high-art environs, even the highest of high culture is not recognized for its merits. That wasn't a criticism of the commuters, really, but a comment on art. (Wasn't there a mention of Ellsworth Kelly in the article, too, where it was noted that if you hung up an Ellsworth Kelly in a coffee shop, even aficionadoes might just say, "Hmm, that looks kind of like an Ellsworth Kelly," and then go back to their conversation?)

I really did not sense that writer was seriously calling the other commuters philistines.
posted by jayder at 5:48 PM on April 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's just Chinatown, cortex.
posted by shmegegge at 5:51 PM on April 9, 2007


And the Q&A doesn't make him sound like a jerk.

Eh, I think this segment of the Q&A:

College Park, MD: Hi Gene,

I feel compelled to write because I think your premises were wrong. I wouldn't have even attempted it.

There is a time and a place for everything. I wrote in protest to Metro when it decided to allow buskers in the station, and I was not alone. I carry an MP3 player. If I want to listen to music, I listen to music. If I want to be lost in my thoughts, I'm lost in my thoughts. If I want to doze -- it's typically 6:00 am when I leave the house in the morning -- I doze. The -VERY LAST THING I WANT- is to have to have someone else's choice of music blasted at me with no room for escape. If buskers weren't subsidized, they would soon discover -- as Bell did -- that so few people want to hear them that they are not going to make much money. The market would work it out. But in its infinite wisdom, Metro has decided to participate in a program in which the buskers are screened by Arts Councils and then subsidized. We can't make them go away no matter what we do.

You might as well have had Bell play on someone's porch at 3:00 am on a Sunday night. Occupants would have called the police, and rightfully so. You can conclude that this means that no one recognizes genius. Or -- and I think this is the right answer -- you can conclude that people upset about being woken up in the middle of the night by a trespasser do not care if the person doing it is a musical genius.

Gene Weingarten: Interesting!

So you would like your commute to be undburdened by any distraction, any sign of life or energy or color or grace or joy or fun or art or anything! You would like to be whisked from home to work and back again in dun-colored tubes, with white noise in the background and, ideally, no people, animals, plants to interrupt your incredible private solitude.

Not me. I'd like to walk to work through the streets of Paris. In the spring. Watching everything a city has to offer. That's heaven, to me.


...pretty much nails him as THE MOST CONDESCENDING MAN IN THE WORLD EVER. I mean, I love buskers on the Tube (and I thought article was a good one, if somewhat over-written and laden with showy erudition) but his eagerness to blast somebody as a being joyless, acultural zombie simply because they're sleepy when they travel to work is... well, fairly jerkish.
posted by flashboy at 5:59 PM on April 9, 2007 [4 favorites]


when ripped out of its high-art environs, even the highest of high culture is not recognized for its merits

This is an interesting question, and the idea of the Ellsworth Kelly in a coffee-shop is a much better example to use in this debate than Bach in a mall.

I suspect that any music could have been played in that station and no-one would have noticed, simply because people are focussed on work and not looking out for musical beauty at that hour. There are obvious caveats to this: if you did this experiment with a recognisable performer or a well-known piece of music, people would stop out of curiosity — but that has nothing to do with the artistic value of the music.

If you collected a set of educated, art-friendly coffee-shop patrons who happened not to have heard of Kelly, I agree that few, if any, would be able to identify Kelly's paintings as 'high culture'. I certainly wouldn't be able to (but perhaps this just reflects my prejudices about modern, abstract art). Rather than conclude that Kelly must always be seen in a gallery to make any sense, I'm pretty tempted to conclude that Kelly's paintings have little artistic value. If no one can even tell that something is art, let alone be moved by it or appreciate it in any way, what value does it have?
posted by Aloysius Bear at 6:15 PM on April 9, 2007


I wonder if some Mefites would have been as quick to cry elitism if the composer in question was 'popular' rather than 'classical'.

Maybe, maybe not. I am not deeply knowledgeable about classical music, but I do enjoy it and don't think it's elitist for people to be passionate about it. But if Weingarten wanted to focus on the music purely as a thing of beauty, then maybe spending less time gushing about typical ticket prices for Bell's shows or the pricelessness of his Stradivarius could have helped avoid giving the impression that the experience was so valuable in part because it was a free sample of something that's usually very, very costly.
posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 6:49 PM on April 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


I recently found that writers in British newspapers don't get to choose their own titles and subtitles, so perhaps he bears no responsibility for it.

