At work I often listen to Pandora with headphones on. Today it played a beautiful chillout track I hadn't heard in years: Conjure One - Center Of The Sun. The song lyrics use the phrase "I hear volins", which in context seem to mean something like "when I hear such beauty, nothing else matters".

I was already aware of "I hear violins" in the song lyrics of the 80s pop song ABC - When Smokey Sings. The song is a tribute to Smokey Robinson, and although the Wikipedia page for it doesn't mention anything about the lyrics, the phrase does seem to be used in a similar context.

Further searching found the 1975 New York Times Article Do I hear Volins? in which the phrase is presented as a question, as if the reader should know what it means. I also found the 1963 song Ronnie Savoy - I Hear Violins, but I could find neither recordings nor lyrics for it.

So, does anyone know the meaning of "I hear violins", and when it might have been first used..?


  • I don't think there's any single source for that phrase, and certainly there's no single meaning inherent in using it today. In the NYT article, it's being used to suggest an invitation to dance. In other contexts it can mean other things. – Robusto Feb 21 at 20:10
  • Yes, clearly it's used as a metaphor. But it seems to be contextual. – spinjector Feb 21 at 20:26
  • I would take it to be a reference to movie scores--when emotion swells, so do the strings. So presumably it dates from the 1930s at earliest, and probably more like the fifties or sixties, when "hearing violins" at moments of high emotion was firmly established as a cliche. – 1006a Feb 22 at 2:53
  • Ahhh interesting...like the old horror movie screeching violins. – spinjector Feb 22 at 14:20

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