Cygnus X-1: Hemispheres

Background and Commentary

The piece is about the same space traveler that appears in “Cygnus X-1” on Farewell to Kings. After arriving through a black hole, he helps bring into balance the warring followers of Apollo and of Dionysus.

“The basic idea for the piece came from a book I was reading, Powers of Mind. It was just an incidental thing, but it was something I had read before, so I tied it into a whole lot of things and it’s the basic constant conflict between thoughts and emotions, between your feelings and your rational ideas. Apollo and Dionysus have been used in a lot of books to characterize these two elements, the rational side and the instinctive side. I’ve always been interested in the ways these two themes transmit themselves into people in political life or in social life. All these conflicts—whether the instinctive way is right or the rational way is right—are always going on between people. The basic theme of ‘Hemispheres’ is that conflict.

“‘Armageddon’ [the fourth section of the piece] is really the focus of that. It’s the climax of that conflict and our hero Cygnus comes in and breaks up the conflict. One of the main points that I wanted to make is that the battle is inside each of us. It’s not some abstract, cosmic battle.”—Neil in Rush Visions

For more on Neil discussing the story line of the piece, go here.

Liz Stillwaggon Swan, a post-doctoral fellow in history at Oregon State University, in the book Rush and Philosophy calls the piece a good vehicle for thinking about the “hard problem” in the philosophy of mind. This is the problem of trying to reduce our conscious feelings to physical states that we can analyze and measure. Physicalists say we should be able to measure all states, even mental states like feelings, because everything ultimately should be reducible to physical things, but others say not everything in the natural world reduces to a physical state that’s measurable. Read more on this in a Rush Vault essay.

U.K. rock critic Geoff Barton, an early champion of the band, was ambivalent about “Hemispheres,” saying he wasn’t sure if it was a “masterpiece or a terrible mistake.” In his Sounds piece, he leans toward it being a mistake.

The idea of the two sides coming together “comes through loud and clear on the side-long epic. It achieves a unity that the longer pieces on Caress of Steel and 2112were unable to attain. While the other long compositions seemed like stitched-together song cycles, ‘Hemispheres’ is a complete piece of music. Evidence of the thematic and musical unity can even be found in the special effects: during ‘Armageddon,’ as Geddy sings the word ‘hemispheres,’ the left and right channels of the recording phase back and forth, emphasizing the conflict between the two hemispheres of the brain.”—Bill Banasiewicz, Rush Visions

The website PopMatters selected the piece as the 22nd most important prog rock piece of all time (“In the Court of the Crimson King” by King Crimson is the first):

“This was the last side-long ‘suite’ Rush attempted, and it remains the last necessary one any prog-rock group ever did. Not as incendiary or influential as 1976’s ‘2112,’ it will have to settle for merely being flawless, and the pinnacle of the band’s output to this point. By 1978 the trio was truly hitting on all cylinders, musically: arguably the most ambitious of all the progressive bands (which is really saying something), Rush had spent the better part of the decade trying to make a cohesive statement where all elements came together. Interestingly, if not ironically (since irony is anathema to prog-rock) this album/song that studies, and then celebrates the separate hemispheres (of our left/right brains, of our organized/emancipated natures) matches the smarts and technical proficiency with the ingredient that would play an increasingly obvious and vital role in the band’s subsequent work: soul.”—Sean Murphy, PopMatters, May 2011

Lyrics

Prelude

When our weary world was young
The struggle of the ancients first began
The gods of love and reason
Sought alone to rule the fate of man

They battled through the ages
But still neither force would yield
The people were divided
Every soul a battlefield

II. Apollo / Dionysus

(Apollo: Bringer Of Wisdom)
“I bring truth and understanding
I bring wit and wisdom fair
Precious gifts beyond compare
We can build a world of wonder
I can make you all aware
I will find you food and shelter
Show you fire to keep you warm
Through the endless winter storm
You can live in grace and comfort
In the world that you transform”

The people were delighted
Coming forth to claim their prize
They ran to build their cities
And converse among the wise
But one day the streets fell silent
Yet they knew not what was wrong
The urge to build these fine things
Seemed not to be so strong
The wise men were consulted
And the Bridge of Death was crossed
In quest of Dionysus
To find out what they had lost

(Dionysus: Bringer Of Love)
“I bring love to give you solace
In the darkness of the night
In the Heart’s eternal light
You need only trust your feelings
Only love can steer you right
I bring laughter, I bring music
I bring joy and I bring tears
I will soothe your primal fears
Throw off those chains of reason
And your prison disappears”

