2001: A Musical Odyssey

Bowman was aware of some changes in his behaviour patterns. It would have been absurd to expect anything else in the circumstances. He could no longer tolerate silence—except when he was sleeping or talking over the circuit to Earth, he kept the ship’s sound system running at almost painful loudness. At first, needing the companionship of the human voice, he had listened to classical plays, especially the works of Shaw, Ibsen and Shakespeare, or poetry readings from Discovery’s enormous library of recorded sounds. The problems they dealt with, however, seemed so remote or so easily resolved with a little common sense, that after a while he lost patience with them.

So he switched to opera, usually in Italian or German, so that he was not distracted even by the minimal intellectual content that most operas contained. This phase lasted for two weeks before he realized that the sound of all these superbly trained voices was only exacerbating his loneliness. But what finally ended this cycle was Verdi’s Requiem Mass, which he had never heard performed on Earth. The “Dies Irae,” roaring with ominous appropriateness through the empty ship left him completely shattered, and when the trumpets of Doomsday echoed from the Heavens, he could endure no more.

Thereafter he played only instrumental music. He started with the Romantic composers, but shed them one by one as their emotional outpourings became too oppressive. Sibelius, Tchaikovsky, Berlioz, lasted a few weeks; Beethoven, rather longer. He finally found peace, as so many others had done, in the abstract architecture of Bach, occasionally ornamented with Mozart. And so Discovery drove on towards Saturn, as often as not pulsating with the cool music of the harpsichord, the frozen thoughts of a brain that had been dust for twice a hundred years.

2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke

I knew where this was heading before he got there. Bach always and everywhere.

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