How timelessly political? – The 1st fact to know is the original title was ‘Sounds THAT Silence’. – 2nd is in the ’60s Simon and likeminded musicians and activists were condemning the same corporate oligarchy with the same economic/social/racial injustices gaining today. – Quite a while back I was looking up lyrics on a “song interpretations” site and contributed as a lark and/or an intellectual exercise. – Big surprise to those knowing me, huh? LOL – Here is my interpretation of ‘The Sound of Silence’ by Paul Simon
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
Within the sound of silence
Verse By Verse Interpretation
1st: The poet/writer awakes to a predawn quiet and seems to enjoy the reflection it allows. – He welcomes the opportunity to explore consciously the thoughts his subconscious dream started. – His muse is lively when the mind is still. – Artistry/genius blooms in the absence of extraneous influences. – The “sounds that silence” (original title) are the messaging/media and other “noises” of the world competing for the focus/priorities of the individual.
– Only the non-striving/non-competitive mind brings introspective thought and consideration of the common good… but I am getting ahead of the song.
In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
Beneath 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
2nd Verse: The writer continues the mood with the feeling of being alone – He tells us it is natural to brace oneself and adapt (“turned my collar”) to loneliness/boredom. We all (mankind) are primed to desire companionship and dislike boredom so the neon light occupying the mind is addictively clung to. Unfortunately, the neon light (media/entertainment) and active thinking don’t mix.
We have resisted boredom with media/entertainment/technology to the point we have created a culture with so much input/noise/biases we do not have enough silence to have original and/or creative thoughts free from influence. This power of the TV (naked light) is described in the next verse.
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 dared
Disturb the sound of silence
3rd Verse: TV/Media is equivalent to “10,000 people maybe more”. – But there is no depth of companionship; no depth of communication, talking without speaking is media product without value, hearing without listening is our consumption of media/entertainment without any meaningful intent, not even personal growth, knowledge or improvement. – Songs never shared (the political expression of that poet/era), denotes suppression of political expression and discourse which might promote critical thinking and viable progress/change. – The government, the Corporate Oligarchy and the rich and powerful routinely mute activist voices throughout history. – History also shows this suppression gets worse as power consolidates as the next verse warns.
“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
In the wells of silence
Silence begets silence = People can be intimidated if they feel no one will back them up. When we fail to think for ourselves, declare our beliefs and/or be diligent in the search for truth a vacuum is created where a common reality should exist: – The media becomes a tool of the rich and powerful to spread a false message resisting change and propping up the system which made them rich and powerful.
You can’t expect the rich and powerful to change the system which made them the rich and powerful. – Genius voices fail to inspire amidst the clamor and noise insisting on the status quo. We are willing to believe in simple solutions and/or those insisting other people or other factions are preventing the easy answer(s).
The fraudulent noise (fake-news) of powerful people and factions seeking to maintain and increase power/influence are guiding us away from being personally, politically and culturally introspective.
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 signs said the words of the prophets
Are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls
And whispered in the sounds of silence
The media (sign in the song) even warns about itself (neon god). – Special interests and a corporate oligarchy influence in contradiction to a free society.
The lyrics promote an underground/grassroots defense of our Liberty(s) : – (‘Prophets’/Activists of the subway/tenement class) Speaking truth and demanding equal justice in opposition to corruption. – “The word of the prophets”, (truth, righteousness, and reality) tell us; No Justice = No Peace.
– Thankfully; free people are not long deceived and never fully acquiesce. – “Whispered” calls for truth/justice will continue despite The Sounds THAT Silence.
https://www.facebook.com/RockAndRollvideo/videos/2053342951660665/ – Version/Cover by “Disturbed”