A NovelBook - 2014
The author of the National Book Award winner and Pulitzer Prize finalist The Echo Maker , Richard Powers "may well be one of the smartest novelists now writing" ( Los Angeles Times Book Review )
Seventy-year-old avant-garde composer Peter Els opens the door one evening to find the police on his doorstep. His home DIY microbiology lab-the latest experiment in his lifelong attempt to extract music from rich patterns beyond the ear's ability to hear-has come to the attention of Homeland Security. Panicked by the raid on his house, Els turns fugitive, waiting for the evidence to clear him and for the alarm surrounding his activities to blow over. His days in hiding provoke memories of a turbulent century of musical turf wars and cause Els to reflect on a life spent chasing after transcendent sounds to the bewilderment of an indifferent public.
As the national hysteria for safety erupts again in the face of this latest threat, Els-the "Bioterrorist Bach"--feeling the noose around him tighten, embarks on a cross-country trip to visit the people in his past who have most shaped his failed musical journey. Through the help of these people--his ex-wife, his daughter and his long-time artistic collaborator-- Els comes up with a plan to turn this disastrous collision with the security state into one last, resonant artwork that might reach an audience beyond his wildest dreams.