I thought everyone knew headlines were chosen by headline writers, not reporters. There's very little chance he had anything to do with it.

Not even the "take your meds" remark, the "I plan to keep writing cheap humor columns to annoy you, personally" jab, or the "uh, honey, no" reply

Uh, I guess I didn't read the whole Q&A. Mea culpa.

could have helped avoid giving the impression that the experience was so valuable in part because it was a free sample of something that's usually very, very costly.


But surely that reflects a basic fact about American values? I'm not saying it's a good thing, obviously, but I think the vast majority of Americans do, in fact, think it's terrific to get "a free sample of something that's usually very, very costly," and it would be pretty silly to act, or write, as though that weren't the case. In other words, had word somehow been disseminated through the crowd that this was a famous musician who would be playing later on for a whole lot of money, a lot more people would have stopped. That's not the reporter's invention.
posted by languagehat at 7:22 PM on April 9, 2007


Possibly there were plenty of people appreciating the beauty of the music who didn't have time to stand around and gaze adoringly at Mr. Bell to demonstrate their appreciation of the moment while on their way to work.

Like Mr. Burhanistan, I like to walk the city streets too, and in fact I generally walk home from work, but I don't stop and stare everytime that something interesting or moving or profound or beautiful catches my attention. I suppose our intrepid reporter stops in his tracks in the middle of the street when the empty plastic bag floats by and falls to his knees in wonder to point at the ladybug crawling on the park bench. Me, I notice the tough-looking kids letting the old ladies board the bus ahead of them, catch a few notes of the dude playing the amplified fiddle that sounds better from a few blocks away, smile inwardly and keep walking, 'cause there's lots of good stuff out there.
posted by desuetude at 7:32 PM on April 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm with Jessamyn's first comment, for the most part.

That said, I think you'd have different results if you ran this test on an NYC subway platform.

I would have been one of the people who dropped in a buck, and stood nearby appreciating until my train came. I listen to classical regularly, but not enough that I would have recognized this guy. If he really was playing like the article described, I might have skipped a train to listen a little longer.
posted by allkindsoftime at 7:44 PM on April 9, 2007


I thought everyone knew headlines were chosen by headline writers, not reporters. There's very little chance he had anything to do with [the headline].

I'll bet you're wrong. There's more chance for someone like him to suggest his own headline than a daily crime beat reporter, that's for sure. For features like this one, from writers whose job it is to provide offbeat culture commentary, it's not uncommon at all for the writer to suggest the title.
posted by mediareport at 8:05 PM on April 9, 2007


I'm not saying it's a good thing, obviously, but I think the vast majority of Americans do, in fact, think it's terrific to get "a free sample of something that's usually very, very costly," and it would be pretty silly to act, or write, as though that weren't the case.

But if his intent was to focus on how people are too rushed and busy to take time for beauty for its own sake, is it really helpful or necessary to add in the normal retail value of that beautiful experience, or the price of the tools used to produce it? That sort of derail muddies the focus of the article -- he's talking art-for-art's-sake out of one side of his mouth, then switching gears to gush about the cost, as if dollar signs were a reliable signal of quality.

Possibly there were plenty of people appreciating the beauty of the music who didn't have time to stand around and gaze adoringly at Mr. Bell to demonstrate their appreciation of the moment while on their way to work.

The article does briefly note that it's a fairly long escalator ride to get in or out of the station, and one of the comments in the Q&A from a person who works near L'Enfant states that the acoustics are such that folks on the escalator can hear music being played on the surface level. So folks who didn't have time to linger might nonetheless have been enjoying a pleasant earful as they rode up to the concourse.
posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 8:18 PM on April 9, 2007


"Because they didn't want people to listen and enjoy. They wanted to write this self-righteous piece."

Bingo.... Somehow I get the impression that the "experiment" was designed to support the conclusion they had already come to. Very bad form.

delmoi: well, there's this, and this

Oh, nice! I didn't know about those; thanks. Makes me wonder what else I'm missing...
posted by Many bubbles at 8:28 PM on April 9, 2007


What the fuck? Is double posting the new black or something?
posted by Rhomboid at 8:38 PM on April 9, 2007


I get the impression that the "experiment" was designed to support the conclusion they had already come to.

