You wake up in the morning beside an unconscious violinist…

You wake up in the morning beside an unconscious violinist…


norman lebrecht

February 25, 2017

A metaphor from the abortion debate:

You wake up in the morning and find yourself back to back in bed with an unconscious violinist. A famous unconscious violinist. He has been found to have a fatal kidney ailment, and the Society of Music Lovers has canvassed all the available medical records and found that you alone have the right blood type to help. They have therefore kidnapped you, and last night the violinist’s circulatory system was plugged into yours, so that your kidneys can be used to extract poisons from his blood as well as your own. The director of the hospital now tells you, “Look, we’re sorry the Society of Music Lovers did this to you—we would never have permitted it if we had known.” But still, they did it, and the violinist now is plugged into you. To unplug you would be to kill him. But never mind, it’s only for nine months. By then he will have recovered from his ailment, and can safely be unplugged from you.

Pro-abortion choice advocates have relied upon this thought experiment for decades. They argue, rather simplistically, that this specific woman’s right to unplug the violinist translates into a general right to elective abortion. Many of my pro-life students are stumped by the argument and seek my advice on how to navigate it succinctly. I am writing this column to provide a response to those inquiries.

Read on here.


  • DrummerMan says:

    Can you kindly explain how this relates to “classical music and related cultures?” I am truly at a loss to understand, Norman.

    • Bruce says:

      Because it mentions a violinist. Obviously.

      If the hypothetical involved a major cancer researcher instead of a violinist, then it would be an article about cancer.

  • Steven Holloway says:

    This piffle goes right out the window when I see the phrase “pro-abortion choice advocates”. There is, let us say, somewhat of a difference between being ‘pro-choice’ and ‘pro-abortion’. Either the writer is thick as a plank and should most certainly not be teaching anything whatsoever, or she is very knowingly biasing her argument by using terms to mislead her students from the get-go, and also for that reason should not be teaching. The rest of it is chock full of logical fallacies, another reason she should not be teaching, but I can’t be bothered going through those. Why is this in a music blog anyway? Because the hypothetical case involves a violinist? Really?

    • nigel says:

      The writer is a he, not a she.

    • Stephen Owades says:

      Read some other stories on the TownHall website, or their “About” statement, and you’ll see that they’re an extreme right-wing operation, trafficking in stuff that’s even more misleading and distorted than this article. I’m surprised that Mr. Lebrecht came across the site, and even more surprised that he linked to it.

      As for the hypothetical proposed in the piece, it’s ludicrous. As a person who has dealt with kidney disease, I can state with confidence that no patient is ever “hooked up” to another person for nine months for blood-cleaning. Such cleaning is done with dialysis machines, and the best long-term solution is a kidney transplant from a compatible donor (alive or dead). There have been lurid tales of people kidnapped and relieved of a kidney—that’s conceivable—but not people hooked up for human-to-human dialysis. A story like this is offensive to kidney-disease patients and to the medical profession.

  • Linz says:

    Is it because violinists are high-maintenance, lots of the time? Cellists, not so often?

  • Holly Golightly says:

    It’s such a pleasure to read about classy females who’ve availed themselves of feminist equal opportunities to offend. Yes, they’ve brought women out of the dark ages into the light with vomiting, excessive drinking, wardrobe malfunctions, STDs, swearing and other signs of modern sophistication.

  • davidrmoran says:

    holly, oh, so weak, surely you can do better

  • Brian says:

    I only clicked on the link because I’ve been both the unconscious violinist, and the person waking up next to one (let’s not talk about how many occasions), thus thought I could add something to the discussion. Apparently not. Carry on, carry on…

    • MWnyc says:

      Oh, but you CAN add something Brian —

      — the stories of all those occasions !!

      Should lighten the mood around here after the arguments this post has occasioned.

  • NYMike says:


  • Solmes says:

    Time to take this obnoxious item and photo down. Your slippeddisc readers deserve an explanation Norman.

  • Respect says:

    Depends. Am I waking up next to Sarah Chang or Ivry Gitlis?

