What does The Sound of Silence mean?

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Simon & Garfunkel: The Sound of Silence Meaning

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Song Released: 1965


The Sound of Silence Lyrics

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...

  1. 1TOP RATED

    anonymous
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    Mar 16th, 2011 3:33am report


    This may be coming from a generation to far into the distant future to understand the feelings of the time, but here it goes:

    The first stanza Simon refers to darkness as being his "old friend" that he came to talk with because he was awoken in the middle of the night, of a nightmare that still lingers in his head, that gives his a considerable amount of distress. So bad that the awful visions were still flashing before his eyes as he is awake.

    Second stanza begins setting the scene in which the dream took place: at night, him walking along the cobblestone road where he stops below the light of a streetlight. The cold chill runs up his back, so he lifts his collar to the "cold and damp." Just then, a blight neon sign lit up, showing that he, in fact, was not alone. But there were "ten thousand maybe more" all gathered in the cold night. The people who are talking, not speaking, are politicians, who are using false words to sway the population to vote for them, never revealing true intentions. The people therefore are hearing are not listening.

    They are taking these words that are spoken to them in plain value, not examining or putting into depth anything that is said. Because of this, as referred to later, these politicians have formed a government that the people in fact voted for and supported until it began to act as a dictatorship. This seems that Simon is making an inditement to a large government that has taken away the freedoms of its people. A future for America it seemed with the rise of government in world affairs as in entered Vietnam. This "future America" has given Americans everything, and has the power the take it all away, hence the people "bow and pray to the neon god they made."

    The Silence that is referred to is the silence of the people, afraid to say anything against the government for fear of death or worse. Simon, or whoever has had this dream, tries to bring people to speak out. Saying "Fools, you do not know, Silence like a cancer grows" that as more are afraid to speak, the more control the government takes and the less anyone will stand up to the new government.

    As all hope is about to be given up, someone steps up and says to the crowd that the future they will hold has been written on the walls of subways and tenement halls. This is because this form of protest can be done anonymously, therefore no one can get in trouble for it. This begins the whispering in the silence of the people, and starts the beginning of a revolt.



    -I hope you enjoyed a younger perspective on this classic song. USMCRIFLEMAN2006



  2. 2TOP RATED

    linksysman2000
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    Apr 3rd, 2007 4:53pm report


    The first verse is about a man who sees the wrongs in the world, but can do nothing about it, and seeks refuge, but finds none, thus there is “darkness” for him, and it isn’t the first time, because he calls darkness his “old friend”. This man wants change the world, and has a vision “planted in his brain” that still remains.
    In his dreams, he is along in his vision, and he walks alone in all lonely places that he refers to, such as cobblestones and at night underneath a street lamp. Left to himself and his vision, he has his revelation, which I think is this “neon light” he is talking about. In this vision, he sees that there are thousands of people, maybe more, talking without speaking. They talk, but they really mean nothing, because they are empty. The same goes for their communications, because they hear, but take no heed, and though they try to share what they go through by means of music, no one is speaking or listening, so their voices are never shared. And yet no one dares to change this situation, and no one disturbs the silence of that lack of communication.
    The man tries to tell people of what he sees, and understands enough to at least explain this vision of his, but like before, no one listens. Soon, people creates their own image and gods, whether it be money or fame or power, and bow to their idols and do whatever it took to worship their gods. The last part is that the truth is revealed to this man, that the future is really under the city, buried from all the coldness of a lack of communication, and the same goes for tenements, where people live so close but yet so far away. That is the future, because people are cold and will remain that way because they refuse to change or even reconsider.



  3. 3TOP RATED

    mensoelrey
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    Oct 2nd, 2008 10:48am report


    You are kind of right but missing one big thing. The society Simon envisions is a dictatorship. Not Hitler's dictatorship exactly; more just any dictatorship. And a dictatorship silences the people but really it is the people who have silenced themselves by communicating less and less. There are still prophets, but no one will listen to them so they write their words on subway walls and tenement halls, where, perhaps, future generations will read them and act. But until then, the people will bow and pray to their pointless gods and not listen because it is pointless.



  4.  

    anonymous
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    Dec 12th, 12:02pm report


    I suffer from depression at times and I think of the darkness as depression, although it is not my friend except for the fact that I excape reality at the time. "Left its seeds while I was sleeping" to me means that one day I'm OK and the next morning I can just wake up depressed. The "silence" is the isolation I do when depressed. "In restless dreams I walked alone" is that I feel so all alone when depressed. "I turn my collar to the cold and damp" is me cuddleing up in my warm bed and sleeping all the time. "When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light that split the night" is me coming out of the darkess (depression) into the light of happiness again. I could go on with the rest but I think you get the message.