Well, in reluctant defense of Weingarten, I suspected as much at first due to the horrible choice of setting, but the Q&A does at least make clear that this was actually due to operating under multiple constraints -- Bell's tight schedule only allowed for the sub-optimal morning performance time. Metro's inflexibility about allowing the experiment in the station proper meant it had to take place outside of Metro property -- and since January weather isn't really conducive to gathering a crowd out-of-doors (not to mention probably too harsh for a antique instrument or a musician's bare hands), that meant finding a station that exits into a sheltered concourse. That REALLY limits the options, as most of the Metro stations just have escalators leading right to the open sidewalks -- you're lucky to find one that even has a cursory roof over the tunnel entrance to keep rain off the escalators! So all of those seemingly bad choices make more sense to me now, it wasn't designed to fail -- but without putting that context in the original article, it certainly looked that way on an initial reading.
posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 8:53 PM on April 9, 2007


The modern world destroys our appreciation of art partly by inundating us with it all the time - recorded music plays in almost every public space there is. It's auditory spam.

We have to learn to aggressively tune it out, in order to have any time with our own thoughts.

As others have pointed out, Weingarten's stunt is cheap mainly because it catches people at the time of day, and in the place, where their defenses will be highest against unwanted mental interruptions -- in particular against music, and even more particularly against music that evokes strong feelings (like, say, soaring passionate violin music of high quality). So, their spam filters are highest, and Weingarten is providing spam written by Shakespeare. What boobs - they didn't even read that message from Shakespeare!
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:13 PM on April 9, 2007


I disagree with flashboy. I would have had exactly the same thing to say to "College Park, MD." He doesn't want life to intrude on him while he's out in the world? He likens a musician playing in a public setting in the morning to someone playing at 3 am on a stranger's porch. Excuse my condescension, but what a fucking tool! Seriously, I take the bus into work every weekday morning, and sure, I've got noise-canceling headphones on, so I really shouldn't throw stones, but holy crapping moly... I'm lost for words when faced with sentiment like this: If I want to listen to music, I listen to music. If I want to be lost in my thoughts, I'm lost in my thoughts. If I want to doze -- it's typically 6:00 am when I leave the house in the morning -- I doze. The -VERY LAST THING I WANT- is to have to have someone else's choice of music blasted at me with no room for escape. Goddammit! What the hell is wrong with this fool! I agree with what Weingarten wrote one hundred percent:

So you would like your commute to be undburdened by any distraction, any sign of life or energy or color or grace or joy or fun or art or anything! You would like to be whisked from home to work and back again in dun-colored tubes, with white noise in the background and, ideally, no people, animals, plants to interrupt your incredible private solitude.

Not me. I'd like to walk to work through the streets of Paris. In the spring. Watching everything a city has to offer. That's heaven, to me.


Okay, and while I'm ranting... there's one thing about the "oh, this whole thing is a bunch of elitist praffle" that sticks in my craw. What about the people who did take time out of their day to listen to Joshua Bell? I mean, they experienced a transcendent moment in their everyday environment. Is it meaningless because this was a stunt? Because it was engineered by a newspaper? Because it was at frickin' 8 in the morning instead of at noon or in the afternoon? I don't know if I would have walked by in my noise-canceling headphones or if I would have taken them off and listened. But I sincerely wish that if I had been there I would have taken my headphones off and been fifteen minutes late for work. My fear is, though, that I would have rushed on by.
posted by Kattullus at 9:59 PM on April 9, 2007


they experienced a transcendent moment in their everyday environment.

If there's any decent takeaway from this tut-tutting cloying article, it's that there are transcendent moments waiting for us everywhere and it's wise to keep more than half an eye out for them.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:10 PM on April 9, 2007


I mean, they experienced a transcendent moment in their everyday environment. Is it meaningless because this was a stunt?

No, but they don't get medals and neither do Bell or Weingarten. There are transcendent moments happening all over the place, all the time; if the point is stop and smell the roses, then the issue should be roses, not This One Really Nice Rose.

Would it have been less meaningful if it was a kid playing drums on plastic buckets?
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:17 PM on April 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


jinx!
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:17 PM on April 9, 2007


Would it have been less meaningful if it was a kid playing drums on plastic buckets?

