Unaccompanied Sonata by Orson Scott Card

I remember clearly reading this story when it was first published in Omni magazine in 1979, when I was very young. I have just re-read the story for the first time since then and was surprised and pleased to see how well I remembered it. That is the sign of a story that really made an impact.

The setting is an unspecified utopia. The rules of the society place each person in the role in which they are most happy.

The main character, Christian Haroldsen, is a musical genius and was chosen in infancy to be a Maker. As such, he is isolated from outside influences and left to create his own music. Christian breaks the law by listening to Bach, thereby compromising his originality. He is expelled by the Watchers, who ensure that society’s rules are followed. However, everywhere Christian goes, his musical ability emerges and disrupts other people’s lives. The Watchers mutilate him each time so that he can not break the law again. In the end, Christian becomes a Watcher himself.

In his afterword to the story colection of the same name, Card says that this story stayed virtually unchanged from first draft onwards. Probably Card tapped into a deep pool of inspiration and the story flowed naturally; there are overtones of myth present, such as Prometheus, Orpheus or Marsyas.

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