In 2007, Joshua Bell executed an anonymous busking experiment near a L’Enfant Plaza Metro station at rush hour. It was arranged and reported on by Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post in an article called “Pearls before Breakfast“. Bell performed for 43 minutes, and included Bach’s D minor Chaconne, on his ‘Huberman’ Stradivari violin. This filmed social experiment was widely reported in the media, due to its spectacularly sad result. Seven of approximately 1,000 people who passed stopped to listen, and his busking earned $32 and change.
The seemingly spectacular failure of a world famous violin and world class violin music on a mutli-million dollar instrument to draw an appreciative crowd propelled the story into the media. But, keep in mind the setting, the cloths worn by Bell and the timing were set to make as challenging an environment as possible. I would argue though that this speaks more of modern culture on a whole than classical music.
But Joshua had his revenge! As a rebuttal, the ‘busker’ played a free concert in Union Station with far better results.
Note: There is an anonymously written and slightly inaccurate account of the original event that has been circulating, if you’ve see that one, then you may want to read this by the original author.