Posts Tagged ‘violin

06
Sep
12

Jultraditioner

Den förhistoriska midvinterfesten, det så kallade midvinterblotet var en glädje- och offerfest. Den firades i skarven mellan det gamla och nya solåret. Man offrade för att få goda skördar, så man kan kalla den för fruktbarhetsfest. Man åt, drack och offrade olika husdjur till gudarna. Det sägs att även människor offrades. Vår julgris härstammar troligen från dessa fester.

När kristendomen kom till Norden försökte den tidiga kyrkan att förbjuda de hedniska sedvänjorna. De asatroende som blivit kristna firade ofta både på det påbjudna kristna sättet och sitt gamla hedniska. För att inte förlora de nykristna fick kyrkan släppa lite på firandet så det påminde mera om det gamla sättet att fira.

Dagens julfester firas på många olika sätt.

Advent – ankomst

Julen inleds med att vi firar Advent. Det är en förkortning för Adventus Domini, vilket betyder “Herrens ankomst”. Första advent börjar vårt kyrkoår, så har det varit sedan 700-talet.

Adventsstjärnan i våra fönster är som så mycket annat direktimporterat från Tyskland. Seden att hänga en lysande stjärna i fönstret kom till Sverige vid sekelskiftet och blev vanlig i hemmen på 1940-talet. Stjärnan lyste för herdarna på julnatten och sågs även av de tre vise männen. Den ledde de tre vise männen till stallet där Jesusbarnet föddes.

I advent skickar vi jul- och nyårshälsningar till släkt och vänner. Julkorten härstammar från lyckönskningarna som förr delades ut vid nyår. Det första moderna, tryckta julkortet utgavs 1843 i England. I Sverige började julkorten förekomma på 1870-talet. Vanliga blev de först på 1890-talet och då mest i borgerliga kretsar och i städerna. Det var Jenny Nyström som gjorde julkorten populära genom sin produktionstart 1894. Inte förrän ca 1910 blev seden att skicka julkort allmän.

Lucia – helgonet, ljusdrottningen

Lucia var ett sicilianskt helgon som led martyrdöden ca 304 e. kr. Hon firas av den romersk-katolska kyrkan den 13 december. Luciafirandet som vi är vana vid är en säregenhet för Sverige. Det italienska helgonet Lucia har bara namnet gemensamt med vårt firande.

Vår Lucia uppkom på 1500- eller 1600-talet bland protestanterna i Tyskland. Hon kom som en ersättning för det katolska helgonet S:t Nikolaus. Hon föreställde Jesusbarnet och kom med presenter till barnen vid jul. Hon kom i sällskap med en djävulsfigur, som på platt-tyska kallas “Dyvelskater”. I gammalsvenskan blev det “dyvelskatter”, dvs våra moderna lussekatter. Luciaseden följde med tyskarna till Sverige på 1600-talet, men försvann som julsed på 1700-talet. I landskapen kring Vänern knöts seden istället till den 13 december. Den första kända svenska ljusdrottningen sägs ha lussat på ett västgötskt slott 1763.

Den tidens skolgossar (djäknar) passade på att vid skolavslutningen gå omkring och sjunga visor för att samla in pengar inför den kommande terminen. Det kallades för “lussegången”.

Julens fasta började denna dag och det var förbjudet att äta kött under fastan. Fastan varade till julafton. Julgrisen skulle ha slaktats senast på lussenatten. Än idag äter vi fastematen lutfisk, fast numera på julafton. Av all vår moderna julmat är risgrynsgröten och lutfisken de enda rätterna som egentligen har med den religiösa helgen jul att göra.

Ljusstöpningen och julbrygden skulle också vara avklarad och man “smakade” ofta på julölet. Luciafirandet har alltid dragit med sig fester med stor förtäring av alkohol. Lussenatten ansågs vara den längsta på året. Just den 13 december hade redan under medeltiden spelat en viktig roll i svensk tradition. På runstaven markerades dagen med två furubloss och en sax. Den sistnämnda markerar att man nu kunde börja klippa av de långa nätterna.

Julskämt
– Hur går det för Lucia i år?
– Lysande!

Tomasmäss – julfrid

På Tomasdagen infaller vintersolståndet, dvs årets kortaste dag. Dagen är ca sex och en kvarts timme lång.

Julfriden startade på Tomasdagen den 21 december och varade till den sjunde eller 13 januari. Vid brott fördubblades straffet under den tiden. Julfriden gällde också djuren. Julfriden innebar också att arbetsvilan började, julförberedelserna skulle vara avklarade. Tomasdagen var helgdag i vårt land fram till 1772 och kallades tomasmäss. På den gamla runstaven utmärks Tomasdagen med en hand med utsträckta fingrar, samt ett furuträd i kors. Marknad hölls ofta i de större städerna. Numera firas inte tomasmäss.

Julskämt
– Vad gör orkestern den 23:e december?
– De har julstämning.

Julafton

På julaftonen hängde man förr upp vävnader och julmålningar. Särskilt julbrev och kistebrev omnämns. De var enkla folkliga träsnitt i grov skärteknik, men mycket färgglada och de var försedda med en upplysande vers. Dessa förekom mest i södra Sverige och försvann runt 1860.

På golvet lades halm. Rika gårdar bytte halm flera gånger under helgen, i de mindre bemedlade gårdarna fick den ligga kvar till trettonhelgen.

Julträdet skulle pyntas. Det ställdes ofta så att dess ljus syntes utifrån. Julträdet skulle hålla onda makter på avstånd. I slutet av medeltiden fanns det smyckade träd i Sydtyskland och Schweiz. Den första “riktiga” julgranen med ljus fanns i Phalz på 1660-talet. I Sverige omtalas den första julgranen i slottsmiljö runt 1741 och på 1800-talet blev den vanlig bland borgarna i städerna. Inte förrän vid sekelskiftet blev julgranen en vanlig företeelse hos gemene man. Den smyckades då oftast med färggranna smällkarameller av glanspapper och ljus. Ibland användes enar istället för granar. Numera kan en julgran se ut precis hur som helst. Vi smyckar den efter eget tycke.

Julkrubban är en romersk-katolsk sed. I Sverige var det högborgerliga hem som redan på 1800-talet hade krubba. I kyrkorna byggdes julkrubbor från ca 1930. Inte förrän efter 1960-talet blir det vanligt med julkrubbor i hemmen.

Utanför stugan restes julstänger och julkärven sattes upp. Djuren skulle ha det rent och snyggt, och de fick särskilt foder. Till helgens brasor höggs särskilt utvald ved tidigt på morgonen. Först därefter var det dags för gårdens folk att ta sig ett julbad och man bytte till rena festkläder.

Sedan avnjöts all den goda julmaten. Dopp i grytan, risgrynsgröt, lutfisk eller insjöfisk, sylta, ost, smör, bröd och julkorv serverades vanligen. Julskinka och grishuvud fanns bara i de bättre bemedlade hushållen. Öl, brännvin och juldricka tillhörde. Innan man hade läst upp sitt grötrim fick man inte smaka av julgröten. Alla medlemmar i hushållet fick sin egen hög av olika sorters nybakat bröd. En såningskaka fanns också, den sparades till vårsådden. Man dukade inte av julbordet, utan en del mat och dryck skulle stå kvar hela helgen för att gäster skulle kunna ta för sig. Man ville inte att de skulle “bära ut julen”, utan var och en skulle få sitt och tomten likaså. Man bjöd alla som kom, även de fattiga i socknen. Man gick också ut med julmat till fattiga äldre sockenbor.

Efter maten läste far i huset julevangeliet. Om det delades ut julklappar bestod de av praktiska saker så som klädesplagg, hushållssaker etc.

Julklappen härstammar från de nyårsgåvor som gavs redan i antiken. De överfördes senare till julfirandet. Skolornas och kyrkans sed att fira S:t Nikolaus den 6 december med niklaspresenter, är ytterligare en källa till vårt julfirande. Namnet julklapp härstammar från det skämtsamma sätt att överräcka en gåva förr: man smög fram och klappade på dörren, slängde in presenten och sprang därifrån. Klappen bestod av ett vedträ, en grisfot, en halmfigur eller liknande och på den satt en elak vers eller kommentar.

En av våra äldsta julsymboler är bocken. Den härstammar troligen från den bockliknande djävulsfiguren i medeltidens Nikolausspel. Ungdomarnas julfirande förr föregicks av att en yngling klädde ut sig till bock och gick runt i gårdarna. Han följdes av ett sällskap som sjöng en julbocksvisa eller framförde ett enklare skådespel för att få mat och dryck till mellandagarnas ungdomsgille. På tidigt 1800-tal blev julbocken den som i de borgerliga hemmen delade ut julklapparna, alltså en föregångare till vår jultomte. Vår tids mest kända julbock är den i Gävle.

På medeltiden klädde en mansperson ut sig till biskop och delade ut gåvor i skolorna på S:t Nikolausdagen, den sjätte december. I vissa protestantiska länder, bl a Tyskland, motarbetades denna sed av kyrkan och S:t Nikolaus ersattes av Jesusbarnet, “Kinken-Jes” på platt-tyska. Jesusbarnet representerades av en vitklädd flicka – det som sedan blev vår Lucia. På andra håll kom istället “der Weihnachtsmann”, dvs julgubben. På 1800-talets mitt blev denna julgubbe känd i Sverige genom infört julpynt. Man gav den namn efter folktrons tomte. Jenny Nyströms julkort stor betydelse för spridandet av vår nutida figur – jultomten. På 1880-talet började man i städernas borgarfamiljer klä ut sig till tomte och dela ut julklappar.

