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)


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

    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.



  4.  

    anonymous
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    May 24th, 10:26 report


    The song could be about communism in China or North Korea.



  5.  

    anonymous
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    Apr 2nd, 4:10am report


    Sound of silence to me represents silent sound spread spectrum which is a low RF frequency sent via modulated pulses and frequency modulation to send speech to brain mmessages. It is a patented tech being used commercially for self help or affirmation tapes but can be used in a much more sinister wat as a form of electronic harassment. It's users are remote,anonymous and covert. The line "people hearing without listening" illustrates the no conscious defense possible against it



  6.  

    anonymous
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    Mar 11th, 3:34am report


    I have meditated on this for a long time. It was the flash of the neon light one day that I got it... Silence is a deep feeling we all have at some time. Some of us allow ourselves to go into a deep depression where we dwell on the past and place blame on others, the cold and damp... for out lot in life. WE are in this carbon form trying to find the meaning of life. The words of the subway walls, the society trying to tell us WHAT to think instead of HOW to think. To follow blindly.. If we talk to the darkness within ourselves, meditate and stop searching, Allow the light to shine. In the naked light, within myself we become enlightened. The masses of humanity all like myself, searching and not finding... hearing but not listening. Humanity being led by the controlling faction. Not listening to their own soul and thinking for themselves. thinking is hard work, following is easy. And the vision that was planted in my brain still remains, the power of the universe given to me, to shed light on my own soul. Think for my self, stop being led blindly by the controlling faction. Feed my soul with compassion and caring. Whisper the sounds of silence. I have the ability to make my own choice, to be happy and live in the light or continue in the darkness and depression of thinking and feeling as I am "SUPPOSED" to as a sheep dictated by a shepherd society.



  7.  

    anonymous
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    Feb 28th, 2:34pm report


    If you are Ilinformed about what is really going on around you then you are in the "Darkness" an old friend. Most people would rather not know the truth and except what is spoken, words without substance spoken by those in charge. If you are interested in the truth listen and see what is happening in the tenement halls and on subway walls. Sound of Silence is the outcome of remaining in the dark,ignorance that is the loss of our rights and freedom



  8.  

    anonymous
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    Dec 27th, 12:43pm report


    The darkness is him going to sleep everything in the song is his dream that's why all the words are silent, they are in his head.



  9.  

    anonymous
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    Jan 9th, 2015 1:37pm report


    Everyone can interpret work of art in their own way. And this is why art helps us to see ourselves in it. The interpretations are endless and I believe that was one of the intentions of the author, in a soothing tone of course, to give us endless song. Of course, the interpretations are valid unless they flat out contradict themselves.

    Personally, I fear to share my own interpretation, because it may not be politically and religiously correct and I think this is why people are talking without speaking and hearing without listening. To remain calm they must turn to the Silence for comfort which is in the first line "Hello darkness, my old friend". He is obviously not happy to meet "his old friend", but does it anyway.

    The song speaks to the public but comes from I (the author). This is evident in "Fools" said I, "You do not know.

    The next line is a little problematic "Silence like a cancer grows". This is not to be confused with the comfort they receive when they remain silent but he (the author) is angry to have to hear the Silence again.



  10.  

    anonymous
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    Dec 10th, 2014 12:21am report


    My interpretation of this song was that of a person recalling a nuclear event.

    The first verse
    "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."

    He was left blind, never seeing the person he talks to, only hearing a voice but seeing darkness. The event was surreal and traumatic, he cant forget it. Sound is the first thing that leaves a memory, but the visual stay for a long time

    Second verse
    "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."

    He describes the night the event happened, how his surrounding looked like and how it felt. When the Nuclear weapon exploded, the light of the mushroom cloud resembling that of a neon light was so bright it hurt his eyes. While he cant remember the sound of his surrounding, he can remember the sound of the nuke exploding

    The third 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."

    The light of the nuke brightened the night, allowing him to see everyone in the street(presumably a city, Hiroshima or Nagasaki maybe) He is describing the event as he recalls it, there is no sound in his memory, so no one is talking, therefore no on is listening, and the lives of many(songs, i.e song of my life) were going to end soon. Again the last line describes that he remembers no sound in his memory.

    The fourth verse
    ""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"

    In his memory he witnessed the nuclear event far enough to not die from the initial explosion. He is warning everyone to run for their life. People in shock stood still and did not take his warning as he fled. He only remembers what he said, the only voice in his memory is his, echoing in the silence.

    The fifth and last verse
    "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 sign said, The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
    And tenement halls
    And whispered in the sound of silence."

    In his memory people fell to the floor in shock and disbelief of what was happening. The sign being the mushroom cloud, and the warning it was spelling is him remembering in his memory. So in his flashback he can recall, remembering that he had heard talk of not to trust the government. He had heard rumors and seen graffiti that the government should not be trusted.

    -Cyborg2587410



  11.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Dec 10th, 2014 12:14am report


    My interpretation of this song was that of a person recalling a nuclear event.

    The first verse
    "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."

    He was left blind, never seeing the person he talks to, only hearing a voice but seeing darkness. The event was surreal and traumatic, he cant forget it. Sound is the first thing that leaves a memory, but the visual stay for a long time

    Second verse
    "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."

    He describes the night the event happened, how his surrounding looked like and how it felt. When the Nuclear weapon exploded, the light of the mushroom cloud resembling that of a neon light was so bright it hurt his eyes. While he cant remember the sound of his surrounding, he can remember the sound of the nuke exploding

    The third 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."

    The light of the nuke brightened the night, allowing him to see everyone in the street(presumably a city, Hiroshima or Nagasaki maybe) He is describing the event as he recalls it, there is no sound in his memory, so no one is talking, therefore no on is listening, and the lives of many(songs, i.e song of my life) were going to end soon. Again the last line describes that he remembers no sound in his memory.

    The fourth verse
    ""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"

    In his memory he witnessed the nuclear event far enough to not die from the initial explosion. He is warning everyone to run for their life. People in shock stood still and did not take his warning as he fled. He only remembers what he said, the only voice in his memory is his, echoing in the silence.

    The fifth and last verse
    "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 sign said, The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
    And tenement halls
    And whispered in the sound of silence."

    In his memory people fell to the floor in shock and disbelief of what was happening. The sign being the mushroom cloud, and the warning it was spelling is him remembering in his memory. So in his flashback he can recall, remembering that he had heard talk of not to trust the government. He had heard rumors and seen graffiti that the government should not be trusted.

    -Cyborg2587410



  12.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Oct 2nd, 2014 10:09pm report


    I believe they're talking about Dr. Oliver Lowery's patent US 5159703 Silent Sound Spread Spectrum, or Squad. I believe the song talks about subliminar mind programation throug UHF transmission and chemtrails. Especially about an especific event programed to happen at the end of not concluded processes(neon god). As its all about social engineering, thats why they sing about people not daring to disturb, and about the song trying to teach without effect. And thats why some artists had success and others died. Its all about competence and obedience.



  13.  

    anonymous
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    Sep 4th, 2014 9:36pm report


    In my opinion, this sound is a revolt against US government and the passive people in the 60´s.
    See that god was write in lowercase letters so his god is not a divinity and God will not save the world or change this situation.



  14.  

    anonymous
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    Aug 20th, 2014 8:49am report


    I used to think songs had meanings. I now think there was a trend in the 60s to create profound-sounding lyrics that seemed to make little sense - because they give the impression that something profound is hidden in the words.
    In reality, people like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen etc have little to offer. We would be better off studying with a traditional teacher, working with disadvantaged people etc.



  15.  

    anonymous
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    Aug 3rd, 2014 8:13pm report


    It's someone who has experienced cronic depression confronting it, recognising he's not alone, and how religion is a fake remedy.



  16.  

    anonymous
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    Jun 2nd, 2014 6:36pm report


    It's about graffiti.

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway


  17.  

    anonymous
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    Dec 12th, 2013 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.



  18.  

    anonymous
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    Nov 11th, 2013 11:22pm report


    It's about the death of Kennedy.



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