Perception. . . Something To Think About . . .Stradivarius


In Washington DC, at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, this man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After about 3 minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule.

About 4 minutes later:

The violinist received his first dollar. A woman threw money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

At 6 minutes:

A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

At 10 minutes:

A 3-year old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head the whole time. This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent – without exception – forced their children to move on quickly.

At 45 minutes:

The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.

After 1 hour:

He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed and no one applauded. There was no recognition at all. No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin (Stradivarius) worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before, Joshua Bell sold-out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100/each to sit and listen as he plays the same music. This is a true story. Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the D.C. Metro Station, was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities.

This experiment raised several questions:

· In a common-place environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?

· If so, do we stop to appreciate it?

· Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made, how many other things are we missing as we rush through life?

Read original story here: Gene Weingarten

The History of the Stradivarius Violin

stradivariusviolinStradivarius violins are perhaps the most famous and iconic musical instruments ever made. Created by master violin-maker Antonio Stradivari, they represent the pinnacle of the luthier’s art. Stradivarius violins are widely sought after by musicians, and it is considered a privilege to be able to play on one. At auctions, these violins often command millions of dollars.


Master violin-maker Antonio Stradivari was born into a violin-making family, in Cremona, Italy, in 1644. He began making his own violins around 1680. It is thought that he was a student of Nicolo Amati, also of Cremona. His earlier examples were not as good as the violins that he made between approximately 1698 and 1720, considered to be his golden years. In his lifetime, he made over 1,000 violins, and it is estimated that only 650 of them survive today.


Stradivarius violins are known for their beautiful, mellow and full-bodied sound. They were made of spruce, willow or maple woods, and various minerals were used to protect the wood and enrich the sound. Antonio Stradivari was a student of Latin, so the violins were named Antonius Stradivarius. He also inscribed Latin phrases into the violins.


Stradivarius violins are exceedingly rare, and for the most part, all of the authentic violins that still exist today are accounted for. However, there are many fakes on the market that have authentic-looking labels. An antiques appraiser who specializes in violins can analyze an instrument to test the sound quality and verify the authenticity of a label.


Today, Stradivarius violins are the most highly sought-after instruments in the world. At auctions, an authentic Stradivarius from the golden years between 1698 and 1720 can command millions of dollars. Even the earlier examples fetch high prices, usually in the several hundreds of thousands range.


Stradivarius violins are known for their impeccable sound quality; however, no one really knows why the sound is so perfect. There are many theories, but the mystery remains. Some people think that Stradivari soaked the wood in sea water, and some believe that the glue that was used contributes to the richness of sound. Although many people have tried to emulate the craft of violin making, the richness of sound has not been replicated.

Read more: The History of the Stradivarius Violin |

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