Art without a frame

In 2008, the Washington Post wondered whether the average American would recognize beauty if it had suddenly materialized during a busy hour in the middle of a nondescript mall. To find out the answer they planted one of the most accomplished violinists in the world, Joshua Bell, for an incognito performance along with his Gibson ex Huberman (a violin “handcrafted in 1713 by Antonio Stradivari during the Italian master’s ‘golden period’”).

“So would a crowd gather?” asked Gene Weingarten in his article “Pearls Before Breakfast” for the Washington Post. He asked Leonard Slatkin, music director of the National Symphony Orchestra who answered with a resounding yes. But despite Bell’s wonderful performance (a difficult Bach piece, among others), the acclaimed musician earned a mere $32.17 and a just few glances.

“If a great musician plays great music but no one hears... was he really any good?” Weingarten further wrote. “It’s an old epistemological debate, older, actually than the koan about the tree in the forest. Plato weighed in on it and the philosophers for two millennia afterward: What is beauty? Is it a measurable fact (Gottfried Leibniz), or merely an opinion (David Hume), or is it a little of each, colored by the immediate state of mind of the observer (Immanuel Kant)?”
When after a few minutes had gone by and no one seemed to have taken interest, Bell began to be nervous.

“’It wasn’t exactly stage fright, but there were butterflies,’ he says. ‘I was stressing a little.’

Bell has played, literally, before crowned heads of Europe. Why the anxiety at the Washington Metro?

‘When you play for ticket-holders,’ Bell explains, ‘you are already validated. I have no sense that I need to be accepted. I’m already accepted. Here, there was this thought: What if they don’t like me? What if the resent my presence...’

He was, in short, art without a frame.

Ito ang video ng Washington Post:


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