Timothy's Blog

Timothy's blog on dulcimers, music, nature and life!

Worth: inherent or in a context?

Worth: inherent or in a context?

So what gives something value?  Is it worth what it’s worth even if that’s not recognized or appreciated or acknowledged?

As a musician I frequently experience a vast range of responses from listeners, particularly noticeably in an informal setting such as a signing event in front of a bookstore that carries my CDs: some people are in rapt joy, and some are mildly interested, while others seem to intently ignore my presence or even smirk in pitying amusement!

I can’t help but wonder where the actual value resides in my music-making.  Is it fully worthy regardless of responses, or do the responses contribute to its value or lack thereof since music is in part a form of communication?  How much does my attitude or skill or inspiration contribute to it?

In what ways does it have actual inherent worth?

A philosophy book could be composed about these questions, I’m sure, and I imagine a number have been --- but I want at least to make these observations, and perhaps you can also benefit from some such reflection.

Maybe you’ve seen the video and article by Gene Weingarten in the Washington Post several years ago in which he asked the great violinist Joshua Bell to set aside some time the day after his highly successful concert at the Library of Congress, and to dress casually and play similar virtuoso music in a Metro station with his case open in front of him.   He agreed to it.  The video is stunning!  Forty-five minutes of massive ignoring.  Small children who turn to show interest are yanked away by their parents.  Multitudes of serious, tense people scurry past to their more important destinations, apparently shoving the magnificent violin music away from their consciousness.

I wonder if any of these same folks had paid $80 for a seat in the concert, and because of this different context didn’t make the connection?

(Gratifyingly, at the end of the subway episode one lady does listen, tosses a bill into the case, and says, ‘Thank you!  I loved your concert the other evening.’)

What is the relative worth of the transcendent Bach Chaconne being played on a great stage in comparison to its being played in the Metro?

I wonder if our culture has so long saturated us with commercial promotion that our minds have been numbed to making sensible personal judgments for ourselves in unusual settings?

I think that if I saw Joshua Bell playing in that station I’d find a way to pause and listen and show appreciation.  I think!  Would you?

Of course, you know, I'm not just talking about music here --- this has to do with everything in our lives.  How do you see value in something or someone?  Do you look for

  • a use (pragmatism) or
  • a context (worth relative to setting) or
  • promotion of it by others (persuasion) or
  • attractiveness (surface appearance and draw) or
  • signs of actual inherent value?

And is there an ultimate source of value?  How do we know?

'The First Noel' in a new hammered dulcimer arrang...
Some simple techniques for hammered dulcimer arran...

Related Posts


No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment

Please Note: This site uses cookies and similar technologies.

Browser settings can be adjusted to control cookies. Failure to make adjustments constitutes your agreement to their usage. Learn more

I understand

Information about Cookies

A cookie is a small piece of data (usually a text file) that a website asks your browser to store on your computer or mobile device. It enables the website to remember your actions and preferences (such as login, language, font size and other display preferences) over a period of time, so you don’t have to keep re-entering them whenever you come back to the site or browse from one page to another. Most browsers support cookies, but users can set their browsers to decline them and can delete them whenever they like. Cookies can be used to collect and store user data while connected to provide you with requested services. More information about cookies can be found at http://www.aboutcookies.org.

In addition to cookies that remember your preferences mentioned above, cookies are used for the purpose of purchasing items off this website, and for login and user profile details should you provide them by creating an account or signing up for the blog posts or newsletter.

Third party cookies are also used on this site. Specifically, Google Analytics is used on this site -- a popular web analytics service provided by Google, Inc. Google Analytics uses cookies to help us analyze how users use this site. It counts the number of visitors and tells us things about their behavior overall – such as the typical length of stay on the site or the average number of pages a user views.

The information generated by the cookie about your use of our website (including your IP address) will be transmitted to and stored by Google on servers in the United States. Google will use this information for the purpose of evaluating your use of our website, compiling reports on website activity and providing other services relating to website activity and internet usage.

Google may also transfer this information to third parties where required to do so by law, or where such third parties process the information on Google's behalf. Google undertakes not to associate your IP address with any other data held by Google.

If you have Adobe Flash installed on your computer (most computers do) and utilize audio or video players, Google Analytics will try to store some additional data on your computer. This data is known as a Local Shared Object or Flash cookie. This helps us to analyze the popularity of our media files.

Finally, this website makes use of Google Maps. Google Maps is used to provide locations for Timothy Seaman's performances. In clicking on a performance location, you can allow or deny Google Maps knowledge of your location for purposes of getting directions from your location to the event site.

You can control and/or delete cookies as you wish – for details, see aboutcookies.org. You can delete all cookies that are already on your computer and you can set most browsers to prevent them from being placed. If you do this, however, you may have to manually adjust some preferences every time you visit a site and some services and functionalities may not work.

Your failure to control and/or delete cookies for this site constitutes your acceptance of cookies as outlined above.