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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    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.


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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


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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.


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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!


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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.

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway


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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.


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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.


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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


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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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    May 31st, 2012 5:09am report

    i think the speaker has woken from a dream and is telling the darkness, of the night around him, of the vision that deeply troubled or perplexed him. He walked alone where he was haloed by a street lamp. He was suddenly woken by the noen light. That's as far as i got so far. Also somthing to remember the progreesion of the sound of silence; it's touched, it's disturbed, his words echoed in the wells of silence, and finally the whispering in the sound of silence. What is the sound of silence?

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway


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    Apr 20th, 2012 4:45pm report

    It seems to me that during the song there is an incredibly large lack of communication and no matter what he said, ("Fools said I, you do not know
    silence like a cancer grows.")
    the large amount of people will not listen and continue to listen to their "Neon God." I do believe, like others as well, that this "Neon God" is a refrence to how people become obsessed with the very shallow outside surroundings around them and not on the important things. The silence of real communication and real thought has stopped them from looking at the world and seeing if the things around them are right or wrong.


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    Apr 20th, 2012 4:45pm report

    It seems to me that during the song there is an incredibly large lack of communication and no matter what he said, ("Fools said I, you do not know
    silence like a cancer grows.")
    the large amount of people will not listen and continue to listen to their "Neon God." I do believe, like others as well, that this "Neon God" is a refrence to how people become obsessed with the very shallow outside surroundings around them and not on the important things. The silence of real communication and real thought has stopped them from looking at the world and seeing if the things around them are right or wrong.


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    Mar 23rd, 2012 3:26am report

    When you sit to meditate with your eyes closed you see darkness before your eyes. You say 'hello'to the darkness because that's is the what we do when we meet someone and mean to start a polite conversation with them. In this case the polite conversation would be sitting there and observing our minds and learing the crap it contains. We literally sit there and argu, discuss, question, laugh,fight, struggle and get intrigued with what our silly minds throw at us..it is a bit like making passionate love with someone and reaching your climax!! In this case the climax would be total silence.

    Now let me interpret the 'vision' part of this great song. It simply points to the fact that when I was sleeping ever so comfortably and peacefully in my mother's womb you (ref. to God) took care of me and nourished me both spiritually and physically. You took care of me so that when I was born into this awful world of ours I was fully supplied with knowledge
    how to survive in it. The seed of that knowledge was planted there in my mother's womb while I was sleeping waiting to see this horrid, horrid world of ours.

    While I was sleeping in my mother's womb, I was totally, totally aware of your Presence oh God! In fact my soul saw you through the whole stay. I was at one with you there. As soon as I came into this world I sort of forgot you and that is why I have to sit in meditation and reach that silence again in order to feel your wonderful and comforting Presence for that's where you are.....in the sound of Great Silence.


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    Mar 19th, 2012 3:43pm report

    For another take on a possible understanding of the lyrics, read the story of Elijah's vision of God "passing by" when Elijah was fleeing for his life. God was "not in the wind", "not in the earthquake", and "not in the fire". Then came "a sound of sheer silence". - 1 Kings 19:4-12.
    New Revised Standard Version. The King James Version of the Bible translates it as "a still small voice".



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    Mar 6th, 2012 3:20pm report

    I beleive that this is deeper than just "lack of communication." I can't entirly describe it. I think that It's more like, not being heard. There are all of these people in the world being opressed, even today. People who's voices are not allowed to be heard, perhaps partly because we refuse to hear them. We refuse to see any point of veiw but our own. People refuse to listen to anyone who has not conformed to the rest of sociey. As a perosn with Asperger's Syndrome, a form of high functioning autism, I am all to aware of this opression. How other people shove aside those who are different, and refuse to hear them, even when thier ideas are amazing. The teachers who refused to recognize that though I have many gifts, I'm still disabled. Right now the groups of people who being opressed are gays, Muslims and people with disabilitys, especially the kind of disability like mine where on the surface you appear to be like any other kid, but you really aren't. In the past, many other groups have been opresed; blacks, women, Jews, Native Americans, ect. Throughout history, if you look at it, you see storys of oppression. Storys of all of these voices crying out to be heard, but never passing through this "neon god" of conformity that people have made. Look at history, how everyone just sat back and watched the Halocaust happen, and even when there was evidence of it the world refused to see it. Look at slavery. That was an issue for thousands of years. Since humans first began forming civilizations. When the American Constitution was written, the founders purposly avoided the issue of slavery. All this time, throughout history, there are these voices being shoved aside. Have you ever noticed how in history books the issue of slavery is not mentioned unless it's about the Civil war? Or how the oppression African Americans is not mentioned unless the book is about the Civil Rights movement? How the opression of Gay people is only just begining to come out from behind the neon signt? How Disney shows always have one 'weird' kid who gets picked on, and the 'audience' laughs at it? How people still insist that things Asperger's Syndrome, and ADHD don't exist and people like me are simply 'wierd.'? How when schools lecture kids on bullying, they mention the obvious things, but not the little things that happen much more often, and that really do hurt, like rolling your eyes, shareing a "god this kid is weird" look with your friend, or turning down other people's attempts to be social, or never to passing the ball to the awkward kid in gym class? All the time things like this happen, and no one sees it. And these people you're oppressing are screaming out for you to hear them, but their voices are blocked off by this Neon light that is mentioned in the song. Their screeming and calling out to you, but there is no sound reaching your ears. Then, when a voice finally dose break through the Neon light, you get things like The Civil Rights movement. Afterwards such movements, we look back at history and question why the people at that time could be so cruel, and don't realize how we're acting now. It's like there are all these people who's voices are burried beneath the ground, and everyone else is just walking on a street above and not hearing anything. The people everyone has shoved behind the neon sign of conformity that we built up in society, who are screeming but there is no voice coming out, and the screems fall flat on your muffed ears, that's the sound of silence.

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