Numera firar vi julaftonen med mat och julklappar i mängder. Julen har blivit en ren familjehögtid. Man bjuder inte längre in grannar eller bekanta. Kalle Anka har intagit våra julaftnars eftermiddagar, men julbönen besöks också. Vi äter vår julmat tidigt på dagen. Ofta delas klapparna ut när Disneytimmen är över, istället för att som förr, delas ut på kvällen. I vissa hem läses fortfarande julevangeliet, men det är nog mer sällsynt nu för tiden. På många platser i landet kan man fira en s.k. alternativ jul.

Juldagen

På många håll i landet var seden så att både husbonden och drängarna fick frukost på sängen av moran. Karlarna fyllde sina pluntor med brännvin. Detta intogs sedan vid varje lämpligt tillfälle på väg till kyrkan.

På medeltiden firade man tre mässor på juldagen, den sista vid midnatt. Förr hölls julottan klockan fyra eller fem på morgonen. Man åkte släde till kyrkan och höll facklor i händerna. Hästarna smyckades med bl a bjällror. Mindre bemedlade gick till kyrkan. De hade ofta julbloss att lysa väg med. Blossen och facklorna slängdes i en hög utanför kyrkan och gav ett vackert sken. Kyrkan var vackert smyckad och den var full av tända ljus. På hemvägen hade man bråttom och körde i kapp. Den som först nådde sin gård sades få in sin skörd först av alla kommande år.

När man kom hem från julottan höll man sig i stillhet resten av dagen. Att gå i byn sågs inte med blida ögon.

Numera har julaftonens julbön (på eftermiddagen) tagit över julottans religiösa funktion. Midnattsmässan har återupptagits i vissa delar av landet. På juldagen passar vi ofta på att umgås med våra närmaste, vi åker på middag eller kaffe hos släkt och vänner.

Annandag jul

På annandagen började så alla gillen. Man var tidigt uppe för att ta särskilt god hand om hästarna.

Ungdomarna hade ungdomsgillen. Först drog man från gård till gård i ottan och “sjöng Staffan”, dvs man gick utklädd, bar med sig en stjärna och sjöng staffansvisan eller julvisan. Som tack bjöds man på vad huset förmådde. Denna mat sparades och sedan ställde man till gille på kvällen. På vissa håll kallades det att “sjunge för dörr” eller “andas-otta”. Ungdomarna roade sig också med att kasta in halmdockor till varandra. Dessa var ofta utklädda och gjorda så att de anspelade på något som hänt under året.

De vuxna ordnade knytkalas och stordanser. Man passade på att roa sig ordentligt med släkt och vänner. Nu var inte gillena slut när annandagen var över, utan de fortsatte juldagarna fram till knutsdagen.

Annandagen är även idag en festdag då man träffar släkt och vänner.
Mellandagsrean brukar tjuvstarta på morgonen.

Nyårshelgen

År 153 f. kr. flyttades det romerska nyåret till den 1 januari. I kalendern hamnade denna helg först på 500-talet. Helgen firas sedan gammalt som en av jultidens stora fester då helgen ingick i jultolften. Man åt samma mat som på julafton och man gav varandra nyårsgåvor. På nyårsnatten hade man möjlighet att skåda in i framtiden. Man vakade in det nya året och önskade sig något av nymånen. Tolvslaget var fruktat eftersom man trodde att domedagen kunde komma då. Säker var man inte förrän det gått någon timma in på det nya året.

Mycket övertro är förknippat med nyårsnatten. Det betydde lycka om en man var första besökaren på nyårsdagen, olycka om det var en kvinna. Om man fick pengar denna dag skulle man bli rik, men om man lånade ut skulle man bli fattig resten av året.
Att ringa i kyrkklockorna på nyårsnatten är en sed som spridit sig från städerna till landsbygden. På landet brukade man istället skjuta i alla fyra väderstrecken för att skrämma bort allt ont.

Numera skjuter vi raketer istället för att avfyra bössan. Nyårsnatten är fortfarande en festlig och högtidlig natt, men vi är inte lika skrockfulla längre. Vi äter och dricker gott i släkt och vänners sällskap. Många tittar på nyårsringningen och skålar in nya året innan de går ut och skjuter raketer. Andra, som vi, går ut 10 minuter före tolvslaget och skålar sedan med grannar, släkt och vänner medan vi fyrar av de första raketerna.

Fyrverkerier är inte bara trevligt. Många katter, hundar och andra djur far illa av smällarna. Den stund det tar att fyra av raketerna går väl an, men alla dessa smällare som barn och ungdomar fyrar av både under, före och efter helgen, det blir för mycket! Så snälla – låt inte dina barn springa omkring i tid och otid med smällare. De tillhör årets första timme!

Trettondedag jul – Heliga Tre Konungars dag

Denna dag innebar slutet på jultolften. “Knut kör julen ut”. Då firades stjärnans kringbärande. Man gick på tiggarstråt från gård till gård. Stjärnan skulle hållas i ständig rörelse, vilket symboliserade solens gång. Gammal som ung lekte inomhuslekar. Knutsdagen firades till minnet av hertig Knut Lavard som mördades på Knutsdagen 1131.

På 1600-talet flyttades Knutsnamnet från Trettondedagen den 6 januari till den 13 januari. Den kallas numera tjugondag Knut. Natten mellan Knut och Felix slutade julen. Då hade man knutsbal.

I många länder kallas Trettondedagen för Heliga Tre Konungars dag. Det var denna dag de tre vise männen, Kaspar, Melkior och Baltasar, vandrade till det nyfödda Jesusbarnet med sina gåvor. Stjärnan ledde dem till stallet. De tre vise männen var de första icke-judar som tillbad Jesus. Därför räknas Trettondedagen som dagen då vi firar att Jesus blev känd utanför det judiska folket. I konsten avbildas de tre vise ofta som män i olika åldrar och från olika kontinenter. Detta är ett sätt att uttrycka att hela mänskligheten står i tillbedjan inför Jesus.

Idag är det som så mycket annat barnens högtid. När jag var liten gick mina kompisar och jag från hus till hus för att “sopa ut julen”. Vi hade med oss sopkvast och skyffel och fick sopa upp barren som låg kvar. Som tack för arbetet fick vi godis, frukt eller pengar. Numera är det inte lika vanligt att barn sopar ut julen. Där emot dansar de ut julen på olika sätt. Man träffas i någon möteslokal och dansar runt granen, fikar och tomten kommer med en godispåse till barnen. Andra familjer träffas istället hos någon förutbestämd familj i släkten och dansar ut granen där, sk julgransplundring. Då är granen godissmyckad för att barnen ska få plundra den.
Svenska kyrkans mission samlar in missionskollekt denna dag.

31
Mar
12

Pearls Before Breakfast

Can one of the nation’s great musicians cut through the fog of a D.C. rush hour? Let’s find out.

By Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 8, 2007

HE EMERGED FROM THE METRO AT THE L’ENFANT PLAZA STATION AND POSITIONED HIMSELF AGAINST A WALL BESIDE A TRASH BASKET. By most measures, he was nondescript: a youngish white man in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a Washington Nationals baseball cap. From a small case, he removed a violin. Placing the open case at his feet, he shrewdly threw in a few dollars and pocket change as seed money, swiveled it to face pedestrian traffic, and began to play.

It was 7:51 a.m. on Friday, January 12, the middle of the morning rush hour. In the next 43 minutes, as the violinist performed six classical pieces, 1,097 people passed by. Almost all of them were on the way to work, which meant, for almost all of them, a government job. L’Enfant Plaza is at the nucleus of federal Washington, and these were mostly mid-level bureaucrats with those indeterminate, oddly fungible titles: policy analyst, project manager, budget officer, specialist, facilitator, consultant.

Each passerby had a quick choice to make, one familiar to commuters in any urban area where the occasional street performer is part of the cityscape: Do you stop and listen? Do you hurry past with a blend of guilt and irritation, aware of your cupidity but annoyed by the unbidden demand on your time and your wallet? Do you throw in a buck, just to be polite? Does your decision change if he’s really bad? What if he’s really good? Do you have time for beauty? Shouldn’t you? What’s the moral mathematics of the moment?

On that Friday in January, those private questions would be answered in an unusually public way. No one knew it, but the fiddler standing against a bare wall outside the Metro in an indoor arcade at the top of the escalators was one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made. His performance was arranged by The Washington Post as an experiment in context, perception and priorities — as well as an unblinking assessment of public taste: In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?

The musician did not play popular tunes whose familiarity alone might have drawn interest. That was not the test. These were masterpieces that have endured for centuries on their brilliance alone, soaring music befitting the grandeur of cathedrals and concert halls.

The acoustics proved surprisingly kind. Though the arcade is of utilitarian design, a buffer between the Metro escalator and the outdoors, it somehow caught the sound and bounced it back round and resonant. The violin is an instrument that is said to be much like the human voice, and in this musician’s masterly hands, it sobbed and laughed and sang — ecstatic, sorrowful, importuning, adoring, flirtatious, castigating, playful, romancing, merry, triumphal, sumptuous.

So, what do you think happened?

HANG ON, WE’LL GET YOU SOME EXPERT HELP.

