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There was an interesting experiment conducted by the famous violinist Joshua Bell where he went and played in the subway. Very few people stopped. Some children stopped to listen and then their parents schlepped them away. One can assume that those people that professed to love and admire classical music, lawyers, doctors, business people, who regularly attend classical music concerts and spend a substantial amount of money to buy front row tickets to listen to this kind of music, and if you stop them and tell them whether they like this music they would instantly say what kind of a question is that, of course they like it and even love this music passionately,  these were the people that passed by and didn't even stop for a moment to listen to this world renowned musician. 

People might 'agree' that music is good or not depending on how it is presented. Whether they are aware of who is the artist or not. Where it is performed and at what setting. At a change of circumstances, the same music will be overlooked, totally ignored, and the world famous artist can simply play the most beautiful music in the most beautiful manner and literally almost no one will take notice or show interest.

These are the comments from the video description:

Joshua Bell, one of the best concert violinist in the world played for free, for 45 minutes, on a violin worth 3.5 million dollars  at a subway station. Over a thousand people passed by Bell, only seven stopped to listen him play, including a 3-year old boy, and only one person recognized him.

What has music become?

Is it a cultural thing that people can impress one another by 'appreciating' something they don't really care about that much?

Or if the work of art is not packaged with a beautiful and impressive frame then it has no value? One must buy the tickets, dress fancy and go to the concert in order to listen and appreciate music? or music can be enjoyed and appreciated at any given time just for the sake of been enjoyable and simply been music?

A few days ago Joshua might have played in a concert hall where 50,000 people attended. He also might of gotten paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for his performance. But on a train station almost no one took notice, and his 'paycheck' was nothing more then a few nickels...

What are people paying for? The music or the Frame?

Does music have any value without the hoopla of the setting?

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 A few things come immediately to my mind on this. I believe the answer to these questions is multi faceted. 

People are definitely drawn in by their initial impressions. So much so that they usually follow the superficial over the deep in making judgments.Why is this? I believe this is likely wired into humans to react and decide on outside stimuli they are unprepared for. In the wild, a hunter doesn't have time to decide any details about the prey. If he wants the kill he needs to decide fast, think deeper later. A mother who was gathering food is honed in on her food and the child's safety. I've been to New York several times and it seems the same only in a more modern way. Like little ants rushing around, everyone has a set agenda and could care less about much else. There is the occasional people watcher.

So one difference between the NY subway and paying concert goers is intent and purpose. Concert goers are making a pre determined decision to go see Joshua Bell based on their love of the music. The NY subway situation shows us that these people are probably in a minority as compared to the population as a whole. No doubt golfers and motorcycle enthusiasts walked by who don't give a rats behind about classical music. This teaches several lessons. One of those is that we need to focus on our selected audience as composers because that audience is comparably small.

It has been proven that intelligence has nothing to do with personal music genre selection. Culture choice however does favor some genre, for instance the wealthy higher classes have gravitated towards jazz and classical music and have included these persuasions in their public cultural gatherings. Country clubs usually always have a jazz band playing. Many people in the elite classes were raised around and trained in classical music at good institutions. In those circles of people the type of education is also important. Classical training in a state school won't do for them. Of course, this is what they all think about themselves and how they manage to makes themselves feel more important. The fact that this group controls the money in large portions of industry keeps things going for them. Instead of using their money for global unity they build cultural walls with it. It's all a facade. One day they will die just like me. Money and class doesn't totally immunize us from life's troubles.

In general people who are removed from a thing can't really appreciate what goes into it. I don't think music is any different. No matter what the genre, non musicians do not appreciate it. The percentage of non musicians in a NY subway is large.

A pizza shop can have the best pizza in the world, however if their shop is greasy ans dust is on the seats no one will eat there. Music in the same way, presented in a bad environment won't be seen as positively. It's a superficial human judgement based on the surroundings.

I have the Joshua Bell sample library BTW by Embertone. This takes his work and places it at the mercy of anyone.

It's very simple. By far, the most popular genre of music in the USA is Country. People stay away from Classical in droves. I remember this story. I'm not at all surprised by it. 

All three posts make a good point. 

Timothy... your detailed post on the subject explains much about this phenomena.

I would summarize it like this: Context is equally important to Content.

The “Art without a Frame” subject begs the question... is it still good art without a great frame? Well that’s a bit like the “...if a tree falls in the woods...” philosophical debate.

You need the art and the audience for an experience to take place; the setting is equally important to the other two. I would also argue for a fourth element of experience... expectation. This is where culture, education, advertising and your friend’s and “influencer’s” opinions all affect what one experiences. (No one expected Bell, or for that matter, great music, in the subway!)

An artist once explained to me that half of the value of a piece of art is in the piece itself... the other half is the story of the piece: who made it, when, why, and where has it been and what has been said about it. Yes, and the frame, and the museum or gallery or cave, and the lighting, the time of day and the people next to you.. it all matters.

Reality is one thing... but perception is everything!

You can conclude from this story that classical music has a small audience and that many of them are insincere in their professed love of classical music; so without the "frame" the art doesn't mean anything to them, and I'm sure you would be right to a certain extent. But this story is not a fair test of that hypotheses.

The subway is a dangerous place that people use only as a means to an end, they just want to get out of it.  They are trained to be suspicious of any diversion or attraction so they avoid anything unusual. 

Many street musicians are very good, one more good one is not unusual.

The same musician in a more friendly setting eg. a street fair or farmer's market would likely get more attention.

We are all bombarded with high fidelity music on a regular basis. (Notice I didn't say high quality.)  Personally I try and avoid it to try and keep my listening skills fresh. But we all hear music everywhere; is has a numbing effect, why pause to listen to more?

