|Song by Rush|
|from the album 2112|
|Recorded||Toronto Sound Studios in Toronto, 1975|
|Songwriter(s)||Lyrics: Neil Peart|
Music: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson
|Producer(s)||Rush & Terry Brown|
|"The Temples of Syrinx"|
|Single by Rush|
|from the album 2112|
|Recorded||Toronto Sound Studios in Toronto, 1975|
|Songwriter(s)||Neil Peart, Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson|
|Rush singles chronology|
"2112" (pronounced twenty-one twelve) is a 20 minute long title track from Canadian rock band Rush's 1976 album of the same name. The overture and the first section, "The Temples of Syrinx", were released as a single and have been featured in most of Rush's setlists since. The "sci-fi" sounds in the beginning of the song were created using an ARP Odyssey synthesizer and an Echoplex tape delay. On the "2112 / Moving Pictures" episode of the documentary series Classic Albums, producer Terry Brown states the synth intro is composed of various parts played by Hugh Syme that were put together in a collage. Starting in 1997, when any parts of the song were performed live, they were transposed down one full step, as heard on every live album and DVD from Different Stages forward. With the combined movements being twenty minutes and thirty-three seconds long, it is the longest song or suite in Rush's library. The song was adapted into a comic booklet, which used the lyrics of the song as lines for the characters and the narrations from the cover as intros.
|Part||Title||Starting time (*)||Length (*)|
|II||The Temples of Syrinx||4:33||2:12|
|V||Oracle: The Dream||13:56||2:00|
|Total Running time||20:33|
- (*) Starting times and lengths approximate.
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This song is described in the liner notes of the album—its interior and back cover—in two ways:
- by the actually-sung lyrics, and
- by the narrative of the song's Protagonist—identified as "Anonymous, 2112"—quoted and italicized like entries from a personal journal—on the back cover and before the lyrics of all songs except "Overture" and "Grand Finale".
Both serve as the source, except where otherwise noted, of all that follows.
Lyricist/drummer Neil Peart is credited in the liner notes as acknowledging "the genius of Ayn Rand." Many listeners believe that "2112" is based on Ayn Rand's book, Anthem, as Neil Peart explained the influence that the book had on his music, saying in a 1991 "Rockline" interview:
|“||The inspiration behind it was ... It's difficult always to trace those lines because so many things tend to coalesce, and in fact it ended up being quite similar to a book called Anthem by the writer Ayn Rand. But I didn't realize that while I was working on it, and then eventually as the story came together, the parallels became obvious to me and I thought, 'Oh gee, I don't want to be a plagiarist here.' So I did give credit to her writings in the liner notes.||”|
This part musically foreshadows the rest of the song—incorporating movements from "The Temples of Syrinx", "Presentation", "Oracle: The Dream", and "Soliloquy"—as well as a guitar adaptation of a familiar part of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture. Its sole lyric, at the end, "And the meek shall inherit the Earth", is a reference to the Beatitudes of the New Testament and Psalm 37:11.
The meaning of this part is not explained (some explosions are heard in the second half, represented in the "2112" comic booklet as toxic gas bombings departing from black plane silhouettes); some listeners regard this part (and this lyric) as signifying the rise of the Solar Federation, an event described on the back cover as follows:
The Protagonist lives in "the bleakness of Megadon", reflecting on how "we have had peace since 2062, when the surviving planets were banded together under the Red Star of the Solar Federation", and, effectively, as explained, the second part of the movement sounds more violent, with the booklet depicting war and explosions. The Protagonist initially believes what he's been told, thinking he is happy, until he finds, as will soon be seen, "something that changed it all"—an old guitar from the time before the Federation[N 1], which, in the comic, is carried by a mysterious character wearing a gas mask.
II The Temples of Syrinx
Everything he has been "told" comes from "The Priests of the Temples of Syrinx". The Priests—relying on an elaborate set of "great computers"—micromanage every aspect of Federation life: they proclaim, "We've taken care of everything—the words you hear and the songs you sing, the pictures that give pleasure to your eye. [...] Work together, common sons, never need to wonder how or why.", asserting a "Brotherhood of Man". But their "equality" is stifling: they control all available information, and, as will soon become clear, have little tolerance for individuality or creativity that does not conform to their plan.
The song is hard rock, except for a gentle acoustic guitar tag at the end—foreshadowing the next part, "Discovery".
In Greek mythology, Syrinx is a water nymph who was transformed into a set of pan pipes, and, effectively, the comic booklet represents the Temples with the shape of pan pipes. The computerized nature of The Priests' system was a concept envisioned by Neil Peart in the 1970s.
The Protagonist finds the guitar—the life-changing thing—in a cave by a waterfall. He figures out how to tune and play it—enabling him to make his own music: "How different it could be from the music of the Temples!" He decides to perform it before the Priests, believing they will "praise my name" for letting "[the people] make their own music".
