Author : Kaj Sotala

On the remote planet of Niere IV, countless minds were constantly being played for a vast audience of listeners. Deep within the planet’s crust, the brains were enclosed in immense suprasteel vaults, floating in vast chambers of nutrient liquid. Protected day and night by thousands of fanatic warrior-monks, the brains bristled with wires, electrodes implanted near every center of thought or emotion. They had been stripped from all their sensing organs but with their mind’s eyes they still saw, the electric pulses dancing through them stimulating countless thoughts and memories.

Highest of all among the planet’s inhabitants were the composers, the black-suited aliens who’d dedicated their lives to their Art. Their intellect genetically and cybernetically enhanced, they sat fused to their giant keyboards, surrounded on all sides by black and white keys. With six arms and eight fingers on each, their thoughts and ideas would dance on the keyboards faster than any human could even imagine. The vast screens and speakers in their chambers lay dead – once they had needed them, but no more. By now they knew by heart the effect of each key, could even in their dreams name which press stimulated which electrode in which brain.

It was in the concert halls near the planet’s surface that the music would be heard. The chaotic patterns of neuronal firing in the brains being constantly recorded and reinterpreted into sounds in real time, played on all imaginable spectrums of hearing. The concert halls were the best places to listen, but they were not the only ones – all of the world’s surface was lined with speakers, so no inch of the barren world would miss the sensation of music. Few souls lived aboveground, with the entire civilization of the world living under the ground maintaining the machines and the music. They would not hear the sounds, nor did they care to – they were but humble caretakers of the Art, guardians of a holy process far more important than themselves. The vast concert halls lay nearly empty, the rocks of the surface being close to the only listeners of the songs.

Occasionally visitors from other worlds arrived, attracted by the harmonies constantly being fired off into space by radio arrays powered by a thousand fusion generators. They were all led to the concert halls to listen, to stay for as long as they’d like and to leave freely whenever they so felt. Most of them left eventually, but few of them went unchanged, all strangely touched by the eerie and unique melodies of Niere IV. An even smaller group chose to stay, choosing to join their souls into the Art and subject themselves into the surgeons’ knives. One by one they were transformed into instruments of the Sacred Music, to have electrodes inserted into them and be used as the composers willed.

Can there be any sacrifice holier than that?

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