  5.  

    anonymous
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    Nov 11th, 11:22pm report


    It's about the death of Kennedy.



  6.  

    kooljohn176
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    Sep 29th, 2013 9:52pm report


    this song has many meanings and representations according to peoples theory on it. to me this is a person wakeing up from a dream early morning before daybreak, say around 4 o'clock, a good time to write words down from dream meaning. hello darkness my old friend may represent the shadow side of himself that he does not feel polarized from, like darkness is only the absence of light. from the dream, the seed was planted is the idea to write it down before it dries up in silence. the song goes into the feeling of an intuitive and melancholic individual who takes lonely walks, but never feels alone,speaks more with his mind, instead of his voice, but needs to express himself from knowing well the reality of the world that he is living in, otherwise it can spread like cancer. when the eyes were stabbed by the flash of neon lights,split the night, this could be about the reality that he looked at was polarized in his eyes of some of the peoples awareness of it. some quiet people talk without speaking,some talkative people hear without listening to these materialistic gods of the unnatural light that influence us. going back to the verse , turn my collar to the cold and damp, here he could be in the mindset of a priest that wants to give warmth in love to people. he wants to take our hand and warn us of the future doom that he sees coming through some of the false prophets of advertisements for profit, but not necesserly graffiti artists.



  7.  

    anonymous
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    Aug 28th, 2013 8:26am report


    He had a dream about a loss that causes him great sadness. It's a loss that he has felt sadness for before and continues to try to deal with unsuccessfully. This takes him to a dark place (depression) that is familiar because he has visited it before. It gives him a comfort in that he can release his sadness there, and then go on for a while before he is overcome again. The loss he feels seems to be the realization that we are all alone in life and no one is really listening or talking, yet the desperation of life and loss is a condition of all people, unsolvable and can be observed and evidenced everywhere.



  8.  

    anonymous
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    Jul 28th, 2013 7:37pm report


    It could mean this, it could mean that. One thing I am almost positive about...it doesn't really matter what it means. I highly doubt Simon is a sage/enlightened being....maybe he is. But we would just be guessing. And if he isn't, then he is just an average joe who became a rock star and we are trying to break down his lyrics like he has some sort of masterful knowledge that we don't.



  9.  

    anonymous
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    Jul 28th, 2013 7:34pm report


    It probably has no real meaning. He probably just wrote down what he thought sounded good in his mind. And now we, the fanboys and groupies sit here and try to break it all down. Break down something that has no meaning.

    JK. That was joke, but it technically COULD Be that. haha. But I understand why people want to know the meaning especially if they like the song and listen to it a lot. I think there is no permanent ONE meaning too it. I think it means whatever you want it to mean and I think that's why Simon won't tell us what it means(unless he already has.) I guess maybe he just doesn't want to ruin the song for those that get a different interpretation out of it.



  10.  

    anonymous
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    Jul 25th, 2013 7:26am report


    When I recently heard the song and thought about what it meant the first thing that came to mind was "enlightenment." BECAUSE:

    1. "Hello darkness my old friend."
    When you listen to silence itself your mind becomes very still/quiet and it kind of takes you to a place of non knowing which could also be considered darkness. It is a joyous state to be in because it's like being a child which is where calling it "old friend" would come in.

    2. "I've come to talk with you again."
    In that quiet stillness everything seems much more alive/connected as if it is a part of you but at the same time greater than you. You talk to it as if it is God(and it very well may be.)

    3."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."
    People who become more conscious/alert during their waking state by meditating(quieting their mind into silence) usually have lucid dreams where they can learn from them by being awake through them.

    I could keep breaking it down on why I thought it meant enlightenment the first time around. But the reasons it doesn't seem like enlightenment now that I think of it and has that more literal meaning that people come up with is:

    1. It has a sad sound too it. I don't think enlightenment has anything to do with sorrow.
    2. "Silence like a cancer grows." Now, if you listen to silence itself it does expand/grow as the mind quiets but why would he call it a cancer when in fact it is a good thing?
    3. And of course when looking at it from a literal standpoint it all makes a lot of sense.