Leonard Slatkin, music director of the National Symphony Orchestra, was asked the same question. What did he think would occur, hypothetically, if one of the world’s great violinists had performed incognito before a traveling rush-hour audience of 1,000-odd people?

“Let’s assume,” Slatkin said, “that he is not recognized and just taken for granted as a street musician . . . Still, I don’t think that if he’s really good, he’s going to go unnoticed. He’d get a larger audience in Europe . . . but, okay, out of 1,000 people, my guess is there might be 35 or 40 who will recognize the quality for what it is. Maybe 75 to 100 will stop and spend some time listening.”

So, a crowd would gather?

“Oh, yes.”

And how much will he make?

“About $150.”

Thanks, Maestro. As it happens, this is not hypothetical. It really happened.

“How’d I do?”

We’ll tell you in a minute.

“Well, who was the musician?”

Joshua Bell.

“NO!!!”

A onetime child prodigy, at 39 Joshua Bell has arrived as an internationally acclaimed virtuoso. Three days before he appeared at the Metro station, Bell had filled the house at Boston’s stately Symphony Hall, where merely pretty good seats went for $100. Two weeks later, at the Music Center at Strathmore, in North Bethesda, he would play to a standing-room-only audience so respectful of his artistry that they stifled their coughs until the silence between movements. But on that Friday in January, Joshua Bell was just another mendicant, competing for the attention of busy people on their way to work.

Bell was first pitched this idea shortly before Christmas, over coffee at a sandwich shop on Capitol Hill. A New Yorker, he was in town to perform at the Library of Congress and to visit the library’s vaults to examine an unusual treasure: an 18th-century violin that once belonged to the great Austrian-born virtuoso and composer Fritz Kreisler. The curators invited Bell to play it; good sound, still.

“Here’s what I’m thinking,” Bell confided, as he sipped his coffee. “I’m thinking that I could do a tour where I’d play Kreisler’s music . . .”

He smiled.

“. . . on Kreisler’s violin.”

It was a snazzy, sequined idea — part inspiration and part gimmick — and it was typical of Bell, who has unapologetically embraced showmanship even as his concert career has become more and more august. He’s soloed with the finest orchestras here and abroad, but he’s also appeared on “Sesame Street,” done late-night talk TV and performed in feature films. That was Bell playing the soundtrack on the 1998 movie “The Red Violin.” (He body-doubled, too, playing to a naked Greta Scacchi.) As composer John Corigliano accepted the Oscar for Best Original Dramatic Score, he credited Bell, who, he said, “plays like a god.”

When Bell was asked if he’d be willing to don street clothes and perform at rush hour, he said:

“Uh, a stunt?”

Well, yes. A stunt. Would he think it . . . unseemly?

Bell drained his cup.

“Sounds like fun,” he said.

Bell’s a heartthrob. Tall and handsome, he’s got a Donny Osmond-like dose of the cutes, and, onstage, cute elides into hott. When he performs, he is usually the only man under the lights who is not in white tie and tails — he walks out to a standing O, looking like Zorro, in black pants and an untucked black dress shirt, shirttail dangling. That cute Beatles-style mop top is also a strategic asset: Because his technique is full of body — athletic and passionate — he’s almost dancing with the instrument, and his hair flies.

He’s single and straight, a fact not lost on some of his fans. In Boston, as he performed Max Bruch’s dour Violin Concerto in G Minor, the very few young women in the audience nearly disappeared in the deep sea of silver heads. But seemingly every single one of them — a distillate of the young and pretty — coalesced at the stage door after the performance, seeking an autograph. It’s like that always, with Bell.

Bell’s been accepting over-the-top accolades since puberty: Interview magazine once said his playing “does nothing less than tell human beings why they bother to live.” He’s learned to field these things graciously, with a bashful duck of the head and a modified “pshaw.”

For this incognito performance, Bell had only one condition for participating. The event had been described to him as a test of whether, in an incongruous context, ordinary people would recognize genius. His condition: “I’m not comfortable if you call this genius.” “Genius” is an overused word, he said: It can be applied to some of the composers whose work he plays, but not to him. His skills are largely interpretive, he said, and to imply otherwise would be unseemly and inaccurate.

It was an interesting request, and under the circumstances, one that will be honored. The word will not again appear in this article.

It would be breaking no rules, however, to note that the term in question, particularly as applied in the field of music, refers to a congenital brilliance — an elite, innate, preternatural ability that manifests itself early, and often in dramatic fashion.

One biographically intriguing fact about Bell is that he got his first music lessons when he was a 4-year-old in Bloomington, Ind. His parents, both psychologists, decided formal training might be a good idea after they saw that their son had strung rubber bands across his dresser drawers and was replicating classical tunes by ear, moving drawers in and out to vary the pitch.

TO GET TO THE METRO FROM HIS HOTEL, a distance of three blocks, Bell took a taxi. He’s neither lame nor lazy: He did it for his violin.

Bell always performs on the same instrument, and he ruled out using another for this gig. Called the Gibson ex Huberman, it was handcrafted in 1713 by Antonio Stradivari during the Italian master’s “golden period,” toward the end of his career, when he had access to the finest spruce, maple and willow, and when his technique had been refined to perfection.

“Our knowledge of acoustics is still incomplete,” Bell said, “but he, he just . . . knew.”

Bell doesn’t mention Stradivari by name. Just “he.” When the violinist shows his Strad to people, he holds the instrument gingerly by its neck, resting it on a knee. “He made this to perfect thickness at all parts,” Bell says, pivoting it. “If you shaved off a millimeter of wood at any point, it would totally imbalance the sound.” No violins sound as wonderful as Strads from the 1710s, still.

The front of Bell’s violin is in nearly perfect condition, with a deep, rich grain and luster. The back is a mess, its dark reddish finish bleeding away into a flatter, lighter shade and finally, in one section, to bare wood.

“This has never been refinished,” Bell said. “That’s his original varnish. People attribute aspects of the sound to the varnish. Each maker had his own secret formula.” Stradivari is thought to have made his from an ingeniously balanced cocktail of honey, egg whites and gum arabic from sub-Saharan trees.

Like the instrument in “The Red Violin,” this one has a past filled with mystery and malice. Twice, it was stolen from its illustrious prior owner, the Polish virtuoso Bronislaw Huberman. The first time, in 1919, it disappeared from Huberman’s hotel room in Vienna but was quickly returned. The second time, nearly 20 years later, it was pinched from his dressing room in Carnegie Hall. He never got it back. It was not until 1985 that the thief — a minor New York violinist — made a deathbed confession to his wife, and produced the instrument.

Bell bought it a few years ago. He had to sell his own Strad and borrow much of the rest. The price tag was reported to be about $3.5 million.

All of which is a long explanation for why, in the early morning chill of a day in January, Josh Bell took a three-block cab ride to the Orange Line, and rode one stop to L’Enfant.

AS METRO STATIONS GO, L’ENFANT PLAZA IS MORE PLEBEIAN THAN MOST. Even before you arrive, it gets no respect. Metro conductors never seem to get it right: “Leh-fahn.” “Layfont.” “El’phant.”

At the top of the escalators are a shoeshine stand and a busy kiosk that sells newspapers, lottery tickets and a wallfull of magazines with titles such as Mammazons and Girls of Barely Legal. The skin mags move, but it’s that lottery ticket dispenser that stays the busiest, with customers queuing up for Daily 6 lotto and Powerball and the ultimate suckers’ bait, those pamphlets that sell random number combinations purporting to be “hot.” They sell briskly. There’s also a quick-check machine to slide in your lotto ticket, post-drawing, to see if you’ve won. Beneath it is a forlorn pile of crumpled slips.

On Friday, January 12, the people waiting in the lottery line looking for a long shot would get a lucky break — a free, close-up ticket to a concert by one of the world’s most famous musicians — but only if they were of a mind to take note.

Bell decided to begin with “Chaconne” from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D Minor. Bell calls it “not just one of the greatest pieces of music ever written, but one of the greatest achievements of any man in history. It’s a spiritually powerful piece, emotionally powerful, structurally perfect. Plus, it was written for a solo violin, so I won’t be cheating with some half-assed version.”

Bell didn’t say it, but Bach’s “Chaconne” is also considered one of the most difficult violin pieces to master. Many try; few succeed. It’s exhaustingly long — 14 minutes — and consists entirely of a single, succinct musical progression repeated in dozens of variations to create a dauntingly complex architecture of sound. Composed around 1720, on the eve of the European Enlightenment, it is said to be a celebration of the breadth of human possibility.

If Bell’s encomium to “Chaconne” seems overly effusive, consider this from the 19th-century composer Johannes Brahms, in a letter to Clara Schumann: “On one stave, for a small instrument, the man writes a whole world of the deepest thoughts and most powerful feelings. If I imagined that I could have created, even conceived the piece, I am quite certain that the excess of excitement and earth-shattering experience would have driven me out of my mind.”

So, that’s the piece Bell started with.

He’d clearly meant it when he promised not to cheap out this performance: He played with acrobatic enthusiasm, his body leaning into the music and arching on tiptoes at the high notes. The sound was nearly symphonic, carrying to all parts of the homely arcade as the pedestrian traffic filed past.

Three minutes went by before something happened. Sixty-three people had already passed when, finally, there was a breakthrough of sorts. A middle-age man altered his gait for a split second, turning his head to notice that there seemed to be some guy playing music. Yes, the man kept walking, but it was something.