High quality material is readily available 24 hours a day.  I can listen to Heifetz any time I want, why go out of my way to search for other violinists?  I actually do search occasionally, but the point is valid.

And heck, even among classical aficionados unaccompanied violin is not a big draw.

There’s only two kinds of music... Country... and Western!

Bob Porter said:

It's very simple. By far, the most popular genre of music in the USA is Country. People stay away from Classical in droves. I remember this story. I'm not at all surprised by it. 

But here's the thing: Art is still art (and music is still music) whether it has a frame or not. The frame doesn't make the art, the frame compliments the art.

What he played was exactly the same music that he played in a recording studio, and the concert hall.

The difference between art and music is that once the art is finished, the artist is done with the piece. Then art is a spectator sport. Music, on the other hand is constantly being recreated. Over and over. Not that one is better, just different.

here is an interesting break down - relating to the Bell curve, as it were.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/310746/share-music-album-sales-...

I think album sales might only tell part of the story. Many preference surveys put Country on top with Rock a close second. In any event, Classical is way down the list. Classical has always been for a select audience. Not for everyone.

I find it interesting that when Shakespeare putting on works for audiences that ranged from the poor to the rich, Praetorius was composing for the royal court. As did most composers into the classical period. 

Good points all, though I don't totally agree with the idea that country music rules the US.

Many listeners are now streaming their music. No album sales occur. Those stats are likely to be more telling.

In a country like the US with a population of about 325 million people there is a lot of variation in music taste. Depending on the area you are in there's no telling what the primary or most listened to music is. 

The only approach offered by public and state educational institutions is music theory, music history and classical music in one form or another.They seldom offer anything pertaining to any other genre. Sometimes Jazz is a course offered. In some areas of the US music isn't offered in public schools. From an educational perspective classical or "band" music is offered when available. In upper middle class neighborhoods it is common for parent to have started their children early on piano, violin or similar. I mean as early as 4-6 years old. With an instrument like violin you need an early start to really get to the level of acceptance in a well known orchestra by the time they graduate. Competition is steep and to break into a paid orchestra position at the higher levels takes a lot of work.

These people are in their own comparatively small ecosystem though as seen through a world lens. I'm guessing this is the primary market many of you are shooting for. Music played by community orchestras, local public orchestra and small chamber groups. That is, unless you're into this for personal pleasure.

The danger, as I see it, is in seeing that ecosystem as either better or more important than others. As has already been mentioned public music consumption is all over the place and as individual as the person. In many instances, learning the basics at an institution is a stepping stone to another line of music or might foster an appreciation for other genre. 

I believe classical and jazz are probably the  best tools for teaching music, at least from a theory perspective Some people have fond memories of being in a band or orchestra even though they no longer participate.

Much like the NFL props up their teams and players with huge salaries, classical music is similar. They have their heroes and they pay them accordingly.

Does this mean anything to the average Joe out there trying to make ends meet? In most cases, no.

I recall this of course and at the time the prevailing view seemed to be "those philistines not enjoying such amazing music!" which I assume was the intended outcome. This was never a view I agreed with and some members here have presented excellent ideas I never considered regarding environment and venue - a subway not being a safe or savoury place to linger so why on earth would you hang around especially as the video shows how obstructive those listening become!

The value of the instrument is an odd detail given a talented player can functionally override the limitations of a cheaper one such that most people would have no idea. It strikes me as a bludgeon in this narrative - that not only is the player talented but the instrument is worth millions! and therefore the passersby become even more ignorant and foolish. I can guess by your assumptions where your own convictions lie: "One can assume that those people that professed to love and admire classical music, lawyers, doctors, business people, who regularly attend classical music concerts and spend a substantial amount of money to buy front row tickets to listen to this kind of music, and if you stop them and tell them whether they like this music they would instantly say what kind of a question is that, of course they like it and even love this music passionately,  these were the people that passed by and didn't even stop for a moment to listen to this world renowned musician. " Quite a leap. Even assuming that there were countless lawyers doctors and business people (do you not assume the blue collars enjoy classical music?) ignoring Bell that seems permissible surely at rush hour.

Indeed wouldn't it be in character for an aficionado to skip the performance given how ill-served the rendition is by the acoustic profile of the venue?


The final consideration is that despite my love for classical music and enjoyment of live performances I would not prioritise solo violin being more into the polyphonic possibilities of larger groups. I think marketing and attendance to orchestral concerts bears out my assumption that it is far more popular. There are countless videos of ensembles ranging from quartets to symphony orchestras turning up in public and playing unexpectedly and such performances routinely gather crowds and make news. This sounded like a talented violinist improvising or playing little-known passages and the conclusion was almost certainly conceived before the action rather than the action first and the conclusion drawn later.

Overall a fairly dishonest piece of news that tells us nothing honest or useful about the relationship between performer, audience and venue.

 "The final consideration is that despite my love for classical music and enjoyment of live performances I would not prioritise solo violin being more into the polyphonic possibilities of larger groups. I think marketing and attendance to orchestral concerts bears out my assumption that it is far more popular. There are countless videos of ensembles ranging from quartets to symphony orchestras turning up in public and playing unexpectedly and such performances routinely gather crowds and make news. This sounded like a talented violinist improvising or playing little-known passages and the conclusion was almost certainly conceived before the action rather than the action first and the conclusion drawn later."

Not sure why this is either. Sure the violin has one of the highest ranges. The piccolo flute has a high range. We don't hear as much of it. IMO the cello has one of the richest ranges harmonically. Viola players are almost shunned.

The violin isn't designed for maximum use of it's lower harmonics. I'm a fiddle player. Even so, I wouldn't constantly prioritize that instrument over others in a solo setting.

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