You can catch him some evenings near the Dupont Circle Metro exit. The kid gets a pretty decent crowd.
posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 10:36 PM on April 9, 2007


Well... call me an unrepentant elitist, but I don't tell my friends about this Senegalese guy who I saw do a banging cover of Sound of Silence on the streets of Nice some years ago... but if I'd seen Bruce Springsteen busking... you probably couldn't get me to shut up about it :)
posted by Kattullus at 10:37 PM on April 9, 2007


tell my friends often... as obviously I do sometimes bring him up
posted by Kattullus at 10:38 PM on April 9, 2007


Lesson I learned from this thread: Man, pop music snobbery sucks almost as much as classical music snobbery.
posted by speicus at 12:23 AM on April 10, 2007


Also, I like these concurrent arguments:

1) Why doesn't he play something that we can, like, recognize?

(Never mind that the Bach Chaconne is one of the most well-known and often played violin pieces.)

2) Why doesn't he play something, like, new and original?

(Never mind that since most people don't recognize it, it is new and original to them. Never mind the value of individual interpretation. Never mind the fact that the experience of live performance is vastly different than a recording. Never mind about a billion things.)

Y'all make a man want to give up.
posted by speicus at 12:28 AM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


FYI, from the chat:

Gene Weingarten: ... I wrote the headline.
posted by poxuppit at 5:18 AM on April 10, 2007


I like these concurrent arguments:

1) The Bach Chaconne is one of the most well-known violin pieces

2) Most people don't recognize it

Smilla's Sense of Snark writes "But if Weingarten wanted to focus on the music purely as a thing of beauty, then maybe spending less time gushing about typical ticket prices for Bell's shows or the pricelessness of his Stradivarius could have helped avoid giving the impression that the experience was so valuable in part because it was a free sample of something that's usually very, very costly."

Or, you know, berating someone for listening to music they like on their iPod because it isn't the music that you think they should be listening to.

Kattullus writes "there's one thing about the 'oh, this whole thing is a bunch of elitist praffle' that sticks in my craw. What about the people who did take time out of their day to listen to Joshua Bell? I mean, they experienced a transcendent moment in their everyday environment. Is it meaningless because this was a stunt?"

I don't know what you mean by "meaningless" in regards to enjoying a transcendent moment, but presuming you just mean "not as good as if the situation had been otherwise", then:

The music was not meaningless. The enjoyment of the folks who listened was not meaningless. The conclusions drawn from whether or not people listened to it, and the article about those conclusions, is. That's the part that's elitist praffle. So the people who listened to Bell had a meaningful transcendent moment in their everyday environment. What's meaningless is the experiment.

(Like, if I do an experiment called "are people smart enough to eat brown things", and I test it by giving out chocolates, and some people eat those chocolates and love them, and other people don't because they're on a diet or don't like chocolate, and I write an article about how dumb people are for not eating brown things, one can deride both the experiment and its conclusions as piffle. Saying so is not the same as saying "therefore the people's enjoyment of the chocolate was itself meaningless")
posted by Bugbread at 6:06 AM on April 10, 2007


Out of curiosity, I checked iTunes this morning. Three of Bell's albums are in the top 20 purchased in Classical, Voice of the Violin (released in September of last year, by the way) is #1. None of them are in the top 100 albums overall.
posted by gnomeloaf at 8:16 AM on April 10, 2007


So, if there's a post in the blue that I'd like to comment on, but there's lots of comments already and I'm afraid my comment won't get much exposure being that far down, I can just MeTa it to get a second thread going where my comments will be at the top?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:03 AM on April 10, 2007


Eight, by the way.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:05 AM on April 10, 2007


Wrong dupe.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:09 AM on April 10, 2007


they experienced a transcendent moment in their everyday environment.

Transcendent? Maybe not. I think if that was the case the people who did tip would've put in more than a buck. I think "had a nice moment enjoying some music" is probably more apt.
posted by miss tea at 10:35 AM on April 10, 2007


Wrong dupe.

Oops.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:42 AM on April 10, 2007


Man, pop music snobbery sucks almost as much as classical music snobbery.

No, it sucks more, as classical music is better. [NOT POPIST]
posted by ludwig_van at 11:04 AM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Gene Weingarten: ... I wrote the headline.

