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.
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 land of incredible beauty and serenity ("Oracle: The Dream"). Upon awakening, he can not believe it was a dream — the beauty was so real.
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".)
The story parallels that of Anthem by Ayn Rand, who is credited in the liner notes. The society of Anthem is similar to that described in "Temples of Syrinx". They are very unitarian, with the word "I" being banned and forgotten. There is no electricity; all light is by candle. Rather than a guitar, in Anthem, the protagonist re-invents the light bulb in a tunnel. He brings it to the leaders who, like in "Presentation," dismiss it and even claim that it would be the death of society as they know it.
Lyricist Neil Peart has claimed that while he based the song around the concept of Anthem, he was unaware that the parallels were so similar until after writing the song - thus necessitating the liner tribute to "the genius of Ayn Rand."
"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.
The third section, "Discovery", introduces our 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 us the man's progress as he teaches himself to play the guitar.
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 "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 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, will never exist. In the cave where he first discovered the guitar, he kills himself, unable to bear the thought of a life without the wonders he knows are possible of the human race.
Part seven, "The 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.
The song is divided up as follows:
II The Temples of Syrinx
V Oracle: The Dream
VII Grand Finale
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