perception


The metro (underground train) is often the quickest way to get from A to B on the B or A lines in the city of Rome. There is little to be enjoyed about this subway experience apart from the speed of the journey under the busy bus routes above.

Often a busker brightens the journey. I’m not sure if there is some certificate of competence that these musicians need before entertaining the underground travellers. I suspect not. But the commuters are generous to the accordianists and violinists whose music fills the carriages. Every now and then there is some outstanding music and I decide to stay aboard a stop or two longer to savour the sounds.

As I listened to a particularly good violinist on the metro yesterday, I was reminded of the Washington Post experiment a couple of years ago. Joshua Bell is one of the world’s outstanding violinists. People pay hundreds of dollars and travel thousands of miles to hear him play.

You might like to take a moment to hear him play before reading on. Just tap this link to hear Bell play a part of the Samuel Barber violin concerto. A tip for listening: just relax, don’t think about the music, just let the sound flow over and through you. And if you need some more here is Joshua Bell playing Max Bruch’s first Violin Concerto (mid 19c)

Well, now that you have heard him play you can see that he is good! The experiment was for him to dress down (t shirt and jeans) and to play anonymously for rush-hour commuters at a New York metro station.


Hardly anyone notices. Many of these same people would have paid over one hundred dollars and given an evening to hear Joshua Bell make music. Here he was, looking pretty ordinary, but still playing with extra-ordinary giftedness, and almost everyone walks past without noticing. In busking mode he makes just $32 dollars in 45 minutes.


Since re-reading the article I have done my own pondering. My limited perception of reality blinds me to much that is gifted to me in every moment. You can make the applications to your own life.

As for me, whenever I hear the violinists in the metro these days I am listening with new ears. All of my senses have been returned to their default settings – undulled by daily demands and routines.

The fruits of the sense-adjustments are immediate. You might like to try.

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