A few people Twittered and blogged about Joshua Bell’s solo in a Metro station. Most I read mourned humanity’s lack of ability to recognize beauty around us, being too enraptured with our own trivial problems. I concurred and moved on. Next day, I thought about it a few times while waiting on compiles or sitting in traffic (omg , I’m driving again!). The more I thought about it, the more irritated I got. The whole thing just didn’t sit right with me. It really seemed pompous, actually.
I was fixin’ to rant, but a quick Google search showed I’m not alone (uno, dos). The authors there pretty much summarize my feelings as well. One thing they don’t really cover, however, is the experience part.
Yes, a rose, alone in the middle of a large bustling city is definitely something beautiful, innocent, fragile, and neat to behold. However, one amongst a throng in a lush public garden is even better. One goes to a public garden to be amongst beautiful flowers. This is a consumer choice, and one that is usually planned, and looked forward too. The anticipation grows, batteries are purchased for the camera, grandma is brought along, lasting memories are created.
Nine Inch Nails, for example. Weird, random websites appearing on various places on the web based on innocous phrases on T-shirts and lyrics. USB keys found in bathrooms randomly containing tracks for NIN’s upcoming album. The expected RIAA’s attack, with predictable backlash, only a few loudly proclaiming, “This is marketing genius… they all fell for it!”. If you didn’t catch my sarcasm, mainly using the RIAA’s legal aggression as a personified target for the angst ridden teenage youth, one of the target demographics for NIN’s music is just a fantastic marketing tactic; planned or not (naturally I think planned). While I loathe un-cited sources, this is still a great quote from someone apparently familiar with Trent Reznor’s involvement:
“It’s not about slapping something on top of an existing experience,” the source says. “It must be its own entity. Make the experience as immersive as possible for fans.”
People go to symphonies to enjoy the experience, and Joshua Bell is a contributor to that experience. You can’t rip Joshua Bell out of context, and shove him into one that personifies preparation for the trials of the day. We live in a day and age where consumers demand, and expect great experiences. They want control of the timing and place. Home theaters vs. going to the movies, time shifting video on your Tivo on Tuesday afternoon vs. Friday night Battle Star Galactica, making video you want to watch and publishing it to the world vs. 999 one way channels of DirectTV non-refundable crap.
Instead of putting Mr. Bell out of place, they should of instead adapted the place to compliment Mr. Bell. Throw him in a monkey suit, add some of his other instrument playing friends, nicely decorate that portion of the metro, improve the acoustics, low lighting, and provide comfortable seating with an usher. Not the symphony, but hey… I’m a consumer in the 21st century, I want the symphony to come to me! THAT would of been significantly more positive.