A half-minute later, Bell got his first donation. A woman threw in a buck and scooted off. It was not until six minutes into the performance that someone actually stood against a wall, and listened.

Things never got much better. In the three-quarters of an hour that Joshua Bell played, seven people stopped what they were doing to hang around and take in the performance, at least for a minute. Twenty-seven gave money, most of them on the run — for a total of $32 and change. That leaves the 1,070 people who hurried by, oblivious, many only three feet away, few even turning to look.

No, Mr. Slatkin, there was never a crowd, not even for a second.

It was all videotaped by a hidden camera. You can play the recording once or 15 times, and it never gets any easier to watch. Try speeding it up, and it becomes one of those herky-jerky World War I-era silent newsreels. The people scurry by in comical little hops and starts, cups of coffee in their hands, cellphones at their ears, ID tags slapping at their bellies, a grim danse macabre to indifference, inertia and the dingy, gray rush of modernity.

Even at this accelerated pace, though, the fiddler’s movements remain fluid and graceful; he seems so apart from his audience — unseen, unheard, otherworldly — that you find yourself thinking that he’s not really there. A ghost.

Only then do you see it: He is the one who is real. They are the ghosts.

IF A GREAT MUSICIAN PLAYS GREAT MUSIC BUT NO ONE HEARS . . . WAS HE REALLY ANY GOOD?

It’s an old epistemological debate, older, actually, than the koan about the tree in the forest. Plato weighed in on it, and philosophers for two millennia afterward: What is beauty? Is it a measurable fact (Gottfried Leibniz), or merely an opinion (David Hume), or is it a little of each, colored by the immediate state of mind of the observer (Immanuel Kant)?

We’ll go with Kant, because he’s obviously right, and because he brings us pretty directly to Joshua Bell, sitting there in a hotel restaurant, picking at his breakfast, wryly trying to figure out what the hell had just happened back there at the Metro.

“At the beginning,” Bell says, “I was just concentrating on playing the music. I wasn’t really watching what was happening around me . . .”

Playing the violin looks all-consuming, mentally and physically, but Bell says that for him the mechanics of it are partly second nature, cemented by practice and muscle memory: It’s like a juggler, he says, who can keep those balls in play while interacting with a crowd. What he’s mostly thinking about as he plays, Bell says, is capturing emotion as a narrative: “When you play a violin piece, you are a storyteller, and you’re telling a story.”

With “Chaconne,” the opening is filled with a building sense of awe. That kept him busy for a while. Eventually, though, he began to steal a sidelong glance.

“It was a strange feeling, that people were actually, ah . . .”

The word doesn’t come easily.

“. . . ignoring me.”

Bell is laughing. It’s at himself.

“At a music hall, I’ll get upset if someone coughs or if someone’s cellphone goes off. But here, my expectations quickly diminished. I started to appreciate any acknowledgment, even a slight glance up. I was oddly grateful when someone threw in a dollar instead of change.” This is from a man whose talents can command $1,000 a minute.

Before he began, Bell hadn’t known what to expect. What he does know is that, for some reason, he was nervous.

“It wasn’t exactly stage fright, but there were butterflies,” he says. “I was stressing a little.”

Bell has played, literally, before crowned heads of Europe. Why the anxiety at the Washington Metro?

“When you play for ticket-holders,” Bell explains, “you are already validated. I have no sense that I need to be accepted. I’m already accepted. Here, there was this thought: What if they don’t like me? What if they resent my presence . . .”

He was, in short, art without a frame. Which, it turns out, may have a lot to do with what happened — or, more precisely, what didn’t happen — on January 12.

MARK LEITHAUSER HAS HELD IN HIS HANDS MORE GREAT WORKS OF ART THAN ANY KING OR POPE OR MEDICI EVER DID. A senior curator at the National Gallery, he oversees the framing of the paintings. Leithauser thinks he has some idea of what happened at that Metro station.

“Let’s say I took one of our more abstract masterpieces, say an Ellsworth Kelly, and removed it from its frame, marched it down the 52 steps that people walk up to get to the National Gallery, past the giant columns, and brought it into a restaurant. It’s a $5 million painting. And it’s one of those restaurants where there are pieces of original art for sale, by some industrious kids from the Corcoran School, and I hang that Kelly on the wall with a price tag of $150. No one is going to notice it. An art curator might look up and say: ‘Hey, that looks a little like an Ellsworth Kelly. Please pass the salt.'”

Leithauser’s point is that we shouldn’t be too ready to label the Metro passersby unsophisticated boobs. Context matters.

Kant said the same thing. He took beauty seriously: In his Critique of Aesthetic Judgment, Kant argued that one’s ability to appreciate beauty is related to one’s ability to make moral judgments. But there was a caveat. Paul Guyer of the University of Pennsylvania, one of America’s most prominent Kantian scholars, says the 18th-century German philosopher felt that to properly appreciate beauty, the viewing conditions must be optimal.

“Optimal,” Guyer said, “doesn’t mean heading to work, focusing on your report to the boss, maybe your shoes don’t fit right.”

So, if Kant had been at the Metro watching as Joshua Bell play to a thousand unimpressed passersby?

“He would have inferred about them,” Guyer said, “absolutely nothing.”

And that’s that.

Except it isn’t. To really understand what happened, you have to rewind that video and play it back from the beginning, from the moment Bell’s bow first touched the strings.

White guy, khakis, leather jacket, briefcase. Early 30s. John David Mortensen is on the final leg of his daily bus-to-Metro commute from Reston. He’s heading up the escalator. It’s a long ride — 1 minute and 15 seconds if you don’t walk. So, like most everyone who passes Bell this day, Mortensen gets a good earful of music before he has his first look at the musician. Like most of them, he notes that it sounds pretty good. But like very few of them, when he gets to the top, he doesn’t race past as though Bell were some nuisance to be avoided. Mortensen is that first person to stop, that guy at the six-minute mark.

It’s not that he has nothing else to do. He’s a project manager for an international program at the Department of Energy; on this day, Mortensen has to participate in a monthly budget exercise, not the most exciting part of his job: “You review the past month’s expenditures,” he says, “forecast spending for the next month, if you have X dollars, where will it go, that sort of thing.”

On the video, you can see Mortensen get off the escalator and look around. He locates the violinist, stops, walks away but then is drawn back. He checks the time on his cellphone — he’s three minutes early for work — then settles against a wall to listen.

Mortensen doesn’t know classical music at all; classic rock is as close as he comes. But there’s something about what he’s hearing that he really likes.

As it happens, he’s arrived at the moment that Bell slides into the second section of “Chaconne.” (“It’s the point,” Bell says, “where it moves from a darker, minor key into a major key. There’s a religious, exalted feeling to it.”) The violinist’s bow begins to dance; the music becomes upbeat, playful, theatrical, big.Mortensen doesn’t know about major or minor keys: “Whatever it was,” he says, “it made me feel at peace.”

So, for the first time in his life, Mortensen lingers to listen to a street musician. He stays his allotted three minutes as 94 more people pass briskly by. When he leaves to help plan contingency budgets for the Department of Energy, there’s another first. For the first time in his life, not quite knowing what had just happened but sensing it was special, John David Mortensen gives a street musician money.

THERE ARE SIX MOMENTS IN THE VIDEO THAT BELL FINDS PARTICULARLY PAINFUL TO RELIVE: “The awkward times,” he calls them. It’s what happens right after each piece ends: nothing. The music stops. The same people who hadn’t noticed him playing don’t notice that he has finished. No applause, no acknowledgment. So Bell just saws out a small, nervous chord — the embarrassed musician’s equivalent of, “Er, okay, moving right along . . .” — and begins the next piece.

After “Chaconne,” it is Franz Schubert’s “Ave Maria,” which surprised some music critics when it debuted in 1825: Schubert seldom showed religious feeling in his compositions, yet “Ave Maria” is a breathtaking work of adoration of the Virgin Mary. What was with the sudden piety? Schubert dryly answered: “I think this is due to the fact that I never forced devotion in myself and never compose hymns or prayers of that kind unless it overcomes me unawares; but then it is usually the right and true devotion.” This musical prayer became among the most familiar and enduring religious pieces in history.

A couple of minutes into it, something revealing happens. A woman and her preschooler emerge from the escalator. The woman is walking briskly and, therefore, so is the child. She’s got his hand.

“I had a time crunch,” recalls Sheron Parker, an IT director for a federal agency. “I had an 8:30 training class, and first I had to rush Evvie off to his teacher, then rush back to work, then to the training facility in the basement.”

Evvie is her son, Evan. Evan is 3.

You can see Evan clearly on the video. He’s the cute black kid in the parka who keeps twisting around to look at Joshua Bell, as he is being propelled toward the door.

“There was a musician,” Parker says, “and my son was intrigued. He wanted to pull over and listen, but I was rushed for time.”

So Parker does what she has to do. She deftly moves her body between Evan’s and Bell’s, cutting off her son’s line of sight. As they exit the arcade, Evan can still be seen craning to look. When Parker is told what she walked out on, she laughs.

“Evan is very smart!”

The poet Billy Collins once laughingly observed that all babies are born with a knowledge of poetry, because the lub-dub of the mother’s heart is in iambic meter. Then, Collins said, life slowly starts to choke the poetry out of us. It may be true with music, too.

