(Overdue. A post on music. And this inspiration came from a share from a friend, AP. Thanks.)
I did make a brief mention of it on Facebook but this needs a bit of deeper digging, of pondering, of discovering of what really is great art, and what endures.
I don’t remember when I first heard Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sounds of Silence. I do know it was during my heady teens. I use the word ‘heady’ very much as an intended pun. Things happened more in my head than anywhere else and I wafted bravely in pseudo-intellectualism and existentialist philosophy, testing my immature powers of understanding to decipher the deeper mysteries of life which would unfold only decades, many decades later.
So back to The Sounds of Silence. The lyrics, the melody, the clear simplicity of the words and so many lines that resonated with me deeply at that stage. And it did even as time
wore on – whatever age or stage I was in life. And to make my point clear here are the words:
Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains within the sound of silence
In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
‘Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed
By the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence
And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs
That voices never share
And no one dare
Disturb the sound of silence
Which part of these lyrics does not fail to move you? I am told Paul Simon who wrote these lyrics, worked on them for a good six months. Not sure whether it’s just time but you can see how each word, line, thought has been carefully crafted into meaning, rhythm, rhyme and melody. And continuing with more home truths…
“Fools” said I, “You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you”
But my words like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silence
And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said “The words of the prophets
Are written on subway walls
And tenement halls
And whispered in the sounds of silence”
And now comes Disturbed. Is it serendipity that that is the band’s name? Because this version clearly disturbed me. I hate it when music I have grown up with takes a modern twist. (It’s almost telling me to grow up or grow old – neither of which I want to hear or do.) But what Disturbed has done is not made it modern or contemporary but enduring! And it still appeals to the senses, it still holds its deep meaning and still stands tall as great lyric writing, great composition, and of course in today’s visual world, a superbly art-directed video rendition.
How has something endured and become relevant a good five decades later? Interestingly the meaning has haunted people over the years. Here’s a para from the WIKI article (link below) on the song:
Simon stated unambiguously in interviews however, “I wrote The Sound of Silence when I was 21 years old”, which places the timeframe firmly prior to the JFK tragedy, with Simon also explaining that the song was written in his bathroom, where he turned off the lights to better concentrate. “The main thing about playing the guitar, though, was that I was able to sit by myself and play and dream. And I was always happy doing that. I used to go off in the bathroom, because the bathroom had tiles, so it was a slight echo chamber. I’d turn on the faucet so that water would run (I like that sound, it’s very soothing to me) and I’d play. In the dark. ‘Hello darkness, my old friend / I’ve come to talk with you again’.” In a more recent interview, Simon was directly asked, “How is a 21 year old person thinkin’ about the words in that song?” His reply was, “I have no idea.” According to Garfunkel, Simon originally wrote the lyric as “Aloha darkness, my old friend.” Garfunkel once summed up the song’s meaning as “the inability of people to communicate with each other, not particularly internationally but especially emotionally, so what you see around you are people unable to love each other.”
So how has it appealed to diverse age groups, generation after generation? Is it something about the thought, the lyrics, the universal truth contained inside, truths that remain no matter how time moves on?
Is it strange that I greet my welcome cup of black coffee with a cheeky “Hello Darkness, my old friend”?
Is it odd that even today people ‘bow and pray to a neon God they’ve made?’ Catch this generation on their phones!
Isn’t it funny how often you can relate to “in restless dreams I walk alone”?!
And that brings me to ask – what does really endure? Too large for me to fathom alone.
But here have a listen – to both the versions – and tell me what you think.
Speak. Don’t be silent. I am waiting to hear from you!