Pearls Before Breakfast

02007-04-09 | Music, News | 19 comments

Pearls Before Breakfast –
No one knew it, but the fiddler standing against a bare wall outside the Metro in an indoor arcade at the top of the escalators was one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made. His performance was arranged by The Washington Post as an experiment in context, perception and priorities — as well as an unblinking assessment of public taste: In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?

Thanks for the link Laurie. The above article adds another angle to my last post and Will’s comment. We don’t hear greatness before us – we hear it only when it is pimped and advertised and presented on a fine stage. We are overloaded with music – don’t you HATE music playing at the gas-pump? Music is everywhere, music is cheap. If you don’t think current music is very good I can only say this to you: stop and listen to the street musician and give him or her a couple of bucks. That is the real building block of music and culture.


  1. marijose

    I was reading that performing on the street was the main way musicians made a living before recording technology came along. It’s interesting and sad nowadays how the public generally shuns street performers even if they do have the time to stop to listen, like the artists are crazy or part of an underclass. They are generally happy to talk about their work during breaks, as are musicians in restaurants. My favorite part of going to Las Ramblas as a child was all the street artists, it was like a feast for the senses.

    I am holding out for a “Live from the L’Enfant Plaza Metro” release from Joshua Bell! :)

  2. yumiko

    The writer of this articles asks, “Do you have time for beauty?”

    I think the last post was part of this observation, also:
    “People over 28 years old are generally so consumed by their life, their job, career and family, that they will stick to the music they discovered before.”

    It’s so hard to hear or even try something different when you are in a hurry, isn’t it? Probably a part of the culture to rush. There needs to be time to slow down.

  3. Adam Solomon

    I just finished reading the article from a friend before seeing this post – it shocked me, really. I’d always been curious about what would happen if someone tried exactly this and I’d always conceived of SOMETHING more happening, that there would be passersby uninterested but that there would be much more of a crowd, at least. I wonder if it would have been any different in New York where street musicians do typically draw major crowds.

    But most importantly, I wonder if we NEED the music pimped, and if so, if that’s a modern symptom or a general human condition. If greatness is packaged in a way that you’re used to perceiving as mediocrity, can any of us (and if so, who?) recognize it immediately for what it is?

  4. Panj

    I found the end results of the experiment depressing…

  5. Anna

    Yumiko, I agree. Everyone in such a great hurry today. 20 somethings are concerned about building their wealth, they forget to stop and enjoy their surroundings.

    Most of us forget that life is way to short, when we realise it, then we try to make time for other things in life.

  6. Andrew

    Ever seen the documentary “Music form the Inside Out”? It follows players from the Philadelphia Orchestra. There’s a scene where the musicians are on tour in Europe and attending a reception, when someone comes in yelling that someone is playing the “Seasons” on the street. The whole orchesta runs out to hear and stands transfixed listening to a little old man playing the accordian – still brings tears to my eyes to think of it.

    On the other side of the coin, the town where I live has virtually no street musicians. One of about two regulars was mugged this past Feb. and his sax was stolen. He had to wait for his “government check” to come through so he could get a new one and play again.

    My wife and I have a pact – as soon as the weather breaks, we’re in the parks every day playing music – this town needs it!

  7. Luz

    @MJ: Let’s hope he (Bell) had one of those snazzy little recorders like Ottmar has!

  8. Jacqueline

    Good Morning

    Do you have time for beauty, beauty like music ,is in the ears of the beholder!
    Currators of music , remarkable idea. One musician comes to mind that is going to be doing , the same thing! It would be amazing to be able to sample all different kinds of music, before purchasing. For like building libraries of books, and music. One needs to share! Ideas and inspirations!

    There is a lot of wicked music out there! You just have to find it!


  9. Jacqueline


    OMG there is a place I frequent, not quite as frequently as once before. Musicians are immigrants from around the world. Ages range from nine to ninety, you also never know who will walk through the door. For the owner is a master in repairs and advice! What a place of music , they can make me cry and light up my heart. The music omg is amazing , he has just about every instrument available to man kind in his mind . Music is what it is all about , he shares all his instruments with all that walk through! Its a gathering of celebrations of all generations. Love is what they got! and always open to knew music …Lol imagine a shrimp on as wooden stool trying to learn stand up bass! Way to much fun. Thoose days I get into so much trouble cause like sailing I loose track of all time..Its absolutely amazing ! Jackie

  10. Carol

    I wish msuic wasn’t handed out like a necessity. It’s special, and it should be LISTENED to . I resent music being played everywhere to sell things, and attract you to something else. I’d like to watch something on tv without having the same old music there because it’s just done. I’m single minded I guess. It’s enough to see the picure and hear the talking without adding another element. I’ve learned to shut out that exasperating stuff they call music. After many years of that , it’s likely one will turn off something great and go on by and not give it a chance.

  11. Anna

    I was watching Good Morning America before going to the gym and they did a few minute segment where they showed Joshua Bell playing, they said that only 7 people stopped. I found that extremely sad. When did we stop educating kids about art and music?

  12. Carol

    To be alert.. to be aware at all times…how wonderful that would be…How much more wonder we would experience in every moment..
    How many fewer typos I would make : )

  13. laurie

    I was drawn to the videos embedded in the original story and how the visual seems to became more than just a documentation of the event- still thinking about that…

    I understand this story has created a lot of interest on the internet and in the media… and also struck a few nerves. The author had an online discussion about the set up of the experiment and answered (a lot) of comments.

    I wonder with all the attention this story received, will it actually impact the
    behavior of anyone? That’s a different discussion i guess… (smile)

  14. Jacqueline


    Yes and when we are and learn that like a Buddhadist mind and lol so many spelling mistakes…Imagine the experiences…It trips the life of fabulous and then and then and then… reach a new plateau and grow again!

    So happy to hear your words!


  15. Jacqueline

    The think I find infruriating is when you are in search to purchase old , odd or new muisc. It does not fit the confounds or taste of present day , shelves. Ask to bring it in or order it . I must check with head office. and the wheel goes round and round. For are we off our nuts for requesting such madness?


  16. Jacqueline


    I remember being in Toronto , lol walking past a street musician , and being so drawn in, then listening gently placing all the change I had, and then purchasing the cassette . Lol behold years later. Ron Sexsmith!


  17. Jacqueline

    Imagine all the musicians in the parks , under trees, practicing playing. sharing and in garages , from the fires and the ashes , basements , and lol to sailing ships. That are just being who they are. Ottmar was right when he said luck and a drive ! Here we all are sharing thoughts and gripes.

    Anyone feeling like what a wonderful life?


  18. Jacqueline

    Carol —-Laurie

    Remeber Lenoard Cohen , lts playing in stero all through the house!

    Smiling and enjoying the day!

  19. Anna

    Yesterdays paper ran a column about Joshua Bell playing in the train station. Todays paper ran a full page, as well as the link to washington post so that we can listen to him play.

    I would love to see him live, will have to keep an eye out and hope that he will one day come to Australia.

    It is so very sad that we are always in so much hurry that we don’t stop to smell the roses. Always running to catch train or a bus, always running not to be late. We let so many amazing things, and opportunities pass us by.


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