The Day a Busker Played His Stradivarius in a Metro Station

Jameson's picture
Submitted by Jameson on Wed, 2009-08-19 11:38

Joshua Bell opened the case of his $3.5 million Stradivarius on the floor of Washington's busy L'Enfant Plaza Station, threw in some coins and began to play "Chaconne" from Johann Sebastian Bach's Partita No. 2 in D Minor. Here's what happened next...

[hat tip: Jane Cherrington]

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I guessed...

Olivia's picture

at the beginning of the article what the result would be, but I hoped to be proven wrong.

I just can't grasp the nature of souls who walk past in utter indifference to a maestro playing Schubert's Ave Maria in the flesh - and I know I don't want to. Thirty two bucks?? Christ in shitty nappies!

Stephane Grappelli...

Ross Elliot's picture

...was another famous busker.

Great article, Glenn.

Rosie's picture

"This would never happen in the UK." (Marcus)

One of the more tragic memories I have from my five years' working in London was watching the commuters. Lifeless, unsmiling, pre-occupied, ant-like figures set about the business of getting from work to home and vice versa. It is universal I think, Marcus. Except maybe in countries where the western "way of life" is absent. Like Glenn I was not surprised that the children wanted to stay and watch, unaffected by any consciousness of the ruthless march of time and time keeping.

I think that people have a heightened sense of awareness of things that are of particular interest to them. There seemed to be a theme that most of the people who stopped to listen (apart from the children) had had some experience of/interest in the violin.

The other thing that struck me was Ms Souza's comment about the hobo that died at the top of the escalator and no one stopped or gave a damn. (Probably gave him a good kick to get him out of the way!)

Be warned, reminiscences follow:
When I lived in London I walked through a small park called Lincoln's Inn Field each day on my way to work. In this place hobos lived in cardboard boxes. One freezing cold December morning I entered Lincoln's Inn Field and sensed a terrible tension in the air. Hobos walked about like zombies, slow moving and head down. I asked one of them what had happened. "Joe died," was the response and a small account of why and how. I went with him to where the group of men surrounded Joe's frozen dead body. We said a prayer for him. I stayed there with them, touched by the degree of friendship/comraderie these poverty struck people shared. After a while the police turned up and ushered me away. As with Ms Souza's account of the hobo at the top of the escalator, no one else stopped although they couldn't have helped but feel the strange atmosphere that prevailed in that park the minute they entered.

So, what is it that can be sensed in the air, so to speak, by an innocent stranger? Some people say they have "sensed" danger before they ever perceived it.
Years ago, when I was biking home from varsity, I again sensed a really strong, frightening tension in the air. I got off my bike and listened attentively. Silence. What was happening? Suddenly I remembered. Today was the day of the anti apartheid march re the All Black's tour to South Africa. They would have been about a mile or two away from where I stood.

Spooky, Possums!

Ha ha

gregster's picture

This would never happen in the UK.

Good lesson.

Kasper's picture

Do we listen? Do we pay attention beyond the immediate task infront of us? Goes to show how easily we can miss beauty anywhere dosn't it.

Indeed, Jeff...

Jameson's picture

... almost out of the mouth of Ayn herself!!

I've seen huge crowds gather around talented buskers in NYC, Marcus. I think this was a tough test, given the venue and time of day. But the interesting thing to me was the reaction of all the children who were instinctually mesmerised by him. Just goes to show how drudgery can literally beat the life out of you... if you let it.

The reporter writes a good

Jeff Perren's picture

The reporter writes a good story, though from the usual idiot's perspective philosophically. But, this quotes is sheer loveliness:

"Interview magazine once said his playing 'does nothing less than tell human beings why they bother to live.'"

It just goes to show...

Marcus's picture

...the lack of culture and education in the US.


This would never happen in the UK.

This must've made you wanna scream...

Jameson's picture

"It's an old epistemological debate, older, actually, than the koan about the tree in the forest. Plato weighed in on it, and 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)?

We'll go with Kant, because he's obviously right... "

I saw this!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

He got recognised in the end! Eye

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