2112 is the title track from Canadian progressive rock band Rush's album of the same name, released in 1976. The overture and the first section, Temples of Syrinx, were released as a single and are still popular among Rush's setlists today. The "sci-fi" sounds in the beginning of the song were created using an ARP Odyssey synthesizer and an Echoplex tape delay. Today, when performed live, the song is transposed down one full step, as heard on every live album and DVD from Different Stages forward. The entire song is featured in the video game, Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock.
|Part||Title||Starting time (*)||Length (*)|
|II||The Temples of Syrinx||4:33||2:12|
|V||Oracle: The Dream||13:56||2:00|
- (*) Starting times and lengths approximate.
In the year 2062, a galaxy-wide war results in the union of all planets under the rule of the Red Star of the Solar Federation. The world is controlled by the Priests of the Temples of Syrinx, who determine all reading matter, songs, pictures... everything connected with life during the year 2112 ("The Temples of Syrinx").
In the midst of this assembly line living, a man discovers what was once known years before as a guitar ("Discovery"). The man begins to pluck the strings and turn the knobs, discovering that he can make his own music - a music very different from that of the Temples. He rushes to tell the priests of his discovery ("Presentation"), but to the man's dismay, the priests destroy the instrument, saying it doesn't fit the plan of the Solar Federation.
The man returns to the cave in which he found the guitar and, during a dream, is led by an oracle to a "strange and wond'rous land" ("Oracle: The Dream") where the 'Elder Race', who "left our planets long ago", has been forced to make their home after being defeated by the priests. He "Sees the work of gifted hands". The protagonist notes that the Elder Race is still waiting to return, and take power over the Priests again. Upon awakening, he can not believe it was a dream—the perceived beauty was so real to him.
He remains in the cave for several days, becoming more and more depressed with each passing hour ("Soliloquy"). The man decides he can not go on as part of the Federation and takes his life to move on to a better one. As he dies, another planetary battle begins ("Grand Finale") resulting in the (perhaps deliberately) ambiguous ending "Attention all planets of the Solar Federation: We have assumed control." (This spoken section was created by Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson reportedly "messing around with a tape recorder").
"2112" commences with a lengthy instrumental section ("Overture") which concludes with the spoken phrase "And the meek shall inherit the Earth" (a reference to the Beatitudes of the New Testament and Psalm 37:11.) The "2112 Overture" contains a guitar adaptation of a familiar part of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture.
Section two, "The Temples of Syrinx", sets an immediate counterpoint to this line by introducing the arrogant villains of the story. The Priests of the Temples of Syrinx, characterized by a high singing voice (Geddy Lee's voice), boast that "All the gifts of life are held within our walls." The Priests, who rule over the Earth, have united the surviving human colonies, after a long war, under "the Red Star of the Solar Federation", supposedly under the principles of equality and brotherhood. The "meek" mentioned in the opening line seem to be the contented people of the Solar Federation who have submitted to the rule of the Priests.
In Greek mythology, a syrinx is a water nymph. Temples are ascension symbols and are regarded to be closer to the gods with their height. In this song, the priests' system is computerized, a reality envisioned by Peart in the 1970s.
The third section, "Discovery", introduces the main character (Geddy's voice with some echo), who finds a guitar in a remote cave behind a waterfall. 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 lyrics were the same way as recorded, with the word "sounds" instead of "chords" ("sounds that build...").
Confident that the Priests will be impressed with his discovery, he brings the guitar before them in part four, "Presentation". The dialogue between the man and the Priests alternates between the gentle guitar work and clear pitch of the man, and the hard-rocking guitars and shrieking pitch of the Priests. Ultimately, the Priests dismiss the instrument and destroy it, saying that it was just 'another toy that helped destroy the elder race of man'.
The protagonist returns home, discouraged. In part five, "Oracle: The Dream", he has a dream where an oracle takes him on a journey to see the true fate of the Elder Race, who had not been destroyed—instead, "they left our planets long ago" and now inhabit a "strange, and wondrous land" graced by "the works of gifted hands". He is amazed by its wonder and beauty, and the way in which the people were free to do and create what they please. In the dream he sees the Elder Race growing in power ("The Elder Race still learn and grow") and preparing to return to destroy the temples.
He then awakens in part six, "Soliloquy", and is distraught by the fact that such a world, so perfect for him ("Just think of what my life might be in a world like I have seen!"), will never exist. In the cave where he first discovered the guitar, he kills himself ("I don't think I can carry on, carry on this cold and empty life... my life blood spills over."), unable to bear the thought of a life without the wonders that he now knows are possible of the human race.
Part seven, "Grand Finale", is a grand instrumental concluding with the spoken words "Attention, all planets of the Solar Federation: We have assumed control". Some fans interpret the Grand Finale as the victorious return of the Elder Race, while others interpret it as the establishment of absolute power by the Priests who have finally destroyed the last dissident to their order.