The cities were abandoned
And the forests echoed song
They danced and lived as brothers
They knew love could not be wrong
Food and wine they had aplenty
And they slept beneath the stars
The people were contented
And the gods watched from afar
But the winter fell upon them
And it caught them unprepared
Bringing wolves and cold starvation
And the hearts of men despaired

III. Armageddon: The Battle of Heart and Mind

The universe divided
As the heart and mind collided
With the people left unguided
For so many troubled years
In a cloud of doubts and fears
Their world was torn asunder into hollow
Hemispheres

Some fought themselves, some fought each other
Most just followed one another
Lost and aimless like their brothers
For their hearts were so unclear
And the truth could not appear
Their spirits were divided into blinded
Hemispheres

Some who did not fight
Brought tales of old to light
“My Rocinante sailed by night
On her final flight”
To the heart of Cygnus’ fearsome force
We set our course
Spiraled through that timeless space
To this immortal place

IV. Cygnus: Bringer of Balance

I have memory and awareness
But I have no shape or form
As a disembodied spirit
I am dead and yet unborn
I have passed into Olympus
As was told in tales of old
To the city of Immortals
Marble white and purest gold

I see the gods in battle rage on high
Thunderbolts across the sky
I cannot move, I cannot hide
I feel a silent scream begin inside

Then all at once the chaos ceased
A stillness fell, a sudden peace
The warriors felt my silent cry
And stayed their struggle, mystified

Apollo was astonished
Dionysus thought me mad
But they heard my story further
And they wondered, and were sad

Looking down from Olympus
On a world of doubt and fear
Its surface splintered
Into sorry Hemispheres

They sat a while in silence
Then they turned at last to me
“We will call you Cygnus
The god of Balance you shall be”

V. The Sphere: A Kind of Dream

We can walk our road together
If our goals are all the same
We can run alone and free
If we pursue a different aim
Let the truth of love be lighted
Let the love of truth shine clear
Sensibility
Armed with sense and liberty
With the heart and mind united in a single
Perfect
Sphere

Tablature

By Devin Miller

Excerpted from Ultimate Guitar.

Tuning: Standard EADGBe

**Please take note:
1. This song is very complex, long and improvised. Try
not to get frustrated, be patient!
2. Make note of all the time changes. They are written
whenever a new time occurs at the beginning of the bars.
3. Lifeson plays on a double-neck, most of it on the upper
12-string with the solos on the lower 12-string.

*********************************************************************
I – PRELUDE (0:00 – 4:29)
*********************************************************************

INTRO

Q H. Q
e||–0—————|-0———–0—|
B||–0—————|-0———–0—|
G|4–3—————|-3———–3—|
D|4–4—————|-4———–4—|
A||–4—————|-4———–4—|
E||–2—————|-2———–2—| x4

—–

MOVEMENT 1

Q E E E E Q E E E E
e||————–|—–0——-|
B||————–|-0———–|
G|6–6—6-6-6-6-|————-|
D|8–7—7-7-7-7-|——-7-7-7-|
A||–7—7-7-7-7-|——-7-7-7-|
E||–5—5-5-5-5-|——-5-5-5-| x2

Q E E E E Q E E E E
e|————-|-0———–|
B|-0—0-0-0-0-|—–0——-|
G|-0—0-0-0-0-|——-0-0-0-|
D|-2—2-2-2-2-|——-2-2-2-|
A|-3—3-3-3-3-|——-3-3-3-|
E|————-|————-| x2

Q E E E E Q E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E
e|————-|————-|————-|————-|
B|————-|————-|————-|————-|
G|————-|-0—0-0-0-0-|-2-2-2-2-2-2-|-0-0-0-0-0-0-|
D|-3—3-3-3-3-|-2—2-2-2-2-|-2-2-2-2-2-2-|-2-2-2-2-2-2-|
A|-3—3-3-3-3-|-3—3-3-3-3-|-0-0-0-0-0-0-|-3-3-3-3-3-3-|
E|-1—1-1-1-1-|-3—3-3-3-3-|————-|-3-3-3-3-3-3-| x1

—–

BRIDGE

E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E
e|||————————–||——————–|
B|||————————–||——————–|
G|12————————–|9——————–|
D|8|————————–|8——————–|
A|||–2—————–5—–||–2—————–|
E|||——–2—–3–/——–||——–2—–3–/–| x1

E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E
e|||————————–|————————-|
B|||————————–|————————-|
G|12————————–|————————-|
D|8|————————–|————————-|
A|||–5———————–|-5———————–|
E|||——–5—–6\—-1—–|——-5—–6\–1-1—1-| x1

