Monday, July 7, 2014

Lunch Conversations

This is fairly typical of the conversation we used to have at our Friday lunches:

Lady and Gentlemen….
You would have to do an MRI scan to know what part of the brain is at a high functioning level to draw a conclusion in this experiment. Several extremes are in play here. Beauty is in the eye or should I say the ear of the beholder. This is a place where a man who falls from the platform. No one stops to help. What value did the observer place on the man? Actually Rob and I have some great discussions. I love the opportunity. Retired or not. 
Great to hear from you Lee.  Let us know when you are going to visit Ca. and we can all get together and catch up.
Carole, The wife of the Great and Powerful Oz!  Oh I mean Rob…..

From: leelu []
Subject: RE: Joshua Bell Plays in Subway

First:  Carole, has Rob gotten more like this since he retired?  Does he need to get out more??
Late to the thread, I know.  The value discussion has some, well, value, but I don't know if that is "it".  I'm inclined to think that it more about basic human psychology, and the states of mind of the people passing thru.    How aware are they of what is actually going on around them?  Are the focused on where they've been, or where they're going, or what just happened??  We're fairy accustomed to muzak, so there might be a tendency to take Bell's playing and treat it as such.
I remember Nordstrom's at SCP would, from time to time, have a pianist at a full grand piano, playing lovely music.  I was one of the few, if not the only passer-by to stop.
I guess one other way to find out would be to get Mr. Bell to play again, and ask the passers-by why they did or didn't stop. In the case of Nordstrom's, my answer would be, "I liked the music, and had the time."  Heck, I've even stopped for a player piano...
On May 14, 2013 at 2:45 PM rob wrote:

I'm still stuck on this discussion a few days ago about the value of performance art. It caused me to perform a little, as Einstein used to call it, “thought experiment” to help put the issue in the abstract.

Suppose you are transported to the planet Oozor where evolution has taken a very different path. Fortunately for you there is a breathable atmosphere with a slight smell of Magnolia blossoms brought on by the thin jasmine-colored film of algae covering the vast bog laying before you.

As you investigate closer, you can see hundreds of tiny colorful slug-like creatures along the shore. Whether they are near-sighted or simply don’t care about your approach is unclear. As you kneel down and watch, you observe a few of them blowing colorful bubbles of various shades of blue and green, and on rare occasion, of purple or red.

For a few of the pseudopodia blowing bubbles, the other creatures surround them with bits of sand and moss and appear to watch transfixed as the bubbles float away. As the bubbles rise to a height of eight or nine inches the observers begin to squeak in what you can only interpret as approval. The herd pushes more and more pieces of moss toward the central creature encouraging a frenzy of bubbles to be formed until finally the creature can blow no more and collapses from exhaustion on the mound of moss. The herd disperses.

Other pseudopodia blow bubbles also, but curiously these mostly going unwatched and unappreciated by their kinsmen. These solitary creatures blow their equally delightful bubble without the remuneration of any gifts at all.

You begin to wonder why. Fascinated by the admiration surrounding some bubble blowers and ignominious nature surrounding others, you slowly begin to realize that the purple bubbles seem to attract great attention and the green ones do not. The color seems to be the only difference that you can perceive for the apparent diversity of attitude.

Being of a curious and thoughtful nature, you speculate why the purple bubbles have more apparent value than the green ones. Is it because purple bubbles contain some needed nutrient more than the green ones? The bubble flow away and are never consumed so that is not likely the reason.

Still the purple bubbles are clearly more appreciated than the green ones. Is it because the purple ones are so much rarer than the green ones? Yes, that is it! The rarity is the answer and you are quite satisfied with your discovery, that is until you see a single pseudopodia blowing red bubbles only inches from many other creatures without being noticed for its efforts. Obviously rarity, though a possible factor, is not the only pertinent factor.

Then is comes to you. This is art. Given no practical reason other than the bubbles are just appreciated, they are art. If you can blow purple bubbles, you get attention. If you blow green ones, you don’t. Personally I prefer the red bubbles and I can save myself a few bits of moss.

Now don’t ask me why people like bagpipe music. That’s just a completely different planet.

From: ed
To: rob

Subject: Re: Joshua Bell Plays in Subway

Rob, this is why I miss our lunches with you -- you always bring up interesting points...

Value *is* a subjective quality (as I'm sure Carole will attest to with real estate prices) and varies with the audience and the demographic that pays for $100 tickets is certainly not the same as the ones rushing for the Metro.  However, it seems to me that a musician who has a world-wide reputation must have sufficient credible skills to impress a larger percentage of the estimated thousands that passed by him without a second look.

On the other end, which I think is relevant to your point, a given individual may detest Bell's playing and think another "ignominious" musician's performance heavenly, so for him the assessment of value would be different.

I guess the proper scientific method would call for the same set of people who paid for $100 tickets to be followed around and see if they would pay attention to another violinist of Bell's stature in an unconventional setting.
On 5/7/2013 9:13 AM, rob wrote:
Well, true or not, it raises a plethora of  points. The "stop and smell the roses" point notwithstanding, it is normal that humans filter their environment.  It is dysfunctional to focus on everything.
I'm uncomfortable with the superficial concept of value. An ignominious musician's music can be more valuable than a famous musician's. A child's finger painting can be more valuable than a Picasso.
> Date: Mon, 6 May 2013 22:14:24 -0700
> From: ed
> To: gay, rob, lawebber
> Subject: Joshua Bell Plays in Subway
> Got a link to this, wasn't quite sure if this was legit, but snopes
> checked it out:

"When is leelu not in trouble?"
Korben Dallas

No comments: