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

Covered By: Bananarama (2009), Disturbed (2015)

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The Sound of Silence Lyrics

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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...


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    May 22nd, 2018 5:40am report

    I personally feel like music, just as books (even the Bible) are subjective to one's own interpretation.
    I am a person that uses music as a bit of therapy, so I feel it as much as I hear it, if that makes sense.
    This particular song has always affected me in a deep way. For me, the darkness is what I experience battling depression, PTSD, the loss of a child and also as a survivor of rape by a relative that happened to me as a very young child...something everyone knows about but just kinda swept under the rug and never, ever speaks of. My tendency when the thoughts/memories/depression floods my brain (often after I've had a nightmare of any one of those events) is to withdraw completely within myself, away from friends, family, even my children... because I feel that no one really understands what it's like (and honestly I'm glad they don't, it means they haven't been thru it themselves) and it's not something they reach out to me and really try to help with either or even ask about. So I carry it alone, always have,and when it's bad I keep myself distanced from the people I love the most because I'm just not always able to fake smiles, so the silence between us grows. (Especially now that my children are adults and out on their own.) Like a cancer, that eats away at the body, the silence and lack of feeling able to have honest communiaction is eating away at the relationships and lately prevents me from creating new ones entirely. No one dares ask me what's wrong when I'm withdrawn, and I think my children assume I just choose to withdraw from them, so again, it's like a cancer, slowly eating away at the meaningful relationships and leaving in its place a deafening and heartbreaking silence. Is darkness my friend? No, but being alone during the difficult times is welcomed when I just don't have the energy to pretend anymore that everything is okay.
    In regards to the line about "seeing 10,000 people, maybe more", for me, I relate that to the times when I can be totally surrounded by people (family included) and yet feel so utterly and completely alone.
    The song is a painful one, but it's one that speaks to my heart. I particularly love the cover performed by Disturbed. The emotion he sings it with, the build up from a soft, depressed beginning that turns into almost pure rage by the end,is very much how I feel about it all inside.
    I don't try to interpret what an artist's intended meaning is for any piece of music, I connect with different pieces for my own personal reasons. Just thought I'd share my reason for this particular piece.


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    Oct 11th, 2016 10:22am report

    Ok here it goes. Art Garfunkle in an interview clearly stated it was about the inability of people to communicate, not in terms of plain languge, or international issues, but rather spiritualy and emotionaly. The result being, an inability to love one another. Paul Simon on the other hand literaly said, I dont actualy know. I wrote my parts on several occassions, while sitting in the dark, in the bathroom of my parents house, while playing my guitar. So it seems to me that while Paul was speaking in one type of medaphore, art clearly took it to another level. As to it being about politicians lying, and people speaking hollow words, that would indeed fit into the notion that while we can speak the same language, our spoken words amount to no worthwhile communication at all. Regarding our false idols, this is easy enough to interperate, as humans have done this for centuries. Now adays rather than a golden lamb, it is more likely to be pro athletes, movie stars, music stars, etc. So in a nutshell, while paul may not have originaly intended this to be such an altruistic message, art managed to turn it into one that will ring true for a long time to come. We are like sheep allowing our government to control us and remove our liberties, and we follow them to the slaughter. We are also like sheep in that few of us practice critical thinking, and as a result most fall prey not only to poloticians, but the corporate whores who sell us all the debauchery we can consume., and consume we do. With that in mind, this song is every bit as powerful and purposful today as when it was first released, if not more so.


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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


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    May 10th, 5:47am report

    The song was written years before cell phones, PC’s, computers with operating systems, or general awareness of the state-of-the-art in technology existed. Those that attach the lyrics to the bit-and-byte era need history lessons.


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    May 9th, 5:36am report

    I boy said this to me and I don’t exactly know still what he exactly meant by that but I think it’s like he was waiting for someone in his life to come and understand him meaning probably me because he has given me many signs that he likes me.


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    Jan 30th, 1:36am report

    Well obviously he just got a victory royale and he's overjoyed. Ah. I love Simon and Garfunkel. He's hilarious.


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    Dec 29th, 12:38pm report

    I am a senior of the era when this song came out. We can interpret the words in any way we want but I feel that this song is more applicable today to how people communicate via computers, ipones, texting; facebook, etc. Social media has replaced personal communication. I see individual sitting together in restaurants, social venues, etc., and not a word is being spoken, but they are looking at their LED screens (substitute for NEON lights), texting (not speaking), searching (not listen), etc. For me personally, maybe this was a vision (dream) about the future, which is now. By the way, this is what I am doing right now…..


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    Dec 28th, 12:59pm report

    The beginning of the song simply sets the scene of one walking alone in a cold and dark place of depression..

    "When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light"

    I believe this is referring to an alert on the cell phone lighting up in the darkness and he looks down at the naked light of the neon cell phone and sees a thread with 10k comments or maybe more.

    "People talking without speaking
    People hearing without listening"

    Because everyone was texting..

    "People writing songs that voices never share"

    This part is great, Singing is the outward expression of something written..well now days people are keeping those feelings bottled up causing more depression..

    "And the people bowed and prayed
    To the neon god they made"

    You don't have to look far to see nearly everyone's head down staring at their neon phone in which they turn to fire everything...yes the neon devise we've created..


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    Dec 24th, 12:10am report

    I am with the person who like I, lived and grew up through this time and was of an age when you were strongly influenced. To me, it is as simple as knowing that through that period our generations music was trying to be silence by all that were not us. Being a musician for over 50 years there is nothing worse than having your music silenced by people who have no idea of its value. The begining verse simply tells you of how the song was written and why. If you know the fact that Simon often wrote in his dark, tiled (because of the accostics), bathroom with the water running, this was the hello darkness part. The why is because of the dream of a world without music. The rest of the verses tells you what happens in this world. If you know and understand
    the song 2112 by Rush, it's telling you same thing. Neil Peart based his lyrics on the sounds of silence and used some of simons words in other rush songs. ie: the words of the prophets are written on the studios walls,concert halls. You need to look and the surface of something before you go to deep.


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    Dec 18th, 2018 12:02pm report

    The Sound of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel is a very deep song and it really speaks about the importance of talking and being present with the one you are with or many people you are with. Silence is sometimes used instead of talking nowadays. I agree with the latest comment on this song.

    As you explained, we talk without speaking. Technology has surpassed and they are winning because of the many social websites and social media available in the computers and many apps on our cellphones. We are now forgetting the importance of being present with them in person and when communicating with them via the computers and our cell phones. I agree, isolation is the result. It is also visible to me now. I now realized that majority of the people around the world, people who are close to us, our friends or people we don't even know would rather converse with you via computers and via apps on cellphones and not in person.

    - The person who made comments on songs recently


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    Dec 18th, 2018 12:14am report

    We do more and more of our communicating with one another all alone with our computers and our cell phones, or sometimes are so involved with our cell phones that even when we are in one another's presence we pay less attention to each other than we do to our gadgets (phones, games, etc).
    We talk without speaking.
    By communicating from the heart of our isolation in this way, we lose familiarity with other cues that add so much more depth to communications - tone of voice, facial expressions, body movements, electrical emanations now measurable and once called 'vibes'. If we let ourselves lose touch with these things, we lose vital skills. Some of us might be hearing and yet not listening. If we let it keep happening and don't do anything to counter it, like a cancer it grows. Isolation. We fall into the wells of silence.
    New aspects of meaning, most likely not seen by the original authors and yet very visible to me now. For me, it adds still more meaning to an already beautiful song.


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    Nov 15th, 2018 11:43pm report

    I believe it's talking about text messaging.


