“He had always wanted to write music, and he could give no other identity to the thing he sought. If you want to know what it is, he told himself, listen to the first phrases of Tchaikovsky’s First Concerto--or the last movement of Rachmaninoff’s Second. Men have not found the words for it, nor the deed nor the thought, but they have found the music. Let me see that in one single act of man on earth. Let me see it made real. Let me see the answer to the promise of that music. Not servants nor those served; not altars and immolations; but the final, the fulfilled, innocent of pain. Don’t help me or serve me, but let me see it once, because I need it. Don’t work for my happiness, my brothers--show me yours--show me that it is possible--show me your achievement--and the knowledge will give me courage for mine.”
- Ayn Rand; The Fountainhead
I could not find any other quote by Ayn Rand mentioning Tchaikovsky, but I could have sworn she mentioned him more than once. She wrote so much about the best and Ayn Rand lived in the times when Tchaikovsky was considered the epoch of music. Both Rand and Tchaikovsky are Russian; maybe that meant something to her, or perhaps that was a reason for her exposure to his music, or maybe I’m just drawing irrelevant lines. Still I feel pretty confident fictional musician Richard Halley in “Atlas Shrugged,” was meant to represent a second coming of Tchaikovsky and also there is another connection, no matter how strange, the “2112 Overture.”
Rush’s first album was good, but their second album “Fly at Night,” was great, and also a huge commercial success. Once the money started flowing the producers were ecstatic, their feelings were that whatever Rush did on “Fly at Night,” they needed to do it again. Rush did not do it again. Rush’s third album “2112” is a concept album, a concept album about objectivism, which means an entire album with lyrics inspired by Ayn Rand’s writings.
The idea of “2112” in theory should not have sold well. It was a weird idea which most people probably would fail to appreciate. Also it was a highly progressive and intelligent idea further narrowing the potential audience. Also objectivism is a very polarizing political view that has never caught on to the mainstream. The critics loved “2112,” but of course they did, no one had ever heard of anything like “2112” before, not in sound, nor in concept, but the consumers loved it too. It was kind of like the ultimate “fuck you.” Rush did everything they were told not to. They did everything theoretically wrong in regards to selling records. They had blatantly disobeyed orders and refused to sell out, and it worked. “2112” sold very well, and is one of the major factors that made Rush the fifth best selling rock band of all time. “2112” is regarded by many as Rush’s best album.
To break down “2112” lyrically would be a lengthy dialogue, but I will try to be brief. I always think of Ayn Rand’s “Anthem” at the beginning of this song, but then the “discovery,” happens. Instead of the character discovering the light bulb, like he did in “Anthem,” Geddy Lee sings about discovering music. It’s so perfect. The analogue of creating something from nothing, it’s so simple, yet so majestic. It is not random, writing a song, no, it’s brilliance. The touch of the strings and the bringing forth of sound is not some accident, just like the light bulb is no accident, both are products of the mind. For so long we have alienated art and science but it is the same kind of mind that discovers both, the human mind. The “presentation” in “2112” is similar to the presentation of the light bulb in “Anthem,” the fear of change and worship of mediocrity plagues the leaders of men. In “Anthem,” the man’s passion for progress drives him, in “2112” our protagonist’s passion for progressive rock drives him, and that just rocks.
And of course;
"I stand atop a spiral stair
An oracle confronts me there
He leads me on light years away
Through astral nights, galactic days
I see the works of gifted hands
That grace this strange and wondrous land
I see the hand of man arise
With hungry mind and open eyes
They left the planet long ago
The elder race still learn and grow
Their power grows with purpose strong
To claim the home where they belong
Home to tear the Temples down...
Home to change!"
I always think of the oracle as the statue of Dominique, the one molded by artist Steve Mallory who was commission by Howard Roark when he was designing the temple to the human spirit in “The Fountainhead.” The elders leaving home but only growing stronger and wiser, this must be the many heroes of “Atlas Shrugged,” leaving their home to return one day.
It is very inspiring and encouraging reflecting on the might of the human mind. A lot of people like to trash on Ayn Rand for a variety reason, usually in the form of ad hominem, but it always feels to me that everyone misses the point of objectivism. It is not an excuse for selfish behavior, but rather a demand for intelligent behavior, self preservation demands cooperation and self advancement is best achieved with tactical alliances and friendships which are always best forged with mutual respect. Objectivism is a call to arms, a reminder of the power of our intellect and a philosophy that suggests we embrace it. “Howard Roark was a man complete within himself,” there is so much strength in a line like that, a complete refusal to live by anyone else’s expectation, a healthy self respect and love. Rush captured the best of this, they have their own touch of weirdness with their psychedelic sounds, yet nothing feels clouded in “2112” the message in clear, creation and power is in your hands, embrace it for yourself. I think Ayn Rand would be proud, hell I suspect so would Tchaikovsky.
Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.
- Colin Kelly