The Washington Post Sunday - - Book World - BY ROBERT PIN­SKY

In a re­cent, much-dis­cussed ar­ti­cle, The Wash­ing­ton Post Mag­a­zine in­vited em­i­nent vi­o­lin­ist Joshua Bell to par­tic­i­pate in an ex­per­i­ment. The bril­liant and charis­matic mu­si­cian, wear­ing a T-shirt and base­ball cap, took his Stradi­var­ius to the L’En­fant Plaza Metro sta­tion one week­day morn­ing. He re­moved the priceless in­stru­ment from its case, seeded the open case with some coins and bills, and, stand­ing near a trash bar­rel, he be­gan play­ing the “Cha­conne” from Jo­hann Se­bas­tian Bach’s Par­tita No. 2 in D Mi­nor.

Bell’s incog­nito per­for­mance of six pieces drew lit­tle at­ten­tion. Peo­ple hur­ried by, with a few sig­nif­i­cant ex­cep­tions. The vir­tu­oso, de­scribed as some­times earn­ing “a thou­sand dol­lars a minute,” gar­nered $32.17, not count­ing a 20-dol­lar bill put into the case by a wo­man who rec­og­nized him.

Plau­si­ble ex­pla­na­tions for the gen­eral — though not ab­so­lute — in­dif­fer­ence in­clude an in­sen­si­tive pop­u­la­tion, a cul­ture out of bal­ance, the over­whelm­ing power of con­text, and the elu­sive na­ture of beauty. A more op­ti­mistic pos­si­bil­ity would be that peo­ple on their way to work au­to­mat­i­cally re­sist, and per­haps un­con­sciously rec­og­nize, the an­ar­chic and dis­rup­tive power of beauty.

William But­ler Yeats’s “The Fid­dler of Dooney” sug­gests that idea:

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