'Beware the barrenness of a busy life.' — Socrates
One of the greatest violinists of our days played incognito at the station exquisite Bach pieces (among other great composers’ works) for about an hour on a violin that costs 3.5 million dollars. Hardly anyone stopped, paid attention, or dropped a coin. Let alone recognizing him, while tickets to his concert usually cost 100$ on average.
Most people attributed it to the fact that it took place at an inappropriate hour when nearly everyone was rushing to catch a train to get to work, therefore hardly anyone could afford to stop to listen to buskers and thus risk losing their jobs.
“Almost all of them were on the way to work, which meant, for almost all of them, a government job. L'Enfant Plaza is at the nucleus of federal Washington, and these were mostly mid-level bureaucrats with those indeterminate, oddly fungible titles: policy analyst, project manager, budget officer, specialist, facilitator, consultant.”
So there were hardly doctors, firemen, or anyone whose getting to work on time was a matter of life or death among the people streaming past a masterpiece that in Brahms’ words contains “a whole world of the deepest thoughts and most powerful feelings” and is said to be a celebration of the breadth of human possibility. Nevertheless, it doesn’t seem to have evoked in the audience either thoughts or feelings. Must've fallen on stony ground.
If I were offered this story as a thought experiment, I would predict exactly the same result. What’s more, I’m pretty sure if the following day in the same context a different social experiment had been done — along the lines of a porn star performing a hot scene — far more people would’ve come up with tons of excuses for being late to work and would've crowded around.
First of all, it takes talent or the ability to perceive talent and beauty in order to recognize and appreciate such qualities.
It takes at least a rudimentary intellect to understand and enjoy classical music — mind, animals wouldn't stop either, although experiments in zoos showed that animals calmed down while listening to Mozart, but run amok at the first sounds of hard rock or heavy metal. The effect of classical music (or any other art form) on an individual is directly proportional to his/her intellect — the higher the intellect, the deeper the comprehension.
Beauty can't be explained, proved or tested — it's like vision, no-one can explain to you what it feels like unless you've got eyesight.
If we could grade beauty according to the nature of feelings it evokes, absolute beauty would be at one end of the scale. The old saw about "beauty being in the eye of the beholder", in my opinion, refers to the ability of the beholder to distinguish true beauty rather than to their views on beauty — if the eye can’t "behold" there’s no "beauty" in it.
The violin in question, made by one of the greatest 18th century Italian craftsmen, Antonio Stradivari, is worth 3.5 million not because it's old, but, among other things, because of the unsurpassed quality of its sound created by the richest possible palette of harmonics and overtones, and how far the instrument can project it.
Most genres of modern music are nothing more than organized noise, that is, cacophony — commercial products record companies and all sorts of shameless small time “artists” called music and forced on the increasingly uncultured public so that they can rake in the millions. Prolonged exposure to such products, especially from an early age, dulls the senses and perception, so that most people aren’t able to recognize true beauty any more.
It's sad that nowadays people are brainwashed by junk food, junk culture and consumer goods into being afraid to get sacked if they stop to listen to the music of one of the greatest composers of all times, or into buying things they don't need and selling their souls for things they do need. And it's tragic that in our society getting to work on time so as not to lose a job is more important than listening to a piece of sublime music performed by one of the greatest living musicians.
Wasn't progress supposed to make our lives happier and more comfortable?
With such prosaic mindset, why would parents try to instil good taste into their children?
No wonder modern society doesn't actually need highbrow art.
Besides, we are too busy for everything that really matters.
I wonder what the result would be, if the same experiment were carried out in Europe, especially in Italy. Probably more people would squeeze the virtuoso’s performance into their busy schedule, since Europe has much richer and longer cultural traditions than the US.
Curiously, in the past it was allegedly far more difficult to provide food and shelter for the family, workers had fewer rights and there were no modern comforts, still true art prospered — probably because even a person without a fancy music education was able to recognize it. It seems, for some reason, material wealth and technological advances are proportionate to spiritual poverty.
However, the status quo is convenient for the ruling class — ignorant slaves are easier to rule.
They say humanity is progressing — but just because we’re moving forward doesn’t mean we’re going to a better place.
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