Just because the Joshua Bell-playing-violin story seems to puzzle many people, and I get really tired of seeing it float by endlessly, and would rather not be seeing it for the next twenty years of my life:
The primary problem is this staged event predilects based on widely spread shame-based notions of “art:” if it’s ancient and barely anybody cares about it except a very small number of mostly wealthy people willing to pony up for five hundred dollar tickets, IT’S THE GREATEST ART.
It isn’t, that’s completely arbitrary, at best, and classist as fuck at worst. Nobody walked by “the world’s finest music” that day in the Metro station, they walked by somebody playing music they didn’t care about. Many of them, presumably, listening to music they did care about, already.
The reason this story works on you, and the only way it will, is (a) you don’t care about classical music, or care very little, like 99.99999% of humanity (who have any idea there’s a western classical/modern dichotomy in music in the first place, luckily that’s a minority) and (b) you feel guilty about this plain fact. If you just cut out (b), you can easily envision thousands of DC residents flowing by listening to The World’s Greatest Music on their iPods and ignoring some rich guy playing rich people wedding stuff on a four billion dollar antique violin, just to make some asinine point about how more people should pay to see him at work.
This is vastly preferable to the self-hating version, where everybody who had to to pick up their kids that day or get to work and only had fifteen minutes to get there is an idiot for not pausing to watch yet another street musician, playing some pretty stuff, maybe, that barely matters to them.
IMO. YMMV. Also, if you do want to persist in believing this video says sad things about life and humanity, there’s this thing called the Internet, and on it you can look things up and make yourself much more expert about classical music by this time tomorrow. And then you won’t have to feel so bad, just FYI.
Just because a format or form or movement or institution or person is older, doesn’t make it better. Just older.