—–

MOVEMENT 2

Q E E E E Q E E E E
e||——–0—–| |——-0—–|
B||————0-| |———–0-|
G|6———-3—| |———8—|
D|8–4—4——-| |-9—9——-|
A||–4—4——-| |-9—9——-|
E||–2—2——-| x4 |-7—7——-| x4

play both bars above another 4 times each, then:

Q E E E E Q E E E E Q Q Q
e|——-0—–| |———0——| |————-|
B|———–0-| |————–0-| |————-|
G|———6—| |———–11—| |————-|
D|-7—7——-| |-10—12——–| |-12–12–12–|
A|-7—7——-| |-12—12——–| |-12–12–12–|
E|-5—5——-| x4 |-10—10——–| x2 |-10–10–10–|

E E E E E E E E E E E E
e|————-|————-|
B|————-|————-|
G|-2-0———|-4-2-0——-|
D|—–4-2-0—|——-4-2-0-|
A|———–4-|————-|
E|————-|————-| x1

—–

MOVEMENT 3

(Distorted 6-string):

E E E E Q E E E E E Q E E E E E E
e||—————-||————–|————-|
B||–0—0—0—–||————–|————-|
G|7–0—0—0—–|6–2—2—2—|-4-2-0——-|
D|8–4—4—4—–|8–2—2—2—|——-4-2-0-|
A||–2—2—2—–||–4—4—4—|————-|
E||–3—3—3—0-||–2—2—2—|————-| x4

—–

(Clean, 12-string):

E E E Q Q. E E E Q Q. E E E Q Q. E E E Q Q.
e||—————|—————|—————|—————|
B||—————|—————|—————|——-2——-|
G|4——-0——-|——-2——-|——-0——-|———–0—|
D|4—–4—–4—|—–2—–2—|—–4—–4—|—–2———|
A||—2———–|—4———–|—2———–|—4———–|
E||-3————-|-2————-|-3————-|-2————-| x1

E E E Q Q. E E E Q Q. E E E Q Q. E E E E+H
e|—————|—————|—————|—————|
B|—————|—————|—————|——-2——-|
G|——-0——-|——-2——-|——-0——-|—————|
D|—–4—–4—|—–2—–2—|—–4—–4—|—–2———|
A|—2———–|—4———–|—2———–|—4———–|
E|-3————-|-2————-|-3————-|-2————-| x1

—–

E E E E Q E E E E E Q E E E E E Q E W+E
e||—————-|—————|—————||—————|
B||–0—0—0—–|—————|-0—0—0—–||—————|
G|7–0—0—0—–|-2—2—2—–|-0—0—0—–|9–2————|
D|8–4—4—4—–|-2—2—2—–|-4—4—4—–|8–2————|
A||–2—2—2—–|-4—4—4—–|-2—2—2—–||–4————|
E||–3—3—3—0-|-2—2—2—0-|-3—3—3—0-||–2————| x1

E E E E E E E E E E Q E E E H+E
e||————–||—————-||—————–||————–|
B||————–||–0—0—0—–||—————–||————–|
G|6–4-2-0——-|4–0—0—0—–|9–2—2———-|6–4-2-0——-|
D|8——–4-2-0-|4–4—4—4—–|8–2—2———-|8——–4-2-0-|
A||————–||–2—2—2—–||–4—4———-||————–|
E||————–||–3—3—3—0-||–2—2———-||————–| x1

E E E E Q E E E Q E E E
e||—————-|—————|
B||–0—0—0—–|—————|
G|7–0—0—0—–|-2—2———|
D|8–4—4—4—–|-2—2———|
A||–2—2—2—–|-4—4—–0—|
E||–3—3—3—0-|-2—2—3—3\| x1

—–

E E E Q Q E E E E Q Q.
e||——————|—————-| |————————|
B||——————|———–0—-| |—–0——————|
G|4——–0———|——-0——–| |—-0——————-|
D|4——2—–2—–|—–2———-| |—2——————–|
A||—-3———–3-|—3————| |–2———————|
E||–1—————|-1————–| x2 |-0———————-|

For complete tab, go to Ultimate Guitar.

Tutorials

“Cygnus X-1: Hemispheres” guitar cover

“Cygnus X-1: Hemispheres” bass cover

“Cygnus X-1: Hemispheres” drum cover (Prelude)(Starts at 00:40)

Back to Rush Vault

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~ by rvkeeper on February 4, 2011.

 
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