There was no ethnic or demographic pattern to distinguish the people who stayed to watch Bell, or the ones who gave money, from that vast majority who hurried on past, unheeding. Whites, blacks and Asians, young and old, men and women, were represented in all three groups. But the behavior of one demographic remained absolutely consistent. Every single time a child walked past, he or she tried to stop and watch. And every single time, a parent scooted the kid away.

IF THERE WAS ONE PERSON ON THAT DAY WHO WAS TOO BUSY TO PAY ATTENTION TO THE VIOLINIST, it was George Tindley. Tindley wasn’t hurrying to get to work. He was at work.

The glass doors through which most people exit the L’Enfant station lead into an indoor shopping mall, from which there are exits to the street and elevators to office buildings. The first store in the mall is an Au Bon Pain, the croissant and coffee shop where Tindley, in his 40s, works in a white uniform busing the tables, restocking the salt and pepper packets, taking out the garbage. Tindley labors under the watchful eye of his bosses, and he’s supposed to be hopping, and he was.

But every minute or so, as though drawn by something not entirely within his control, Tindley would walk to the very edge of the Au Bon Pain property, keeping his toes inside the line, still on the job. Then he’d lean forward, as far out into the hallway as he could, watching the fiddler on the other side of the glass doors. The foot traffic was steady, so the doors were usually open. The sound came through pretty well.

“You could tell in one second that this guy was good, that he was clearly a professional,” Tindley says. He plays the guitar, loves the sound of strings, and has no respect for a certain kind of musician.

“Most people, they play music; they don’t feel it,” Tindley says. “Well, that man was feeling it. That man was moving. Moving into the sound.”

A hundred feet away, across the arcade, was the lottery line, sometimes five or six people long. They had a much better view of Bell than Tindley did, if they had just turned around. But no one did. Not in the entire 43 minutes. They just shuffled forward toward that machine spitting out numbers. Eyes on the prize.

J.T. Tillman was in that line. A computer specialist for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, he remembers every single number he played that day — 10 of them, $2 apiece, for a total of $20. He doesn’t recall what the violinist was playing, though. He says it sounded like generic classical music, the kind the ship’s band was playing in “Titanic,” before the iceberg.

“I didn’t think nothing of it,” Tillman says, “just a guy trying to make a couple of bucks.” Tillman would have given him one or two, he said, but he spent all his cash on lotto.

When he is told that he stiffed one of the best musicians in the world, he laughs.

“Is he ever going to play around here again?”

“Yeah, but you’re going to have to pay a lot to hear him.”

“Damn.”

Tillman didn’t win the lottery, either.

BELL ENDS “AVE MARIA” TO ANOTHER THUNDEROUS SILENCE, plays Manuel Ponce’s sentimental “Estrellita,” then a piece by Jules Massenet, and then begins a Bach gavotte, a joyful, frolicsome, lyrical dance. It’s got an Old World delicacy to it; you can imagine it entertaining bewigged dancers at a Versailles ball, or — in a lute, fiddle and fife version — the boot-kicking peasants of a Pieter Bruegel painting.

Watching the video weeks later, Bell finds himself mystified by one thing only. He understands why he’s not drawing a crowd, in the rush of a morning workday. But: “I’m surprised at the number of people who don’t pay attention at all, as if I’m invisible. Because, you know what? I’m makin’ a lot of noise!”

He is. You don’t need to know music at all to appreciate the simple fact that there’s a guy there, playing a violin that’s throwing out a whole bucket of sound; at times, Bell’s bowing is so intricate that you seem to be hearing two instruments playing in harmony. So those head-forward, quick-stepping passersby are a remarkable phenomenon.

Bell wonders whether their inattention may be deliberate: If you don’t take visible note of the musician, you don’t have to feel guilty about not forking over money; you’re not complicit in a rip-off.

It may be true, but no one gave that explanation. People just said they were busy, had other things on their mind. Some who were on cellphones spoke louder as they passed Bell, to compete with that infernal racket.

And then there was Calvin Myint. Myint works for the General Services Administration. He got to the top of the escalator, turned right and headed out a door to the street. A few hours later, he had no memory that there had been a musician anywhere in sight.

“Where was he, in relation to me?”

“About four feet away.”

“Oh.”

There’s nothing wrong with Myint’s hearing. He had buds in his ear. He was listening to his iPod.

For many of us, the explosion in technology has perversely limited, not expanded, our exposure to new experiences. Increasingly, we get our news from sources that think as we already do. And with iPods, we hear what we already know; we program our own playlists.

The song that Calvin Myint was listening to was “Just Like Heaven,” by the British rock band The Cure. It’s a terrific song, actually. The meaning is a little opaque, and the Web is filled with earnest efforts to deconstruct it. Many are far-fetched, but some are right on point: It’s about a tragic emotional disconnect. A man has found the woman of his dreams but can’t express the depth of his feeling for her until she’s gone. It’s about failing to see the beauty of what’s plainly in front of your eyes.

YES, I SAW THE VIOLINIST,” Jackie Hessian says, “but nothing about him struck me as much of anything.”

You couldn’t tell that by watching her. Hessian was one of those people who gave Bell a long, hard look before walking on. It turns out that she wasn’t noticing the music at all.

“I really didn’t hear that much,” she said. “I was just trying to figure out what he was doing there, how does this work for him, can he make much money, would it be better to start with some money in the case, or for it to be empty, so people feel sorry for you? I was analyzing it financially.”

What do you do, Jackie?

“I’m a lawyer in labor relations with the United States Postal Service. I just negotiated a national contract.”

THE BEST SEATS IN THE HOUSE WERE UPHOLSTERED. In the balcony, more or less. On that day, for $5, you’d get a lot more than just a nice shine on your shoes.

Only one person occupied one of those seats when Bell played. Terence Holmes is a consultant for the Department of Transportation, and he liked the music just fine, but it was really about a shoeshine: “My father told me never to wear a suit with your shoes not cleaned and shined.”

Holmes wears suits often, so he is up in that perch a lot, and he’s got a good relationship with the shoeshine lady. Holmes is a good tipper and a good talker, which is a skill that came in handy that day. The shoeshine lady was upset about something, and the music got her more upset. She complained, Holmes said, that the music was too loud, and he tried to calm her down.

Edna Souza is from Brazil. She’s been shining shoes at L’Enfant Plaza for six years, and she’s had her fill of street musicians there; when they play, she can’t hear her customers, and that’s bad for business. So she fights.

Souza points to the dividing line between the Metro property, at the top of the escalator, and the arcade, which is under control of the management company that runs the mall. Sometimes, Souza says, a musician will stand on the Metro side, sometimes on the mall side. Either way, she’s got him. On her speed dial, she has phone numbers for both the mall cops and the Metro cops. The musicians seldom last long.

What about Joshua Bell?

He was too loud, too, Souza says. Then she looks down at her rag, sniffs. She hates to say anything positive about these damned musicians, but: “He was pretty good, that guy. It was the first time I didn’t call the police.”

Souza was surprised to learn he was a famous musician, but not that people rushed blindly by him. That, she said, was predictable. “If something like this happened in Brazil, everyone would stand around to see. Not here.”

Souza nods sourly toward a spot near the top of the escalator: “Couple of years ago, a homeless guy died right there. He just lay down there and died. The police came, an ambulance came, and no one even stopped to see or slowed down to look.

“People walk up the escalator, they look straight ahead. Mind your own business, eyes forward. Everyone is stressed. Do you know what I mean?”

What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

— from “Leisure,” by W.H. Davies

Let’s say Kant is right. Let’s accept that we can’t look at what happened on January 12 and make any judgment whatever about people’s sophistication or their ability to appreciate beauty. But what about their ability to appreciate life?

We’re busy. Americans have been busy, as a people, since at least 1831, when a young French sociologist named Alexis de Tocqueville visited the States and found himself impressed, bemused and slightly dismayed at the degree to which people were driven, to the exclusion of everything else, by hard work and the accumulation of wealth.

Not much has changed. Pop in a DVD of “Koyaanisqatsi,” the wordless, darkly brilliant, avant-garde 1982 film about the frenetic speed of modern life. Backed by the minimalist music of Philip Glass, director Godfrey Reggio takes film clips of Americans going about their daily business, but speeds them up until they resemble assembly-line machines, robots marching lockstep to nowhere. Now look at the video from L’Enfant Plaza, in fast-forward. The Philip Glass soundtrack fits it perfectly.

“Koyaanisqatsi” is a Hopi word. It means “life out of balance.”

In his 2003 book, Timeless Beauty: In the Arts and Everyday Life, British author John Lane writes about the loss of the appreciation for beauty in the modern world. The experiment at L’Enfant Plaza may be symptomatic of that, he said — not because people didn’t have the capacity to understand beauty, but because it was irrelevant to them.

“This is about having the wrong priorities,” Lane said.

If we can’t take the time out of our lives to stay a moment and listen to one of the best musicians on Earth play some of the best music ever written; if the surge of modern life so overpowers us that we are deaf and blind to something like that — then what else are we missing?

That’s what the Welsh poet W.H. Davies meant in 1911 when he published those two lines that begin this section. They made him famous. The thought was simple, even primitive, but somehow no one had put it quite that way before.

Of course, Davies had an advantage — an advantage of perception. He wasn’t a tradesman or a laborer or a bureaucrat or a consultant or a policy analyst or a labor lawyer or a program manager. He was a hobo.

