A child is brought up to be a musical prodigy. He is raised alone in a cabin by unsinging servants, in order to guarantee that his only musical influences are natural. He plays on a complicated instrument capable of a wide range of sound, but is absolutely disallowed from hearing the music of others, for, he is told, that would corrupt his originality and make his work derivative. At some point he is, against the wishes of his keepers, introduced to the music of Bach, and when this is discovered by a "Watcher", he is uprooted from his composition at the age of thirty, and is then barred by law from ever again making music. The story then follows him as he struggles to repress his desire for musical expression.