How Joshua Bell and Bianca Buitendag travel anonymously

VAs you may recall, around 8 am on January 12, 2007, the Washington Post launched a remarkable experiment and sent American violin virtuoso Joshua Bell in street clothes to the L’Enfant Plaza subway station in Washington.

Bell unpacked his 1713 Antonio Stradivarius violin, the famous Gibson ex Huberman he bought in 2001 for around $4 million. He started playing: Bach, Schubert, Massenet and Ponce. The question was: How many passers-by would stop, would recognize that a great master was playing in front of them, would recognize great art?

Bell played for 43 minutes, filmed by a hidden camera. At the “Washington Post” they later counted and came to the following conclusion: Of 1097 people who walked past Bell, seven stopped briefly to listen to him. A boy of about three stayed until his mother pulled him on, as did other children. When Bell put his Stradivarius back in the violin case after three quarters of an hour, he did so unnoticed.

I remembered this experiment, this story, some time ago after spending a few days in a hotel on the beach at Hossegor in south-west France.

You rarely sat alone on the terrace of the small hotel. Usually a young woman sat there, sometimes concentrated in front of her laptop, sometimes with a view of the sea, lost in thought. She was apparently a friend of one of the guys who ran the hotel, but she seemed a little out of place. She wasn’t lying on the beach in the sun, she didn’t jump into the sea, although the waves had been small and harmless for a few days. Nobody really paid attention to her.



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