THE CULTURAL HERO OF THE DAY ARRIVED AT L’ENFANT PLAZA PRETTY LATE, in the unprepossessing figure of one John Picarello, a smallish man with a baldish head.

Picarello hit the top of the escalator just after Bell began his final piece, a reprise of “Chaconne.” In the video, you see Picarello stop dead in his tracks, locate the source of the music, and then retreat to the other end of the arcade. He takes up a position past the shoeshine stand, across from that lottery line, and he will not budge for the next nine minutes.

Like all the passersby interviewed for this article, Picarello was stopped by a reporter after he left the building, and was asked for his phone number. Like everyone, he was told only that this was to be an article about commuting. When he was called later in the day, like everyone else, he was first asked if anything unusual had happened to him on his trip into work. Of the more than 40 people contacted, Picarello was the only one who immediately mentioned the violinist.

“There was a musician playing at the top of the escalator at L’Enfant Plaza.”

Haven’t you seen musicians there before?

“Not like this one.”

What do you mean?

“This was a superb violinist. I’ve never heard anyone of that caliber. He was technically proficient, with very good phrasing. He had a good fiddle, too, with a big, lush sound. I walked a distance away, to hear him. I didn’t want to be intrusive on his space.”

Really?

“Really. It was that kind of experience. It was a treat, just a brilliant, incredible way to start the day.”

Picarello knows classical music. He is a fan of Joshua Bell but didn’t recognize him; he hadn’t seen a recent photo, and besides, for most of the time Picarello was pretty far away. But he knew this was not a run-of-the-mill guy out there, performing. On the video, you can see Picarello look around him now and then, almost bewildered.

“Yeah, other people just were not getting it. It just wasn’t registering. That was baffling to me.”

When Picarello was growing up in New York, he studied violin seriously, intending to be a concert musician. But he gave it up at 18, when he decided he’d never be good enough to make it pay. Life does that to you sometimes. Sometimes, you have to do the prudent thing. So he went into another line of work. He’s a supervisor at the U.S. Postal Service. Doesn’t play the violin much, anymore.

When he left, Picarello says, “I humbly threw in $5.” It was humble: You can actually see that on the video. Picarello walks up, barely looking at Bell, and tosses in the money. Then, as if embarrassed, he quickly walks away from the man he once wanted to be.

Does he have regrets about how things worked out?

The postal supervisor considers this.

“No. If you love something but choose not to do it professionally, it’s not a waste. Because, you know, you still have it. You have it forever.”

BELL THINKS HE DID HIS BEST WORK OF THE DAY IN THOSE FINAL FEW MINUTES, in the second “Chaconne.” And that also was the first time more than one person at a time was listening. As Picarello stood in the back, Janice Olu arrived and took up a position a few feet away from Bell. Olu, a public trust officer with HUD, also played the violin as a kid. She didn’t know the name of the piece she was hearing, but she knew the man playing it has a gift.

Olu was on a coffee break and stayed as long as she dared. As she turned to go, she whispered to the stranger next to her, “I really don’t want to leave.” The stranger standing next to her happened to be working for The Washington Post.

In preparing for this event, editors at The Post Magazine discussed how to deal with likely outcomes. The most widely held assumption was that there could well be a problem with crowd control: In a demographic as sophisticated as Washington, the thinking went, several people would surely recognize Bell. Nervous “what-if” scenarios abounded. As people gathered, what if others stopped just to see what the attraction was? Word would spread through the crowd. Cameras would flash. More people flock to the scene; rush-hour pedestrian traffic backs up; tempers flare; the National Guard is called; tear gas, rubber bullets, etc.

As it happens, exactly one person recognized Bell, and she didn’t arrive until near the very end. For Stacy Furukawa, a demographer at the Commerce Department, there was no doubt. She doesn’t know much about classical music, but she had been in the audience three weeks earlier, at Bell’s free concert at the Library of Congress. And here he was, the international virtuoso, sawing away, begging for money. She had no idea what the heck was going on, but whatever it was, she wasn’t about to miss it.

Furukawa positioned herself 10 feet away from Bell, front row, center. She had a huge grin on her face. The grin, and Furukawa, remained planted in that spot until the end.

“It was the most astonishing thing I’ve ever seen in Washington,” Furukawa says. “Joshua Bell was standing there playing at rush hour, and people were not stopping, and not even looking, and some were flipping quarters at him! Quarters! I wouldn’t do that to anybody. I was thinking, Omigosh, what kind of a city do I live in that this could happen?”When it was over, Furukawa introduced herself to Bell, and tossed in a twenty. Not counting that — it was tainted by recognition — the final haul for his 43 minutes of playing was $32.17. Yes, some people gave pennies.

“Actually,” Bell said with a laugh, “that’s not so bad, considering. That’s 40 bucks an hour. I could make an okay living doing this, and I wouldn’t have to pay an agent.”

These days, at L’Enfant Plaza, lotto ticket sales remain brisk. Musicians still show up from time to time, and they still tick off Edna Souza. Joshua Bell’s latest album, “The Voice of the Violin,” has received the usual critical acclaim. (“Delicate urgency.” “Masterful intimacy.” “Unfailingly exquisite.” “A musical summit.” “. . . will make your heart thump and weep at the same time.”)

Bell headed off on a concert tour of European capitals. But he is back in the States this week. He has to be. On Tuesday, he will be accepting the Avery Fisher prize, recognizing the Flop of L’Enfant Plaza as the best classical musician in America.

Emily Shroder, Rachel Manteuffel, John W. Poole and Magazine Editor Tom Shroder contributed to this report. Gene Weingarten, a Magazine staff writer, can be reached at weingarten@washpost.com. He will be fielding questions and comments about this article Monday at 1 p.m.

23
Jan
11

Why is the violin so hard to play?

  When you pluck a note on a guitar string, there isn’t very much that can go wrong. You may not play the right note at the right time, of course, but a single note will always come out at the expected pitch, and sounding reasonably musical. When a beginner tries to play a violin, things are much more difficult. When a bow is drawn across a string, the result might be a musical note at the desired pitch, but on the other hand it might be an undesirable whistle, screech or graunch. This difference stems from a fundamental distinction between the physics of plucked and bowed strings.

Linear versus nonlinear: plucked versus bowed

A plucked string, like that on a guitar, can be described by linear systems theory. The essential feature of a linear system is that if you can find two different solutions to the governing equations, then the sum of the two is also a solution. In the context of vibration, this idea has a direct physical application.

The first few vibration modes of a vibrating string…

A vibrating object like a stretched string has certain resonance frequencies, each associated with a particular pattern of vibration called a vibration mode. The corresponding resonance frequencies are the “fundamental” and “harmonics” of the note to which the string is tuned. If the string is set into vibration in the shape of one of these modes it will continue to vibrate in this shape at the corresponding resonance frequency, with an amplitude which gradually dies away as the energy is dissipated into sound and heat.

… and a string vibrating in all three modes at once

Now if the string is vibrated in a way that involves several of the mode shapes at once, then the principle of linearity comes into play. Each mode simply goes its own way, vibrating at its particular resonance frequency, and the total sound is the sum of the contributions from these separate modes  (read more). The guitar player can vary the mixture of amplitudes of the various modes, by plucking at different points on the string or using a different plectrum, but the set of resonance frequencies is always the same. In musical terms, the pitch of the note is always the same but the tonal quality can be adjusted.

A bowed string is different. A note on a violin can be sustained for as long as your bow-stroke lasts, with a steady amplitude. Although energy is being dissipated into sound and heat, somehow the bow is supplying additional energy at exactly the right rate to compensate. This is one identifying sign of a non-linear system, for which the idea of adding contributions from different vibration modes cannot be applied in the simple way described above. The theory of such systems is always more intricate, and there is scope for very complicated outcomes and chaotic behaviour (read more). The range of good and bad noises which can be made on a violin string are examples of these complicated outcomes. The same general comments apply equally well to other musical instrument capable of a sustained tone such as the woodwind and brass instruments.

The motion of a bowed string

The string appears to vibrate in a parabola-like shape…

So how does a violin string vibrate? This question was first answered by Hermann von Helmholtz 140 years ago. When a violin is played in a normal way to produce a conventionally acceptable sound, the string can be seen to vibrate. To the naked eye, the string appears to move back and forth in a parabola-like shape, looking rather like the first mode of free vibration of a stretched elastic string.

… but it actually moves in a V-shape.

However, upon closer inspection, Helmholtz observed that it moved in a very unexpected way: the string actually moves in a “V”-shape, i.e. the string gets divided into two straight portions which meet at a sharp corner. The fact that we see a gently curving (parabola-like) outline to the string’s motion with the naked eye is because this sharp corner moves back and forth along this curve. Hence we only normally see the “envelope”, or outline, of the motion of the string.

This motion, called Helmhotz motion is illustrated in this animation:

Helmholtz motion

The vertex of the V, called the Helmholtz corner, travels back and forth along the string. Each time this Helmholtz corner passes the bow, it triggers a transition between sticking and sliding friction: while the corner travels from bow to finger and back, the string sticks to the bow and is dragged along with it; then the string slips along the bow hairs (travelling in the opposite direction to the bow) while the corner travels to the bridge and back. The alternation between the two kinds of friction supplies the non-linear element to the system. (Find out how to observe the Helmholtz motion for yourself.)