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    Oct 27th, 2018 10:26pm report

    To me, the lyrics of this song are a paradox. On the one hand, they point towards a path of healing the tragic effects of loss in cases where such traumas cannot be openly and freely expressed by the victim. This path starts in the first line: saying hello to darkness which conjures up feelings of both comfort and sadness, sadness that is safely and comfortably experienced alone, out of sight. That is, it represents a chance to befriend feelings that you would not publicly acknowledge. At same time, it seems to suggest that we need to say hello to these feelings.

    On the other hand it then devolves into a common blame-the- victim narrative, which is unfortunate. My own view is that the people who do not speak (but talk) nor listen (but only hear) should be understood as survivors, not "fools". There is no recognition that these "victims" did not produce the neon light, despite the fact that this "stabbing" light now owns them. There is no compassion for them, no suggestion of what it would mean to be helpless, to confront a power that would destroy you in a heartbeat.

    Thankfully and perhaps purposely it then goes back to using this same image of neon light in order to see the "signs on the subway wall". This provides an introduction of sorts, a way to let the forbidden unacknowledged feelings be seen, albeit below ground, and then even hang out with them for a while, however unpleasant and scary that may be.

    The next song: once we get to know our own and others forbidden feelings in this way, hopefully we will not be as afraid and respond so strongly to them.


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    Sep 25th, 2018 9:57pm report

    Hello darkness, my old friend
    I've come to talk with you again

    The dreamer a prophet has just awaken from a recurring vision that has left him in that state where one is afraid to move or speak after gaining consciousness from a nightmare

    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

    Terrified to share this vision with anyone he keeps it to himself by meditating on it alone

    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

    He begins recalling the vision of his actions starting from the beginning. As stated

    When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
    That split the night
    And touched the sound of silence

    The neon light was off standing while illuminating these:

    And in the naked light I saw
    Ten thousand people, maybe more

    These are those that were left in the very moment Jesus returned and left

    People talking without speaking
    People hearing without listening
    People writing songs that voices never share
    And no one dared
    Disturb the sound of silence

    All were left speechless realizing all that had been foretold was true and yet they all simultaneouly knew what was to follow

    "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"

    Now the prophet in angelic form begins to speak to the masses where they all have come short and what was to follow.

    But my words, like silent raindrops fell
    And echoed
    In the wells of silence

    And then he departs to heaven

    And the people bowed and prayed
    To the neon god they made

    The graffiti like warning sign was All that was left pertaining to God created by someone that was also ignored by the people.

    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 the subway walls
    And tenement halls"

    Their final warning before the coming of the Lord

    And whispered in the sounds of silence


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    Aug 25th, 2018 8:26pm report

    The song can be interpreted, like anything in life, via your own paradigm and experiences. To me, it is clearly about 'Sleep' and the importance to life. Sleep is the one thing that has evolved in all beings regardless of risk to life. Sleep may well be the dominant state.
    I will go through the lyrics line by line at some stage one it is imprinted on my mind after a good sleep!


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    May 18th, 2018 5:53am report

    I believe it’s to do with being aware , present in the present , keeping your mind clear , not being influenced by people or things , keeping a dialogue with others , finding your purpose in life and not being silenced while living it !
    The hello darkness my old friend , I feel is ironic !
    Realising that you have slipped once again into mainstream beliefs and control !


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    Apr 30th, 2018 4:23pm report

    A lonely person entered into the wilderness. Surrounded by darkness when there is only silence and can only see a very dim light and feelings of coolness. Than came a flash of a neon light that split the night in two and was within The Sound Of Silence.

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway


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    Apr 24th, 2018 4:16am report

    I’m actually a scrapbooking nut.
    So, I’m actually using the song for the scrapbook I’m doing for my daughter who lost her baby. She has suffered depression for years, I think it’s meaning is of someone suffering depression and feeling alone, but when the lyrics say about seeing other people. It sounds like they realise they’re not alone, and they can see the light in the darkness of depression

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