Auros (auros) wrote,

the measure of a life

I finally got around to listening to Rush's Clockwork Angels all the way through. I could really kick myself for not having found out about it until after the tour had passed through San Jose already.

The whole trio has clearly always been fascinated with the philosophical problems of Compatibilism -- how to make sense of free will, and notions of meaning and purpose, when our bodies are simply agglomerations of matter, subject to physical laws. You can hear it in "Free Will" (written by Neil Peart), and in "The Angel's Share" from Geddy Lee's solo album My Favourite Headache. Clockwork Angels is basically a rock-opera exposition of a steampunk society that believes in G*d as the Divine Watchmaker, with all events in life being predetermined and deserved. Except the protagonist gets subjected to a series of trials (much like Voltaire's Candide; there's even an "all is for the best" Leibnizian Optimism reference early in the album). Eventually he loses his faith, but finds something different, leading to the final track, "The Garden" (which is of course referencing Eden, but also drawing a contrast to the mechanized dystopia that's been left behind):

The arrow flies while you breathe,
The hours tick away,
The cells tick away,

The Watchmaker has time up his sleeve,
The hours tick away, they tick away

The measure of a life is a measure of love and respect,
So hard to earn so easily burned

In the fullness of time,
A garden to nurture and protect
It's a measure of a life

The treasure of a life is a measure of love and respect,
The way you live, the gifts that you give

In the fullness of time,
It's the only return that you expect

Yes, that. I could see this being adapted for an actual dramatized stage performance, though to work with the theme you might need some pretty expensive mechanical equipment. Possibly a movie / extended music video (with some good graphics for the airships, clockwork city, etc) would be easier... In any case, it kind of reminds me of the works artists in an earlier age created to honor religion -- Handel's Messiah, Bach's "Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben", Mozart's Requiem, etc. It's a musical monument to faith -- in the sense of a grand work that commemorates something in the past, or someone who's died.


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