In this song, guitarist Alex Lifeson builds up from simple open string guitar playing into increasingly complex patterns and chords, showing the man's progress as he teaches himself to play the guitar.
Printed on the album were the lyrics "Chords that build high like a mountain" and Geddy sang it this way for the 1996 live album, but the original recorded lyrics were "sounds" instead of "chords" ("sounds that build...").
The Protagonist performs before the Priests, but they—particularly Father Brown—express not "grateful joy" but "quiet rejection": They tell him that "we have no need for ancient ways", and dismiss the instrument as a "silly whim" that "doesn't fit the plan"—in fact, "another toy that helped destroy the elder race of man." Not believing "these things", the Protagonist tries to explain, "our world could use this beauty; just think what we might do"—to no avail. Father Brown stomps on the guitar and destroys it, and the Priests tell him, "Don't annoy us further."
Vocalist/bassist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson alternately represent the Protagonist—with gentle, low-pitched vocals and clean, soft rock guitar—and the Priests—with harsh, high-pitched vocals and distorted, hard rock guitar. The song ends with a guitar solo outro similar instrumentally to the chorus of "The Temples of Syrinx".
V Oracle: The Dream
The Protagonist "wanders home" and has a vision of the past and future—he "guesses" it was a dream, but it seems "so vivid" to him: An oracle shows him the way it was before the Federation rose—a society where creativity and individuality flourished, with great "sculptured" works of beauty driven by "the pure spirit of man." He now sees that without these things, life has become "meaningless."
But he also sees "the hand of man arise with hungry mind and open eyes": The "elder race" was not destroyed, but "left our planets long ago", plotting to ultimately return "home to tear the Temples down."
The protagonist returns to the cave and broods for "days". He imagines "what my life might be in a world like I have seen", and now considers life under the Federation "cold and empty", with his spirits "low in the depths of despair". He resolves that, in order to "pass into the world of my dream, and know peace at last", he must take his own life—his narrative ending as "my life blood spills over."
One of the most famous soliloquies in literature is Hamlet's where he contemplates suicide, saying "To sleep, perchance to dream". The title of the song movement indicates a similar struggle where the protagonist chooses the liberation of spirit "that with my death I may pass into the world of my dreams, and know peace at last".
VII Grand Finale
The song concludes with an upbeat hard rock instrumental part. Like "Overture", the meaning here is ambiguous. Pingree's Music Reviews says, "'2112' ends with the oppressive government being attacked by another entity, left entirely up to the listener's interpretation." On the Classic Albums episode on 2112 and Moving Pictures, Lee comments on the ambiguity of the ending, but Peart states that his intent was that the Elder Race successfully deposed the Solar Federation (the comic booklet also represents starships approaching the planet and plane silhouettes – identical to the ones in the Overture – bombing it, killing Father Brown but leaving "Anonymous" alive, as he stays in the cave where the one-page Soliloquy was set).
As the Grand Finale ends, the lines "Attention all planets of the Solar Federation" followed by "We have assumed control" are spoken three times each.
This song is on Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock where it is used within the game's storyline (four band warriors find Demigod's Battle Axe Guitar and must play all parts of "2112" on basic controllers). The level is narrated by Rush.
It was made available to download on December 31, 2011 as both 3 pieces and as the complete 20-minute track, for play in Rock Band 3 Basic, and PRO mode which utilizes real guitar / bass guitar, and MIDI compatible electronic drum kits in addition to vocals.
- See also "III Discovery".
- Murphy, Sean (22 May 2011). "The 25 Best Progressive Rock Songs of All Time". PopMatters. Retrieved 31 July 2016.
- Freedman, Robert (1 August 2014). Rush: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Excellence. Algora Publishing. p. 50. Retrieved 16 August 2016.
- Length of actual song, as noted on the CD.
- Bowman, Durrell (2003), Permanent Change:Rush, Musicians‘ Rock, and the Progressive Post-Counterculture (PDF), University of California Los Angeles, p. 110, retrieved 2010-12-30
- Fielden, Jerry (2000). "The influence of Electronic Music in Rock Music, 1967-76". Retrieved 2010-12-30.
- "2112: Overture/Temples of Syrinx from new DVD". T-n-m-s.com. Archived from the original on 25 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-13.
- See blog reviews on SongMeanings | Lyrics | Rush - 2112
- Rush Album Info
- Rush Lyrics Alluding to Mystic Dissociative Phenomena
- Liner notes of CD of 2112 (album)
- "And" does not appear in the liner text before "the songs you sing"; nevertheless, Geddy Lee sings it on the album.
- See also "IV Presentation".
- Telleria, Robert: Rush Tribute Mereley (sic) Players, page 149. Quarry Press, Inc. 2002
- See also back cover of liner notes.
- Pingree's Music Reviews, Tag Archive: Geddy Lee, Rush - 2112, January 26, 2011