Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Stand and Stare

A couple of days back, a friend forwarded an e-mail on how one of the top musicians in the US played six Bach pieces on a 3.5 million dollar violin for 45 minutes at a Washington DC subway station during peak hours and less than a dozen people even slowed down to listen. Black and white, male and female, rich and poor – they were all too busy to even notice the music. The only demographic group that consistently wanted to stand and listen was, you guessed it, children. But they were always dragged away by parents who were in a rush to go wherever it is they had to go to.
The entire exercise had been a part of an experiment by the Washington Post to determine whether appreciation of beauty was universal, or it was a function of the context in which it was experienced.
‘How would I have behaved in a similar situation’, I kept asking myself while reading the article. Music is unlikely to have moved me, because I am practically tone deaf, but I do know that I almost always slow down when I see an artist sketching, or a man taking time to compose a photograph. I am that person who is constantly pointing things out to her kids, or whipping out my camera to capture a particularly interesting scene. But at the same time, there are so many times when I have picked up one child and dragged the other because I have been in a hurry to do whatever it is that I feel I should be doing at that point of time. Maybe then, I am not too different from all those other commuters.

But maybe most of those people were not indifferent to the music. Maybe they just had to be in office on time, and could not spare even a few minutes to listen to something they were moved by. Maybe if the same experiment was conducted in the evening when the commuters were going back home, the results would have been different. And if any of those people had been on a holiday, they would definitely have stopped to listen.

So I thought, till I saw this picture that I took during the half-marathon last Sunday.

When I took the picture, I was aware only of the Kenyan runners.
I had blogged about them earlier – to say they are poetry in motion is at the same time totally accurate and totally inadequate. To see them run within a few feet of you is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
It was only when I got home that I noticed the young lady in the frame, running as though totally oblivious to the grand sight that she could witness if only she turned her head a bit. She is obviously a reasonably decent runner, why then is she totally indifferent to something that few have the privilege of witnessing.Could that be another example of not having time for Beauty even when we are not engaged in work? Or am I just over analyzing?
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Michelle Zheng said...

That's slightly disappointing, to see the results of musical appreciation receive little feedback. These days, many things are taken for granted.

Hm, I don't know about you over analyzing. Personally,I think you're someone that notices the small details and acknowledge their existence.


Natasha Ramarathnam said...

The saddest part of the experiment, as I see it, is that many of the parents who dragged their kids away from the music, may well be slotting music lessons for the same kids and may be dragging them to and from the music classes in the same way.


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