Framing is vital
I blogged earlier about Joshua Bell’s concert in the subway, which practically no one appreciated despite his musical gifts. Here’s a good comment:
If you are not familiar with the story (follow the links): Joshua Bell played violin in a subway station and almost nobody stopped to listen or to give him money.
Saw Lady explains exactly why – no framing!
In the experiment/stunt, Bell deliberately played at a wrong place (in the hall where everyone walks through, not at the platform where people wait for trains), at a wrong time (morning rush hour), wearing street clothes and playing unrecognizable (to the mass audience) pieces.
This is like mailing a paper from “Cell” to all your neighbors. They will not read it. If they try, they will not understand it. Then they will trash it (and, if they are impolite, will tell you that you are an idiot for giving them that).
Joshua Bell usually plays within a particular frame. At a concert hall. Wearing a tux. Audience has a printed program that tells them who he is and what pieces he is going to play. It is a very self-selected audience – people who paid big money for the tickets and decided to put aside everything else in their lives for two hours so they could listen to him. They are also people knowledgeable about music and can appreciate his mastery of the instrument. They are likely to be familiar with the pieces. They focus for two hours and listen to every note.
These are cell biologists reading a paper in “Cell”.
But, Bell could have done better by framing himself differently. He could have played on the platform. He could have played during the afternoon rush hour. He could have worn a tux. He could have had a placard stating who he is (establishing ‘expertise’). He could have talked to the passers-by and engaged them. He could have mixed obscure pieces with some popular pieces (those are not “lies” – they are just more interesting pieces to the particular lay audience than to the experts).
I bet people would have stopped and listened and given money.
End result: people would have heard and appreciated the obscure pieces he played.
Know your audience. Engage it. Gain its trust. Establish authority with them. Then, you can deliver your message.
That is framing.
It has nothing to do with the appalling state of music education in the country, with the bad musical tastes of the population, or stupidity of people who did not instantly recognize his mastery. That was not his job at the moment (though he may also be involved, in a completely different way, in fighting for music education, etc.).
In the comments to the post, Saw Lady herself speaks up:
You are so right: I often catch the attention of teen-agers in the subway – kids who never listen to classical music and have a bad opinion on it. I get them to stop and listen and their reaction is usually “what, that was classical music?! But that was beautiful!”
Framing is the way.
Thank you for this post!