Health and Strength of Mind, Body and Soul
   Home      The Sounds of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel: Meaning, Ideas and Insights

The Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel:  Ideas Thoughts and Meaning for Today and Tomorrow

© Donald Reinhardt, August 1, 2011

Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, Photo Credit Team
It is an old song of the 60’s by two talented young men of that time and older men now of 2011. The message of that song is still as clear today as then. What do the lyrics of the Sound of Silence means to us today?

 It was during the era of the Vietnam War and the opening of the movie “The Graduate” that the "Sound of Silence" became a heralded reminder of humanity’s search and need for truth and meaning in a world that occasionally seems forlorn or out of control. This was a time when I had graduated and moved to a new city, alone, away from family and friends and now a thousand miles away from home I sought a new home and friends,and a possible lifetime companion and wife. And among a group of young folks that song was played and then discussed. Although I can not remember exactly what was discussed there that particular evening, I do remember how meaningful the lyrics and the personal discussions were. Written here are the words of the Sounds of Silence, followed by some ideas to carry you forward and perhaps move you to some understanding. There will be more to discuss for sure beyond what is said here. Make sure to discuss that with friends and others when you have the time.

Lyrics of The Sound of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel Plus Interpretations and Ideas

Lyrics                                                Ideas & Thoughts Conveyed (Reinhardt’s views, insights)

Hello darkness, my old friend               (Tonight, as in times before, I'll have a close, common meditation of life)
I've come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping           (and this evolving dream, is a memory of solitude and isolation)
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            (In these disquieting visions there is isolation and aloneness)
Narrow streets of cobblestone                 (And a closed-in, surrounding hardness of the environment)
'Neath the halo of a street lamp              (Some light was cast onto that street I walked in solitude)
I turned my collar to the cold and damp    (There was chill and discomfort felt that evening and suddenly)
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence             (a brillant, harsh ad sign light breaks through to the mind and soul)

And in the naked light I saw                        (and in this illuminated scene a new vision appears)
Ten thousand people, maybe more               (with many, many people)
People talking without speaking                   (Who communicate nothing when they speak)
People hearing without listening                 
 (Who hear something, but do not interpret or understand it)
People writing songs that voices never share  (Who compose songs that are never sung or played to music)
And no one dared                                        (In this meaninglessness not anyone challenges this silence)
Disturb the sound of silence

"Fools", said I, "You do not know            (I spoke out to all these empty people, beware of killer cells)
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you     (Listen to what I say and learn)
Take my arms that I might reach you"     (Touch me as I stretch out to you as a friend and real person)
But my words, like silent raindrops fell    (Yet, my words like rain reverberated in the silent emptiness)
And echoed
In the wells of silence

And the people bowed and prayed          (Those empty, silent souls adored the flashing neon light)
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning       (which sent out a message as it flashed the warning words)
In the words that it was forming            (Pay attention to what's written in common, ordinary places by seers)
And the sign said, "The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls"
And whispered in the sounds of silence   (And what is softly spoken to reach attentive ears)

The Sound of Silence, What Does It Mean for You or Someone Else?

The song could be considered one that is melancholy, gloomy and bespeaks of wretchedness, hopelessness, depression, misery or distress. This certainly was not a happy dream or interpretation. Yet, do those last lines convey or not convey some possible hope? Someone might wonder that if you bow and pray before something artificial that flashes the same message what does that really mean? And, finally, what great prophecy is written on any wall, or in any hallway, and what types of whispers have such great meaning? And how can silence have any sound? That concept, of course, seems strange and yet silence may speak to us and resonate a message can it not?. This song will have varied meanings for many people. And this is what all great writing, poetry, music and art does as it often causes us to think well, so that we may quite possibly live well or learn how to live better.

The Sound of Silence song of 1964 is captured and presented and linked below to two of the best YouTube video renditions by the original artists Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. The first video is one of the earliest versions of the song. The second video presentation was nicely filmed and sung here at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. And, 42 years later, this The Sound of Silence was sung and played with fervor, passion and great artistry during Simon and Garfunkel's 2009 presentation at Madison Square Garden.