I stand corrected. I still like the piece, though.
posted by languagehat at 12:52 PM on April 10, 2007


Why is all the discussion in here and not in the Blue?
posted by Coaticass at 4:45 PM on April 10, 2007


What's "the Blue?"
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:49 PM on April 10, 2007


By "the Blue" I mean the original post in the main Metafilter section rather than here in MetaTalk. I thought the colour-coding was standard jargon around here?

It irks me that the post is clearly generating such a lot of discussion, even from the "classical music is elitist and has no intrinsic merit" sceptics (have you all got chips on both shoulders or what?) yet this is not really reflected in the response to the main post. Clearly I don't get the rulez. *Goes away to study the guidelines further*
posted by Coaticass at 5:16 PM on April 10, 2007


Skeptics. Oops.
posted by Coaticass at 5:18 PM on April 10, 2007


I thought the colour-coding was standard jargon around here?

And I thought ironic snark was universally understood around here.
posted by grouse at 5:19 PM on April 10, 2007


So the snark indicates my question is stupid? Why is it stupid?

(Ironic snark. Is there some other kind? Hmm, I think it's sarcasm, not irony.)

BTW I don't mean to sound like I'm discounting the skeptics, actually I find the whole argument very interesting. Hence my complaint.
posted by Coaticass at 5:25 PM on April 10, 2007


Coaticass writes "even from the 'classical music is elitist and has no intrinsic merit' sceptics"

Eh? I haven't seen any of that. I've seen self-proclaimed classical music afficionados are elitist, and their weak experiments and skewed interpretation of their results have no intrinsic merit, but no "classical music itself is elitist and has no intrinsic merit" skeptics.
posted by Bugbread at 5:27 PM on April 10, 2007


So the snark indicates my question is stupid?

NONONONONO!!! The snark indicates I spend too much freakin' time in the Gray.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:33 PM on April 10, 2007


So the snark indicates my question is stupid? Why is it stupid?

No, it indicates that IRFH was making a joke. Some of us spend more time here than in the blue.

It irks me that the post is clearly generating such a lot of discussion, even from the "classical music is elitist and has no intrinsic merit" sceptics (have you all got chips on both shoulders or what?) yet this is not really reflected in the response to the main post.

So it goes. Metatalk is where the meta-discussions of the site go; there's no prohibition against having an interesting discussion over here, however, or a strict requirement that on-topic discussion be ported over to the/a originating/relevant thread on the blue. It's pretty free form. Don't be irked, just check out the grey now and then.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:33 PM on April 10, 2007


for what it's worth, I started chatting in here because the original didn't seem to have much steam anymore.
posted by shmegegge at 6:00 PM on April 10, 2007


I couldn't even find the original. But MeTa threads stay on the front page longer. Fewer posts means more chances for interesting blah blah. See?
posted by breezeway at 6:13 PM on April 10, 2007


Jesus Christ. For a trite stunt this sure got pretty much everyone's panties bunched.

Someone sent me the link, I read the article and thought, this guy's a jack-ass! Awesome! Checked for dupes, found none, posted.

I had no idea this would get so out of hand.

And I still would have liked to have heard it. Who gives a shit about the elitist tone of the article? (I thought at the time.) It's the fucking WashPost, not the Daily News or The Sun or BZ (here in Berlin)! Of course it's elitist.

I read it thinking, "a bunch of people in the greater balto-wash area are going to spend all Sunday morning patting themselves on the back for knowing who Manny Kant was... this is _perfect_ magazine journalism..."

The really interesting comment to me is the one asking what it would have been like had Bell played bluegrass or - It would have been a much better "test"...

I humbly apologize for posting this as my first FPP.
posted by From Bklyn at 7:17 AM on April 11, 2007


'Apologize'? Are you kidding? This is the best thing that's happened here in weeks. Do more.
posted by chrismear at 7:44 AM on April 11, 2007


From Bklyn:

There's nothing to apologize for. People aren't berating you for linking it, they're berating the writer for writing it. That's kosher here. If the writer writes something really uninteresting, people will get on both the writer's case AND the poster's case. What we have here is the writer writing something interesting that a lot of people disagree with. As such, people are just getting on his case, not yours.
posted by Bugbread at 8:17 AM on April 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yeah, great post, From Bklyn. It wound up here because of all the doubles that popped up after yours went up.
posted by breezeway at 8:31 AM on April 11, 2007


ATC focused exclusively on the piece, or more accurately, on Bell's experience that morning, in their piece on Bell's recently-accepted award tonight. Something is happening in that Weingarten piece.

not a hater, fwiw.