    Now it could have a double meaning and be intended to be that way but I doubt it. I just find it kind of ironic that it is called "Sound of silence" which is exactly what spiritual teachers tell you to do is to listen to silence. And I understand through direct experience why they tell you to do that and that is what attracted me to the title to begin with. There are two kinds of silence, silence within the mind(no thoughts) and outer silence(the world if nothing is happening around you.)
    Apparently it's about the latter.



  11.  

    anonymous
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    May 27th, 2013 5:59pm report


    This song is about the ultimate loneliness an abduction experience by aliens brings to a young person. Symbols used :
    darkness = all the things he doesn't know and he doesn't understand
    silence = the taboo, what he wants to speak about but he can not
    the vision that was planted in his brain = the screenmemory that aliens put in your conscious brain to hide the true experience and keep everything hidden
    a vision softly creeping left me while... = he tries to remember what he has seen but he can not remember
    the seeds = the knowledge that will later on be able to transform him but is now in a stage where it is only seeds, very small
    tenthousand people maybe more = he knows he is not alone with this, but they are all silent,
    silence like a cancer grows = it gets bigger and bigger and it's not good
    people talking withhout speaking = experiencers cannot bring the message over!
    people hearing without hearing : no one believes it or grasps the reality of what is going on
    the words of the prophets are written ... = the knowledge of what is to come is underground, spelled out, at the edge of society, being ignored mainstream



  12.  

    ericjfrench
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    May 7th, 2013 5:12am report


    I haven't seen any interviews with Paul Simon but I am a good reader of character. He strikes me as a very deep thinker and I'll bet he is well versed in what is in the Old Testament. Therefore, he would surely know many of the stories and their meaning. We have so very many saying today from the Bible and Simon uses them in this song and his other songs as well. "the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls" is not a line pulled from nowhere...it's straight from the Bible, book of Daniel, chapter 5, where a mysterious hand writes out warnings of doom.

    The song is about people turing away from God and worshiping false idols...in the Bible it was the golden calf or baal, sexual depravity, these days it's money, drugs, greed, work, sexual depravity...hmmm pretty much the same thing, anything that takes us further from God.

    Silence is one of the stages when any society turns away from God. Read the book of Judges in the Bible. The people stop teaching their children about God and become "silent". Once silence becomes embedded in society, political correctness ensues, and it becomes almost impossible for the "prophets" to tell the truth to the people. Many won't listen at all, some will listen but not "hear". So the prophets send their messages anyway they can. Subway walls, tenement halls are simply metaphors for blogs, tweets, any place where the truth can be told.

    This song was written in the early 60's (I know, released in '65, but surely Simon wrote it prior to '65) and his message was about Viet Nam, the establishment, and heavy handed tyrannical government. The genius of Simon is that this song is just as powerful today, if not more so. Indeed, this song is less about events of a particular era and more about human nature itself, and so becomes timeless.



  13.  

    anonymous
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    Mar 22nd, 2013 3:09pm report


    Unknowingly he talks about what is happening right now under this administration and we better all start doing something to stop it read the top rated interpretation it could very well be today!



  14.  

    stephen_melinger
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    Mar 11th, 2013 3:46pm report


    Simon is referring to his dependence on his own voice and intuition. The clamor of others is like the graffiti that lives on walls for a while and then disappears.



  15.  

    anonymous
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    Feb 19th, 2013 2:23pm report


    I recently sat with a young woman with Dementia. I played this song and listened to it while looking at her and realized that she is trapped in the sounds of silence. The vision planted in her brain is her past world. The darkness is her world now, dark and confusing.



  16.  

    anonymous
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    Jan 6th, 2013 1:41pm report