If the violinist doesn’t press hard enough with the bow, then instead of Helmholtz motion the string may move as shown here:

Double slipping motion

There are now two travelling corners on the string, and there are two episodes of slipping per cycle of the vibration. The result is a note at the same pitch as the Helmholtz motion, but with a different waveform and a different sound. For whatever historical reason, this sound is not regarded as acceptable, at least by Western classical violinists. Your violin teacher is likely to dismiss it as “surface sound”, and tell you to practise more until you learn not to do it. The switch from Helmholtz motion to this double-slipping motion sets a minimum acceptable level to the bow force, the force with which the bow is pressed against the string.

There is also a maximum acceptable bow force. If the bow is pressed too hard, instead of a musical note the violin may produce a raucous “graunch” noise. The vibration of the string is no longer regular, but switches to a chaotic pattern. Needless to say, this sound is also disapproved of by violin teachers.

But bow force is not enough

The conditions for minimum and maximum bow force can tell us something interesting about the difficulty of playing the violin. When a simple analysis is done of these two conditions, it turns out that they both depend, among other things, on the position of the bow on the string. Suppose the length of the string is , and that the bow is applied a distance from the bridge, where is usually a rather small number for normal violin playing. Then it can be shown that the maximum bow force is proportional to , while the minimum bow force is proportional to . These two conditions can be combined in a graphical form first suggested by John Schelleng in the 1960s. It is most convenient to plot the bow force and the bow position on logarithmic scales, so that the two power-law relations become straight lines. The diagram then looks schematically like this:

The Schelleng diagram of bow force versus position for a long steady bow stroke

The shaded wedge shows the region within which Helmholtz motion can be achieved. Outside that region, the string does one or other of the undesirable things described above. It is immediately clear that it is easier to produce Helmholtz motion if the bow is away from the bridge: if the bow is too close to the bridge, the two force limits converge and it might not be possible to achieve Helmholtz motion at all.

But the picture reveals something else which is relevant to beginners on the violin. When you first try to play, you have many different things to think about: controlling the bow to touch the correct string, adjusting your left hand to finger the correct note, and so on. It can therefore happen that a beginner does not pay much attention to the position of the bow on the string, . In other words, a beginner may move randomly along a more-or-less horizontal line in the Schelleng diagram. The shape of the Helmholtz region in the diagram immediately reveals that this could lead to falling below the minimum force line or rising above the maximum force line, even without the bow force being varied.

Playability

Of course, this is not the whole story about why the violin takes such a lot of practice in order to learn to play it well. The Schelleng diagram really only tells us about the possibility of obtaining Helmholtz motion during a long, steady bow-stroke.

But violinists don’t just want to play long, steady bow strokes. For musical purposes a wide variety of different bowing gestures are used, such as martelé (hammered bowing with a sudden release) and spiccato (rapid detached notes with the bow bouncing off the strings). A more advanced player will be interested in questions like “If I perform such-and-such a bow-stroke, will I get a Helmholtz motion? How long will it take to become established?”. The second question is particularly important, because there is usually a transient period of non-regular motion of the string which may make the start of the note sound scratchy. A good bow gesture will minimise the length of this transient period, and establish Helmholtz motion quickly to give a crisp-sounding note.

This leads to the idea of playability of an instrument. Everyone knows that some violins are a great deal more valuable than others. Why does this happen, when all normal violins appear to be very similar? One aspect of this is “beauty of sound” from the instrument, which is very difficult to address in scientific terms because you first have to find out what a listener means by beautiful sound. However, if you watch a violinist trying out instruments, you may hear comments like “I don’t really like the sound of this one, but it is very easy to play”, or “This one sounds good but it is very slow to speak”. Players are not only interested in sound quality, whatever that may mean precisely, but they are also interested in ease of playing – the playability of the instrument. If one violin is more accommodating than another, in terms of producing Helmholtz motion more reliably or faster, then that violin is likely to be preferred by a player.

Virtual violins

Unlike beauty of sound, this issue of playability lends itself to scientific investigation using mathematical models of a bowed violin string. Over the last 30 years increasingly sophisticated models have been developed. These models are too complicated to solve by pencil and paper mathematical methods, but they can be used to produce computer simulations of how a string on a particular violin will respond to a certain bow gesture. The models can explain a lot of the complicated things which a violin string can do, and they are beginning to be good enough to use to explore design questions: how could the design of a string, or bow, or violin body, be modified to improve the playability?

In a curiously circular way these theoretical models are also being used directly to make music. As computers have got faster it has become possible to run increasingly sophisticated simulation models in real time, to make “virtual musical instruments”, where a mathematical model of an acoustic instrument is used as the basis of an electronic instrument (read more). Some of the most expensive musical synthesiser systems use this approach, in what is called physical modelling synthesis.

Considering the complicated way in which a bowed violin string vibrates, it is not surprising that the violin is a difficult instrument to learn. There is a fine line between achieving Helmholtz motion and creating unacceptable surface and raucous sounds, whether you are just learning to play or are tackling the more advanced bowing techniques. But there is hope for those who have never learnt play the real thing: mathematical models of the physics of a bowed string may allow you to play a virtual violin after all.

About the authors

After a first degree in mathematics at Cambridge, Jim Woodhouse did a PhD on the acoustics of the violin, in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at Cambridge (this work being inspired by a hobby interest in building instruments). He then worked for an engineering consultancy firm for a few years, on a variety of problems in structural vibration, before joining the Engineering Department of the University (in 1985) as Lecturer, then later Reader and Professor. His research interests all involve vibration, and musical instruments have continued to form a major part.

Paul Galluzzo studied engineering as an undergraduate at Cambridge University, specializing in fluid dynamics. He is also a keen violinist, with vast experience performing in various countries. Pooling these engineering and musical backgrounds, he subsequently did a PhD on the acoustics of the violin at Cambridge University, specializing in the mechanics of bowed strings. He currently works for an engineering consultancy firm, in various fields involving mechanics and fluid dynamics, and is also involved with work in physiology and electrochemistry. He was recently elected to a Fellowship of Trinity College, Cambridge.

källa: http://plus.maths.org/

15
Jan
11

Musikal Opera Operett Repertoar

Berlin – There’s No Business Like Show Business (Annie Get Your Gun)
Berlin – They Say It`s Wonderful  (Annie Get Your Gun)
Bizet – Habanera ur Carmen (foto: Georges Bizet)
Bizet – Toreador Song (Carmen)
Delibes – Blomsterduetten (Flower Duet) from Lakmé
Donizetti – Una Furtiva Lagrima ur Kärleksdrycken (foto: Gaetano Donizetti)
Chatjaturjan – Sabel dance / Sabre dance from ”Gayaneh”
Chatjaturjan – Adagio „Spartacus“ balett (Onedinlinjen TV- serie)
Kalman – O La La! That`s the way I am (The Gypsy Princess)
Kalman – Komm Zigani (Countess Maritza / Grevinnan Maritza)
Kalman – Komm mit nach Varasdin (Countess Maritza / Grevinnan Maritza)
Lehar – Potpurri operett (foto: Franz Lehar)
Lehar  – Wer hat die Leibe uns ins Herz gesenkt (Leendets Land)
Leigh – The impossible dream (backing track av George “Misu” Ilie)
Loeve/Lerner – I could have danced all night (My Fair Lady)
Loeve/Lerner – On the street where you live ( My Fair Lady)
Loeve/Lerner – Get Me to the Church on Time (My Fair Lady)
Mascagni – Intermezzo ur Cavalleria rusticana   (foto: Pietro Mascagni)
Mozart – Ach ich fühl’s (Pamina from Die Zauberflöte)
Mozart – Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen (Die Zauberflöte)
Mozart – Voi Che Sapete  ur Figaros bröllop (Le nozze di Figaro)
Offenbach –  Can-can ur Orfeus i underjorden  (foto: Jacques Offenbach)
Offenbach –  Barcarolle ur Hoffmanns äventyr
Porter – Wunderbar ur Kiss Me, Kate  (foto: Cole Porter)
Puccini – O mio babbino caro ur Gianni Schicchi
Puccini – Nessun Dorma ur Turandot  (foto: Giacomo Puccini)
Rodgers / Hammerstein II – Oh what a beautiful morning (Oklahoma)
Rodgers / Hammerstein II – Sound of Music 1959 (ur Sound of Music)
Rodgers / Hammerstein II – My Favorite Things (ur Sound of Music)
Saint-Saëns – Mon coeur s`ouvre a ta voix (Samson & Delilah)
Strauss Johann, d.y. – Wiener Blut (vals), op. 354 (ur Wienerblod)
Suppé –  Boccaccio-Marsch (ur Boccaccio operett)

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14
Jan
11

Film/TV Musik Repertoar

Adams  Oleta – Easier to say goodbye

Adams Johnny – There is allways one more time

Albert  Morris – Feelings

Anka  Paul – My way (J. Revaux)

Auric Georges – Where Is Your Heart  ur Moulin Rouge (foto: Zsa Zsa Gabor)

Becaud Gilbert – What now my love (Et maintenant)

Benson George – Masquerade

Bixio / Cherubini – Mamma

Bixio / Cherubini – Jag Vill Ha En Gondol (foto: Zarah Leander)

Bock Jerry/ Sheldon Harnick – If I Were a Rich Man ur Fiddler on the Roof

Boulangér G.  – The mail’s wagon

Boulangér G.   – Avant de mourir

Boulangér G.  – Valse pizzicato

Carlberg Sten / Eric Sandström – Sommar, sommar, sommar 1951

Carlos Eleta Almaran – Historia De Un Amor

Michael Carr / Paul Lambrecht – The Lonely Ballerina

Chaplin C. – This is my song ur The Countess From Hong Kong (foto: Sofia Loren)