I knew Josh a bit when we were kids and I was delighted to read that he'd taken the time to do something that goofy, considering. In the end, I found the Weingarten piece moving, not condescending. Furthermore, I found the structure and pacing of the piece to be successfully evocative of the rythyms, emotional colors, and structures of classical music proper.

Those techniques, of deliberate structural devices invoked to create a predictable emotional response, are the thread here between busking, classical composition and performance, and sunday magazine think-pieces. Just because they deploy the techniques in differing levels of transparency and predictability does not make the emotional response any less valid for the observer.

So it was fixed! So what? The problem with Josh's music choices is that they can't work in that context, duh, we all know that. In order to make sure the much bigger busk of Weingarten's piece worked, the hook had to be set so the rubes would bite. I bit. I don't regret it, and I admire the craft.

posted by mwhybark at 6:37 PM on April 11, 2007


Weingarten did a Q&A about this article today on Washingtonpost.com (registration required).
posted by amarynth at 7:37 PM on April 9


OK, I liked the story, sorry.

But this pissed me off (from amarynth's link):

Before we start with questions, I want to give you this link sent by Helene Jorgensen. Nearly 20 years ago, Bruce Springsteen did a similar thing in Copenhagen, where he joined a street musician to perform "The River." Not many people noticed him, either.

Okay.... Let's go!

_______________________

washingtonpost.com: Video of Bruce Springsteen performing on street in Copenhagen


#1 - the video isn't from the Washington Post, it's a freakin YouTube video that's been viewed thousands of times. Don't be trying to take credit for it as if it's something you discovered and are presenting to the world.

And

#2 - "Not many people noticed him?" Did they watch the whole freakin' video? The person who is filming the video pans over the CROWD of people watching, it looks like it's about 100 people or so. WTF is he talking about?
posted by waitingtoderail at 9:51 PM on April 13, 2007


After hearing this discussed for the nth time today on NPR, I too am completely sickened by the stunt and the supposed proof it offers of philistinism. The basic assumption that classical music is a better form of beauty than any other musical genre heard in the subway or elsewhere, and that people should be able to recognize its inherently superior qualities immediately upon hearing them regardless of musical education or interest, and the assumption that this violinist in particular is that much more accomplished than a fiddler or jazz trumpter or a musician of any other genre who might play in the subway, are both so narrow-minded and elitist as to be repulsive.

As a musician myself, I have a lot to say about how in the age of recorded music, people take music for granted and don't generally realize what a special and amazing thing it is to learn an instrument and play it for the benefit of others. We can hear music in tins, anywhere, and we do forget that live music is very special and important. But would this have been a story if it were an Irish fiddler (many of whom are of equivalent accomplishment) or a great blues guitarist? There are phenomenal musicians all around us, every day, who play in the subway and elsewhere. People may or may not listen; that's their choice. People who look like they're listening are a minority of people who actually are listening, as well.

Context has a lot to do with it, as well, as the NPR interview pointed out well today. Just because we don't expect famous people to be on city streets, it doesn't mean musicians on city streets aren't as talented as musicians in concert halls. It just means their lives are (in some cases) different; their connections and the structures of their careers are different. I understand that subway musicians in NYC can easily make upwards of $600 a day, so on financial considerations alone, the subway isn't necessarily a bad gig.

Anyway. Support live music - of all genres and descriptions - but not because some big-headed catgut-sawer and his snooty buddy decided to go icognito to test his degree of celebrity (much to his apparent disappointment) and prove that we're all swine undeserving of his musical pearls.

What kind of attitude toward music is that?
posted by Miko at 10:12 AM on April 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


More [I ranted about this all week and didn't know it was being discussed here so now it's all spilling out...]

Rather than conclude that Kelly must always be seen in a gallery to make any sense, I'm pretty tempted to conclude that Kelly's paintings have little artistic value. If no one can even tell that something is art, let alone be moved by it or appreciate it in any way, what value does it have?

