Rush's smash hit album 2112 celebrates it's 40th anniversary today (1st April) and as tribute to the space prog opera epic, I thought we'd take a look at the title track and 40 years ago, a track that took up an entire side of an 45 RPM LP. 2112 is a 20 minute and 33 second long concept track that tells the story of an unnamed character, known only as The Protagonist. It's based on a 1938 Novella by Ayn Rand called "Anthem", which is set in an unspecified future where technology has been perfected to the point where mankind is no longer individual,
So, lets take a look at the 7 pieces of the song and explore what they mean:
Part I: Overture (00:00 - 4:33)
The intro was played on an ARP Odyssey synthesizer. The Overture is the part that many listeners believe sets the story, the rise of the Solar Federation, based on the back cover, which explains "The Protagonist lives in the bleakness of Megadon. We have been at peace since 2062, when the surviving planets banded together under the Red Star of the Federation". This part explains that The Protagonist is only happy because the Federation tells him he is, The only lyric is at the end of the song, which is taken from Psalm 37:11 and that is "And the Meek shall inherit the Earth"
Part II: The Temples Of Syrinx (4:33 - 6:42)
This part explains everyday life under the Solar Federation. The Priests of the Temples of Syrinx have giant computers that micromanage everything a citizen does, listens to, eats, drinks etc, as part of the Brotherhood of Man. One lyric proclaims "We have taken care of everything. The words you read, the songs you sing. Never need to wonder how or why", enforcing the idea that everything on Megadon is censored, as per the Priests and the Federation. They are clearly also hostile towards anything that would be deemed "individual".
Part III: Discovery (6:45 - 10:15)
In this part, The Protagonist finds a relic of the old world hidden in a cave behind a waterfall. It's a guitar. He learns how to tune and play by himself. As he plays, he realises that it's the same kind of sounds and music as what the Priests play and allow, so how can he be any different? he decides to show off his discovery to the Priests, whom he believes will praise him for it. Guitarist Alex Lifeson builds up the intro to this song from simple open playing to complex chords and progression, showing The Protagonists growing skill
Part IV: Presentation (10:15 - 13:56)
In this part, The Protagonist is in one of the Temples and is presenting the guitar to the Priests. However, unlike the praise he was expecting, he receives rejection, especially from the head Priest, Father Brown. He tells the Protagonist that "they have no need for ancient ways" and dismiss the guitar as a "silly whim that doesn't fit the plan." The Priests tell him that it was "another toy that helped destroy the Elder Race of Man". However, the Protagonist isn't defeated by these claims and continues to explain that "our world could use this beauty and just think what it can do". However, Father Brown chastises him for these claims and tells him "Don't annoy us further" before taking the guitar and smashing it.
Part V: Oracle: The Dream (13:56-15:56)
In this part, The Protagonist leaves the temple in defeat and returns to his home and falls into a fitful sleep. In his dream, an Oracle comes to him and shows him visions of the past, showing him how life was before the Federation, when Man was allowed to be individual and creative. The Oracle shows him the beauty of sculptured powered by the spirit of man. The Protagonist realises that without this, life is meaningless. Towards the end of his vision, he sees that The Elders were NOT killed as initally believed, but left to other planets, waiting for their time to come, where they'll tear down the Temples, with a leader that is hungry minded and open eyed.
Part VI: Soliloquy (15:56 - 18:17)
In this part, The Protagonist returns to the cave that's hidden behind a waterfall where he broods for days on end. He ponders "what my life would be like in a world I have seen", referring to his vision where he's free to be who he wants. However life under the Federation is "cold and empty" and that his "spirits are low, in the depths of despair". He realises that the only way to know real peace and freedom from the Federation is not to fight it, but to take his own life as he claims as he dies "my lifeblood spills over"
Part VII: Grand Finale (18:17 - 20:33)
In this part, we hear an upbeat song, much like Overture. The only lyrics are a repeated "attention all planets of the Solar Federation" and "we have assumed control". Many fans have wondered it's meaning and could the Federation be under attack from another force? The other theory is that the message is from The Elders.