Capurro/Di Capua – O sole mio

Dalla Lucio – Caruso (foto: Luciano Pavarotti)

trad. – Dans Espagnol

Dato Xujadze – Hohbis kelivit lamazi

D.Day– Que sera, sera ur The man who knew to much – Hitchock (foto: Doris Day)

Medley (Farmors Hambo & Fermens Polska)

Dinicu G – Hora staccato

DiLazzaro Bruno – Chitarra Romano

Diamond / Becaud – September morn

Djolei, Djolei

Du gamla, du fria (Sveriges nationalsång)

Gade Jacob – Tango Jalousie

Gardel Carlos – Por Una Cabeza ur En Kvinnans Doft (foto: Al Pacino)

Gillar / Denza – Tarantella napoletana / Funiculi-la

Grekisk Medley (Zorba – Mikis Theodorakis, osv)

Grusin Dave – The Singleman Party Foxtrot ur Mandomsprovet

Hamlisch M. – Memories ur The way we were (foto: Barbara Streisand)

Jimmy Van Heusen – Love and marriage (1955) TV show  “Our Town”

Himmelstrand Peter- Det börjar verka kärlek banne mej

Ilie G.(arr.) – Happy birthday

Ionescó Jean – Claro de luna

John Elton – Can you feel the love tonight (The Lion King)

Jones Tom – Without you (“backing track” av George “Misu” Ilie)

Kaempfert Bert – Stranger in the night

Kaempfert Bert – Spanish eyes

Kai Gullmar – SWING IT, MAGISTERN

Kander  J. – Wilkommen ur Cabaret (foto: Liza Minnelli)

Kander  J. – Cabaret (Cabaret)

Kander  J.  – New York, New York (New York, New York)

Lai Francis – Love story Theme

Leo Caerts – I viva espana

Livingstone J. – Mona Lisa (foto: Mona Lisa)

Jean Lenoir – Parlez moi d’amour

Lundblad Peter – Ta mej till havet

Marchetti Fermo Dante – Fascination

Mariano Camargo – Curumin

Mancini Henry – Elegant

Mancini Henry – Crazy world (voice: Julie Andrews)

Mancini Henry – Medley (from Victor / Victoria – Enter Leclou & A Sub For Lovers)

Mancini Henry – Meegie´s theme

Mancini Henry – Something For Sellers (foto: The Pink Panther)

Mancini Henry – Softly

Summer in Gstaad ur filmen  “The Return of The Pink  Panther”

Manzanero Armando – Somos Novios (It’s Impossible) – Perry Como

Medley vals jazz (The Last Waltz & Lara`s Theam – M.Jarre)

Narro Pascual Marquina – Espana Caní (Gipsy Spain)

Norlén Håkan – Visa vid midsommartid

Piazzolla – Adios Nonino

Piazzolla – den svidande vackra ”Oblivion” filmen ”Henrik IV”

Ponce Manuel –  Estrellita (My Little Star)

Predescó Nicola – Vals d’Artiste

Putman – Green,green grass of home (foto: Tom Jones)

Rempfler Josef – Gruss Vo De Notkersegg (tysk marsch)

Renis / Newell – Never, never

Richie Lionel- Endless love

Riedel Georg / Astrid Lindgren – Idas Sommarvisa

Rodriguez G. – La Cumparsita

Ruiz Gabriel – Amor, amor, amor

Schifrin Lalo – Mannix Theme

Taube Evert – Älskliga blommor små

Taube Evert  – Blå anemonerna (Pierina)

Owe Thörnqvist – Rumba i Engelska parken

Vikingarna – Tre Röda Rosor

Vikingarna – Får Jag Lov

Vikingarna – Tack och Farväl

Warren H.- That`s amore (foto: Dean Martin)

Webber A.L.- Pié Jesu

White Maurice – Written in the stone

White Maurice – Sing A Song (Take Six)

White Berry – Can`t Get Enough (foto: Berry White)

video Williams John – Schindler’s List – Theme

Young/Ilie – Vals potpurri ( Around the world in eighty days)

Yradier Sebastián – La Paloma

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14
Jan
11

Jazz Standards Repertoar

Arlen / Harburg – Over the rainbow (foto: Judy Garland)
Arlene / Koehler – I´ve got the world on a string
Brodszky Nicholas – Be My Love (The Toast Of New Orleans)
N.H.Brown / Arthur Freed – Singin`in the rain (Singin`in the rain)
Caldwell B. / R.Peterson  – What you won’t do for love
Camilo Michel – Why not
Chaplin Charlie – Smile ur Moderna tider (foto: Charlie Chaplin)
Culbertson Brian – Com On Up
De Paul / Ray – You don’t know what love is
Gene De Paul – Teach Me Tonight
Distel Sascha – The Good Life (foto: Tony Bennett)
Donaldson Walter – My baby just cares for me  ( Whoopee 1929)
Fatburger – Spice
Gershwin, George – Love is here to stay (foto: George Gershwin)
Gershwin, George -They can’t take that away from me
Mack Gordon /Harry Warren – At last
Grusin Dave – The Singleman Party Foxtrot (The Graduate)
Grusin Dave – Bossa Baroque
Jimmy Van Heusen – Come Fly With Me
Jimmy Van Heusen – Love and marriage
Horn Shirley – Here’s to life
Ilie G. – Poco de Tumbao
Ilie G. – Touch of jazz
Ilie G. – Here We Are


Ilie G. – Between too worlds
Jarreau Al – Roof garden
Jarreau Al – So good
Jarreau Al – Cold Duck
Jobim  Antonio Carlos –  Desafinado
Jobim  Antonio Carlos –  Meditation
Jobim –  Medley Brazil ( One note samba / The girl from Ipanema)
Jobim  Antonio Carlos – The girl from Ipanema
Jobim  Antonio Carlos – Wave
James P. Johnson / Cecil Macklin – Charleston
Kander  J. – New York, New York (foto: Frank Sinatra)
Kosma J. – Falling Leaves
Kosma J. – Autumn Leaves (latin variant)
Lyle Bobby – On the spot
Lyle Bobby – Bijou
Lowe Al. – Larry`s theme
Mancini Henry – Something For Sellers (foto: Peter Sellers)
Mercer J. – I wanna be around
McCartney Paul – Yesterday (foto: Paul McCartney)
Mandel Johnny – The Shadow of Your Smile (The Sandpiper)
Myrow/Gordon – You make me feel so young
Parish / Carmichael – Stardust (foto: Nat King Cole och Ella Fitzgerald)
Ritenour Lee – Malibu
Ritenour Lee – 101 Eastbound
Simon / Bernier  – Poinciana
Tavaglione S. – Kenya Dig
Weckl Dave – Island Magic
Wyche Sidney – OK,You Win
G.Weiss / G.Douglas – What a wonderful world
(foto: Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong)

Velasquez Consuelo – Besame mucho
Zawinu Joe – Birdland

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13
Jan
11

Klassisk Repertoar

Albeniz  – Tango
Albinoni – Adagio
Alfven – Polka Från Roslagen
Bach – Air on the G string ( ur Orkestersvit nr.3 i D )
Bach – Prelude (foto: J.S.Bach)
Bach – Dubbelkonsert i d-moll för två violiner – Sats II
Bach – Nu Grönskar Det ur Bondekantaten
Bartok – Rumänska Folkdanser (1;2 )
Beethoven – Minuet in G, No.2 (foto: L. van Beethoven)
Brahms – Hungarian dance no.6
Brahms – Vals no.15
Chabrier – Espana
Chopin – Nocturne op.9 no.2
Porumbescu – Balada
Dvorjak – Humoresque
Enescó – Rhapsody in A-dur ( moment)
Fibish – Poem
Gounod/Bach – Ave Maria
Grieg – Solveigs sång ur Peer Gynt svit nr 2 Op 55 (foto: E.grieg)
Haydn – Variationer ur Kejsarkvartetten Op.76, Nr.3 “Emperor”  (foto: J.Haydn)
Kreisler – Schön Rosmarin
Kreisler – Caprice Viennois
Lanner – Neue Wiener Ländler, Op.1
Lehár – Guld och Silver
Leoncavallo – Mattinata
Marcello – Adagio
Mendelssohn –Bartholdy  – Spring Song
Monti – Czardas
Mozart – Piano konsert no.21 ”Elvira Madigan”- Romanza (foto: W.A.Mozart)
Mozart – Rondo Alla Turca (Turkisk Marsch)
Saint-Saëns – Le Cygne/Svanen/ The Swan (Djurens karneval)
Sarasate – ZigeunerWeisen
Sarasate – Romanza andaluza
Schubert – Ave Maria  (foto: F.Schubert)
Schumann – Reverie
Sieczynski – Wien, Wien, nur du allein
J. Strauss  d y – Voices of spring
J. Strauss d y- Rosen aus dem Süden (Roses from the South)
J. Strauss d.ä – Salon – Polka, Op.161
J. Strauss d.ä – Radetzkymarsch
Vivaldi –The 4 seasons -Spring satsI (foto: A.Vivaldi)
Vivaldi–The 4 seasons-Winter satsI
Vivaldi – The 4 seasons-Winter satsII
Waldteufel – Skridskoåkarna (The Skaters Waltz)

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