On January 12, 2007, the Washington Post conducted an experiment. They wanted to see how much of a role context plays in peoples' ability to recognize and appreciate musical talent. So they sought the help of Joshua Bell. Bell is considered one of the top violinists in the world. He packs concert halls across the globe. He earns as much as $1,000 per minute for his performances.
Using a prized 18th Century violin once owned by Austrian virtuoso Fritz Kreisler, Bell was enlisted by the Post to play in L'Enfant Plaza, a busy metro rail station in Washington, DC. Wearing jeans, a long-sleeved t-shirt and a baseball cap, Bell set his violin case down on the floor, tossed in a couple dollars to encourage tips, and began playing. He played with the same passion, showmanship and technical mastery that he brings to all of his performances.
The Post had planned for all kinds of contingencies: people recognizing him and pestering him for autographs in between pieces, massive overflow crowds gathering in an often congested metro station. But it was all unnecessary, because an odd thing happened – an uncomfortable thing for a musician accustomed to the utmost respect and attention from his audiences. Virtually everyone ignored him. There was no applause at the end of any of the six pieces that he performed. Of the 1,097 people who passed by, 27 gave him a dollar or two, or some change. Only seven actually stopped to listen to the music. One woman recognized him toward the end and gave him $20. A crowd never gathered.
Three nights earlier, his packed performance at Symphony Hall in Boston had cost upwards of $100 per seat.
So here you are on the web site of an obscure musician named David Rotter. I happen to think that David's classical improvisation talent is worthy of the finest concert halls in the world. I believe that one day his name will be lumped in with Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin and the other great composers of centuries past. I also know that people do not currently have that kind of context for understanding his music. He does not have name recognition. He has not received the music industry's stamp of approval. His present recordings are generally DIY and made in his cluttered apartment. So do you judge based on that? Or do you close your eyes and let your soul do the listening?
- Robert Rafn