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...


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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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    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.


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    Aug 30th, 8:03pm report

    he is going to a dark spiritual place.. he is talking to God. Its about peoples abandonment of God. vision of heaven.. people talking without speaking is how spiritual communication takes place. Same as listening. People worshiping neon excitement over God.. His silent teardrops fell on hollow heads/ears


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    Jul 20th, 7:26pm report

    I always thought that when it says, Hello darkness my old friend, he is talking to a black cup of coffee.


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    May 29th, 5:45pm report

    Although I have enjoyed reading many of these interpretations of Sound of Silence it is obvious that many of you are over analysing the lyrics, trying to think too deeply, extremely young & far from a product of the times. Both Simon & Garfunkel have many interviews on the subject of this song & not one of you are even close. Keep trying though, it's entertaining to see the youth of today second guess those of us who lived it.


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    Mar 15th, 2017 3:15am report

    I think it's about silence.


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    Feb 20th, 2017 2:24pm report

    I think the song is about a man who's living in a society where the government's not allowing freedom of speech and is willing to change that!


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    Dec 24th, 2016 12:20pm report

    I think the great thing about this song is that it means different things to each person who hears it. It's almost like poetry in a sense. Personally it means that my words fall on deaf ears and no matter what I say nobody listens even though I'm trying to help others. It frustrating but all we can do is try. Simon and garfunkel wrote a great song but if you never heard disturbed sing it your really missing out. I got goose bumps the first time I heard their version. I hope y'all have a GREAT life and always try your best and things will be just fine.


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    Dec 23rd, 2016 12:28am report

    I think it about tripping on acid and trying to write a good song.

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway


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    Sep 13th, 2016 9:25pm report

    He is talk about the sound of silince and how it can help you think about your life


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    May 24th, 2016 5:26am report

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

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    Apr 2nd, 2016 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

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway


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    Mar 11th, 2016 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.


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    Feb 28th, 2016 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


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    Dec 27th, 2015 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.


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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.


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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.


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