Every Sunday morning, we drive over to Barkaby to do our weekly grocery shopping. Fred has started a playlist for this drive (we’re huge Spotify listeners) and he’s nice enough to not play death metal while I’m still waking up. 🙂 Last Sunday, a song caught my attention and it turned out to be The Sound of Silence by Disturbed. I was fascinated and have spent most of the week listening to it.
I had never really listened to Disturbed before – I had thought that their music was really rough. It turns out that Disturbed do one cover on each album. In this case, instead of making the cover match their sound, they tried something new.
I was so impressed by the lead singer’s control, going from soft and tentative to strong and finally rough. The song had feeling, it had ooph. That caught me long before the lyrics or the band did. It sounds like there’s even a timpani in there and it is impressive.
“I come from a classical background. I was trained as a cantor when I was a young man, and so I have my classical training that I haven’t really had the opportunity to tap into purely over the course of my career — not to the extent that I do on this song. ”
The rest of the album, Immortalized (2015), is available on Spotify and I’ve been listening to that. The music is rougher, but fascinating! I particularly liked The Light.
I loved The Sound of Silence so much that I went and looked up the music video (see above). I think the last one I did that for was Adele’s Rolling in the Deep. For someone not at all familiar with the band, David Draiman’s piercings are a tad startling. The music video is stunning in black and white.
The next thing to do was to play through the other covers of the song – and there are plenty! None seemed to have the power of the latest cover by Disturbed, though. My next favorite version is the original by Simon & Garfunkel, which was featured on their 1963 album “Wednesday morning, 3 am”:
The song has become iconic: everyone knows the line “the sound of silence” and has heard the song.
While trying to sing along to the video, I actually ended up looking up the lyrics – they have oomph, too:
“The Sound Of Silence”
(originally by Simon & Garfunkel)
Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left it’s 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
“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 it’s warning
And the words that it was forming
And the sign said
“The words of the prophets
Are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls”
And whispered in the sound of silence
It took a number of listens and some research to understand. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about the song’s origins:
…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 Simon, Garfunkel 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.”
I set the last line there as bold because that hits the nail on the head – at least it does for my interpretation of the song. It’s people “talking without speaking” and “hearing without listening” – to me, this sounds like Facebook likes rather than writing a comment and engaging and media created just to draw users in to get ad impressions. None of it really means anything; so few people really dare to make meaningful noise and even fewer choose to hear it.
The Simon & Garfunkel version of the song is calm throughout, while the Disturbed version hits all the right emotional notes. You can hear David Draiman go from quiet and contemplative, to hearing his frustration and anger at the stubbornness of the “fools”.
As one YouTube user put it: “I came for the metal, I got feels.”