Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of details on this story; I can't even recall when I read it - except that it was almost certainly over 30 years ago. It may have been a story in an anthology, but I won't swear to that; I have the impression that it may actually have been novella-length.

The basic plot element was that it was illegal to create music in the social context of the story, and the protagonist did so. The only real detail from the story that I recall is a scene where they stopped him from singing by placing a device against his throat that disabled his larynx, and later had to stop him from playing by (painlessly) amputating his fingers.

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    It sounds a bit like the plot to Rush' s album 2112, but that is not the right media. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/2112_(album)
    – Jontia
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 18:05
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    I've not listened to the album; that's not my preferred musical style. Perhaps this story, whatever it turns out to be, was their inspiration? Commented May 23, 2018 at 18:07
  • @Jontia That was what I thought as I read the question, too, but it also sounds like something we might have seen from Kurt Vonnegutt Jr. (similar theme and setting to "Harrison Bergeron").
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 18:09
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    Like the same story ("Unaccompanied Sonata") as scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/37881/… and links therein. Commented May 23, 2018 at 18:14
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    @Lexible: It's one of those hazy things where it started out with slavery, then became about the criminal element using Capoeira in street fights that sometimes got bloody, and it getting tainted by that, mixed with a bit of racist justification ("It's not about black people and their culture. It's about crime!").
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 18:53

1 Answer 1


After following the link that @dmckee provided to this question, I did a bit of googling, and found the story in question there - and it turns out that the story I was thinking of is, in fact, “Unaccompanied Sonata”, by Orson Scott Card. While it probably shouldn’t be, the text of the story can be found on-line.

The few details I recalled above were a little off; the sequence of punishments was reversed, and it wasn't generally illegal to create new music, it was illegal for the protagonist, for reasons that might well be considered spoilers.

  • Cool. Congrats on finding it.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 18:46
  • FWIW, I remember reading an abridged version, which stops with him being cast out without the further punishments, merely no longer someone whose music was being promoted, possibly from a kid's anthology.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 18:52

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