Why-oh-why: Joshua Bell to replay his Metro stunt

Why-oh-why: Joshua Bell to replay his Metro stunt


norman lebrecht

September 24, 2014

The one where he busked on a $3m Strad in 2007 and the commuter world just walked by.

This time, he has announced it in advance.

He made $32 and a few cents in tips on the original gig. Times must be tough.



  • John Borstlap says:

    It MAY eloquently show the place of classical music in the broader context of society.

    But it definitely shows the importance of concert ritual, location and all the package around classical music, which is often criticized for creating a mental ‘barrier’ to potential new audiences. If you take-out all ritualistic barriers, as Bell does in the video, people cannot get mentally ‘into’ music, because of being occupied with the stresses of daily transportation. If I would have to get the tube to get at an appointment in time, I’m not in the mood for Bach, however beautiful it be and beautifully played.

  • anon says:

    Oh no, I saw this and worried that we’d be subjected to another helping of hand-wringing bathos from Gene Weingarten. “ONLY THE CHILDREN STOPPED TO LISTEN!!” Yeah, they don’t have to worry about being fired from work. Maybe Bell wants to set this up on a Sunday this time. Or maybe it will also be designed to fail so we can lament that no one likes classical music anymore.

    Or maybe they could get just Yuja Wang to do it.

  • Anonymus says:

    For perception of music – actual music – you need three conditions:

    -space (of interaction)

    At least two of these three conditions are lacking in this experiment.

    Give a gourmet menu prepared by a master chef to swine: same effect.
    Try to grow a wine stock in the desert: same effect.
    Half of the artistic exchange is realized within the recipient, and only under the right conditions.

  • musician says:

    It would be nice if Joshua would disappear for a while and come back a genuine musician without his multiple on stage eccentricities. Leave Washington DC alone.

  • Ron Spigelman says:

    I think Weingarten heard that there’s a Pulitzer Prize for stupidity which is what they should have won the first time…here’s a scenario: The Timpanist of the National Symphony realizing that he/she starts the Beethoven Violin Concerto is barely going to make it on time to the rehearsal with Josh Bell and 80 of his colleagues, but as he/she rushes up the escalator there is Yo Yo busking in the subway, so of course it would be ok to stop and listen and be late for rehearsal right?

  • Milka says:

    You can view him as an embarrassed
    idiot – the first outing showed he meant nothing and his ego has been itching ever since . if this is true he subjects himself to being viewed as a greater idiot . Has he reached the age
    of nothing like an old fool . Now he
    is going to paper the house ?
    No self respect ………….

  • It’s a shameless plug for his new Bach album coming out this month. I’m not a fan of his playing, but he’s trying new ways of bringing in an audience. In tough times, people will do anything for attention.

    • Doug says:

      True, and I couldn’t agree more about his playing. But the sad part is that somehow Bell–who obviously lives in a bubble surrounded by sycophants–believes this is avant garde.

  • MWnyc says:

    At least this time he’s doing it during the lunch hour, so passersby probably won’t be in quite as much of a rush.

    Another, less-remarked-on problem with the original Bell/Weingarten stunt was the choice of music, The Chaconne may be sublime/monumental/masterful/etc., but it’s pretty solemn and severe – not ideal busking music. If he wants to play unaccompanied Bach in the setting, the cheerful, bouncy opening of the Partita in E major would be a much better choice.

  • Emily G. says:

    As long as he doesn’t play Schubert’s “Ave Maria” again. That piece is way overplayed by buskers.

  • andy lim says:

    i think 32$ for some knee bends are not that bad!

  • andy lim says:

    32$ is not bad for some knee bends!

  • andy lim says:

    32$ is extremely well paid for some knee bends!

  • Yohooty Lofitz says:

    A little Beatles, a little Kansas even Devil Went Down To Georgia would get more people stopping. As a classically trained musician, I can appreciate solo Bach partitas and their complexity but the average Tom, Dick or Jane, it flies right over their heads at warp speed!

  • Eric Edberg says:

    Here in America, we love sequels. That first publicity stunt succeeded like no one could have anticipated. Here’s PR Stunt II. His people are very good–and I’m sure they appreciate the shoutout from you.

  • 110 says:

    Unfortunately we hardly recognize greatness unless we are told.
    If a real musician would pass by in the metro station ,probably only him would immediately recognize a master playing
    What I wanted to say is that for ordinary people if not “on the pedestal” no respect.
    It’s sad!