That is a question that this story is zinging to the heart of. What intrinsic value does art have? How much is dependent on celebrity and on context?

If Kelly has value intrinsically, it results from this: that people whose profession is to look at and think about art, who have spent years in training and have looked at and thought about more art than most people ever have or will, are largely in agreement that his paintings in some describable way have more good qualities than many other paintings, and certain unique qualities that allow his name and style to have meaning. In the same way that I trust a mechanic who says one model of car is more reliable in the other, I trust art historians who can provide the basis for their thinking that those paintings are somehow better than others. If those virtues are visible in a gallery, they should be just as visible in a coffee shop, too. My eye might not be educated enough to know how those paintings are different from thousands of others in thousands of other cofee shops, but the art historian's might be, but that's not an indictment of my personal ability to appreciate good art, just a commentary on the fact that my training and skills are in another field. In order to appreciate the good qualities of Kelly's work, I'd need to hear them pointed out by the art historian and test them against my own powers of observation to see whether I accepted his or her interpretation.

I think the reason this story has touched such a nerve is that it may (inadvertently) reveal that sometimes the performances or products esteemed as good high art are not always built on those sorts of intrinsic merits which don't depend on the coffee shop or the explanation of an expert. The idea that this music is just so much better than other music and other performances is not supported by the experiment. That's why the conclusion is interesting: the conclusion is not "This music, therefore, is not intrinsically better than other music," the conclusion is "People are too stupid and crass to recognize the obvious betterness of this music." We don't have to accept the premise of betterness without an explanation. No one does.

Sometimes high art is a product of the interaction between great talent (which can be found in all classes), access to education and resources, celebrity, and context. This experiment was full of hubris in assuming inherent quality in the music which is simply not readily apparent to people who are not deeply interested in it. That is not to say people could never appreciate it. A sign identifying him andhis accomplishments; an explication of what was great about this music and performance; a note about the provenance of his violin; all these things would have helped provide more context on which to judge him, more signals to help people decide to pay closer attention and perhaps begin to notice any subtleties that might be hallmarks of exceptional quality.

But the music as the music? A lot of people would say it was really good. A lot of people would say a 12-year-old Suzuki prodigy in the same subway was really good, too. The differences that a regular, busy, preoccupied public was expected to perceive between such a 12-year-old and a violin master are darn subtle. It would really require some additional context and teaching to bring most of us to notice and appreciate them. That's why paintings in museums have labels, and why curators are happy to explain why they were selected and are revered.

Even then, there's no accounting for taste; I don't like every painting in every museum, and that doesn't mean I'm a philistine. But to expect that people would perceive intrinsic value in this performance is to state the the value is contained within the performance, and I am not sure that's a safe statement. Some of the value is in the performance (it was darn good), but a lot of the value of that individual lies in his personal pedigree, his instrument, his normal concert-hall context which he's mastered a presentation style for and in, and the agreement of experts on what his unique qualities are, which are just not the kinds of things evident to the rest of the world without their providing some understanding of it.
posted by Miko at 10:39 AM on April 15, 2007


Is this thing still on?

A street musician on a listserv had a great take on this. Bell just suffered from a ton of rookie busker's mistakes. This guy shared some important busker success strategies which Bell did not use. To wit:

"1. Play where and when people can stop and listen. AM Rush Hour is the worst time, even if you are Joshua Bell. PM rush is good, especially on paydays. Play where bus lines cross, near movie theaters when films are ending (get a schedule), or neighborhoods where people go because they have heard you can have a good time there.

2.Play short sets. Joshua's Metro repertoire should have been pieces of short duration. You must give the audience a chance to pay you, talk to you, and leave, making room for your next paying admirers.

3. Gimmicks help." As in, providing interesting visuals, playing a 'character' for people.

So maybe Bell is just a bad busker.
posted by Miko at 10:30 AM on April 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


"maybe Bell is just a bad busker"

Is maybe a really good point. "Yeah, we hired Picasso to paint this guy's house, and you know what? The guy didn't like it!" Maybe classical-concert-giving and subway-station-busking are completely different skills, with some commonalities, but with some pretty major differences.

That being said, for what it's worth, I really liked the article. Made me all sniffley, and such. Didn't find it too condescending. Like Joshua Bell.
posted by Squid Voltaire at 3:22 PM on April 17, 2007


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