  • Steve says:

    Norman, I enjoy slippedisc and read it every day. You provide a valuable service to those of us who are interested in the world of classical music. I wish you did not feel the need to clickbait your posts with irrelevant, sexist, demeaning photos. Please consider dispensing with this practice. If you won’t, then please explain why this practice is necessary. Thanks.

  • Elene says:

    I wondered why Mr. Lebrecht did not moderate the inane comments on this blog. Now I am wondering why he posted an inane article that not only has nothing to do with any kind of music, but also fails to be of much use to a reasonable discussion about abortion. Good grief.

    I’m unsubscribing.

    • Respect says:

      Gosh. Hope you get a refund for your subscription.

      Amazed at the number calling for heavy moderation…. until your comments are removed.
      He does moderate, I’ve been blocked on occasion, sometimes rightly, sometime wrongly. But it’s his blog, and he never has the heavy hand of a well known opera blog who verbally abuses his posters. Be grateful.

  • CDH says:

    That photograph, with the copious beers and fags,suggests “passed out.” It’s extremely vulgar, as was a header here yesterday. Certain coarsening of the fibres around here lately?

  • Robin Bermanseder says:

    24 comments suggests a successful post.
    I believe Mr Lebrecht is passionate about supporting the Classical Music scene.
    To help achieve this, SD must attract hits, and the consequent sponsorship.
    And to attract hits, social media must provide what gets a response.

    If ‘what works’ is tending towards the sensational, the titillating or the uncouth,
    perhaps that fact reflects more on the nature of the posters than on Norman’s taste.

    What happened to the interesting discussions on the nature and purpose of music,
    the evolution of the aesthetic, or the building of bridges betwixt the symphonic and the common heart?
    Answer: few are interested. But throw in a naked lady and wham!

  • Malcolm Kottler says:

    If you want to know something about Mike Adams, the author of the piece Norman has posted, go here to read what Adams says about himself:

  • Furzwängler says:

    Am I the only person on here who recognizes the photo of the blacked-out girl on the bench? It’s a photo that appeared in UK newspapers a couple of years or so ago of the result of an “evening out” by young women in Manchester City centre (or maybe it was Bristol or Leeds or Glasgow or somewhere else). The police and ambulance services had, as usual, to clear up the mess. She had, by the way, also wet herself, but perhaps that is too much detail for this blog.

    Charming. Modern Britain’s town and cities on a Saturday night at their very finest.

  • Ezequiel Birman says: features the complete thought experiment unlike Mr. Adams’ incomplete account. (the violinist was replaced with a soccer player).

  • KimberVengeance says:

    I’d like to craft my own metaphorical scenario, this violin player kidney thing is stupid and ridiculous. Ok : I wake up in a bed in an unfamiliar room to discover that I’m naked and sandwiched between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie (he’s spooning me and I’m spooning AJ) and after some initial confusion on my part, they have both calmed my anxiety and soothed me into a state of perfect peace and general elation by brushing my hair and planting tiny kisses on my brow and cheeks. They then proceed to tell me they have reconciled their problems and are staying together , the divorce is off, and that they want to have another baby to commemorate the reunification of Brangelina. AJ is short two ovaries and a uterus now, so they hatched a plan to find the perfect surrogate, roofie me, impregnate me, (already done)and keep me in opulent style for 9 months while also giving her plural marriage status with them until the baby is born-followed by a parting payment of 1 million dollars-OR i can just take a morning after pill and go. It’s a seriously awesome offer and I accept. We celebrate the agreement together in their massive shower where they both, among other things, wash me, as one together and then take turns shampooing and conditioning my hair (Angie really loves my hair) and then Brad and i wash her hair, etc ect. Over brunch, we are lamenting and vociferously rebuking our incredibly racist and idiotic President and Brad says….well, nm, that’s getting off the track now . Now wasn’t that a MUCH BETTER scenario? This kidney-compromised violinist is just NOT very sexy at all..