11 March, 2008

Culture in a Vacuum

My friend sent me an article last night that succeeded in being one of the best pieces of journalism I've ever read. Luckily, this article revolved around a musical revelation; or, actually, a cultural revelation magnified by music. Like any great story, the catalyst is a question:

"What is beauty? Is it a measurable fact (Gottfried Leibnitz), 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)?"

It's a tall order, and one that can only be filled by a cunning plan and a true artist. Enter, Joshua Bell, child prodigy and extremely gifted violinist along with his best friend, his Stradavari violin. Now, transform this artist into a street-performer by changing his usual setting to something a little more drab and mundane. Voila! The prince and the pauper transformation is complete, and the evidence of hidden cameras and interviews seems to suggest that although great music can transcend the constraints of its setting to some extent, most people are in too much of a rush to listen anyway. In the end, it seems to be a combination of self-interest and insecurity that keep adults from stopping to enjoy the sounds of one of the greatest contemporary violinists. I say adults, because one of the more hopeful revelations of this well-written article is that children are always willing to pay attention to great music.

Set some time aside to read "Pearls Before Breakfast", and you won't be disappointed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Of course children are always willing to listen to music - they are not going to be fired from their job if they are late for work because they took the time to listen to a musician!

I actually often stop to listen to street performers - I think they are great even though they don't come with a PR company to tell you that they are great, like stage musicians do. My favorite is the lady who plays the musical saw in the subway (www.sawlady.com/blog ) and the guy who plays the harmonica. But if I was late for an appointment I wouldn't stop to listen even to my favorites. Life's obligations must come first if you have a family to feed. It doesn't mean I don't appreciate the talent in front of me.