    The speaker of the Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence” is addressing “darkness, my old friend” about a vision he had while he was sleeping. His vision was of a setting unfamiliar to him, most likely in the future, where silence has swept over the world and people have ceased communication among each other. As the speaker describes the situation, he wanders alone on a cold, dark road until he is interrupted by a bright, blinding, neon light. “In restless dreams I walked alone/ Narrow streets of cobblestone”. When the speaker wakes up in the middle of the night from his terrible, confusing dream, he begins to talk to himself in the darkness to try and understand the signification of his prophecy. His vision was so vivid that he cannot stop thinking about it, “Because a vision softly creeping/ Left its seeds while I was sleeping/ And the vision that was planted in my brain/ Still remains”. He can not imagine how the world could come to be how it appeared in his dream, so curiosity and anguish overwhelm him.
    Darkness, although portrayed as a character in the song, is actually just the speaker contemplating his vision to himself, because it was so real that he believes it must be much more than just a dream. The main conflict dramatized within his dream is silence, and it is repeated every stanza to emphasize its significance. In the second stanza the speaker illustrates how empty the outside world has become, and that the only sign of life is a bright neon light, which symbolizes technology such as television and computers. Around this light are thousands people who have gathered but refrain from making any noise, but instead just blindly follow the mysterious light that has encapsulated them all. All of the people are talking without emitting any sound, and also hearing without any others talking, because none dare break the reign of silence. Quickly, the speaker attempts to warn all of the people of the dangers of utter silence, but his words fall short before reaching the ears of the silently enchanted people. So instead the people continue to worship this glowing sign that tells them that, “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls/And tenement halls”, and all understood what was meant by the silent voice, except the clueless speaker. The message very possibly means that their final option of communication is through vandalism and graffiti, which can either foretell a future of pandemonium and chaos, or the rebirth of writing and art.
    Common vocab in the song are gloomy, dismal, lugubrious words such as silence and darkness that help display the dreary, hopeless theme. Also, the speaker uses several contradictions like “People talking without speaking/ People hearing without listening/ People writing songs that voices never share” to show that people have halted actual speech but continue to pay attention and listen to the bright signs. Additionally, the biggest contradiction is the oxymoron “the sound of silence”, because the entire song revolves around the fact that although silence has no sound, no sound at all can be more terrifying and depressing than any other sound. The rhyming pattern of the song is AABBCCD, and repeats itself throughout all five stanzas. For each D line, the speaker states something about the sound of silence, which assists the advancing of the main point and conflict that silence is a swift, deadly force that goes unnoticed because of it being inanimate. Overall the highly poetic song “Sounds of Silence” asserts that although unexpected, silence is a power much more deadly than war and natural disasters, and failure of proper communication could end up being the decimation of the entire population of the world.



  17.  

    anonymous
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    Nov 4th, 2012 11:29pm report


    Hello darkness my old friend ive come to talk to you again is tallking about how everyone has a dark side to them an he has accepted this an knows it well. because a vision is softly creeping refers to things he has seen before but dose not know when its gunna happen. now im schizophrenic an this song speaks to me on a personal levle, left its seeds when i was sleeping the once small idea or dream or thought turned into reality a vison in other words, an the vision that was planted in his brain refers to hows his dream came true an it will always b with him, touch the sounds of silence means realisticlly you can not touch a sound nore can u hear silence but in ur mind u can do anything nobody hears ur thoughts but it is a sound an u have grasped the idea in ur head. in darken dreams i walk alone on the streets of cobblestone an stops under the streetlight an lifts his coller to the cold an damp, a dream of rome far away from home an is alone an hes under a spot light though as if he is being watched but brushs it off , when my eyes were stabed by the flash of a neon light split the night in my experience i have illusion of a delusion were its a breif moment were im blinded by my thought in a flash in neon colours an spliting the dark thoughts in his head, an in the naked light i saw tentousand ppl maybe more a thought that is unknow if its good or bad if being watched is a good idea or bad idea ppl talking without speaking ppl hearing without lisning means that there are people that talk in others heads an ppl have to lisin cuz they have no choice in the matter an people wrighting songs that voices never share people in this world wrighting song in there head though mental connection as if u were one mind wisper the sound of silence refers to the secrets of silences of mental connection fools said i do not know means that this mental connection is real an nobody will ever understand cuz its one of the biggest secrets in the world its to much for the world for it to b public, silence like a cancer grows means that one day u will b alone, hear my words an i mite teach u grab my arms an i mite reach u but my words like silent rain drops fell mean u undetstand this meaning of the song an he will show u this mental connection an like silent rain drops fell when i first found out i was a scizo I heard voices in the rain drop an other sounds an the ppl bowed an prayed to the neon god they made this is a delusion in are minds a false god we have made, an the signs of the profits are writn on the subway wall is how the ppl that have this technology of mental connection wright illusions on the walls to undstand the other world of the mind



  18.  

    anonymous
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    Sep 10th, 2012 9:36pm report


    Let's let Simon and garfunkle speak for themselves on what this means. Check the you tube video, and the actual artists who wrote and sang it tell us exactly what it means. Lack of communication intellectually as well as emotionally. Or should we not believe what the artists themselves say what their own song means?



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