The Sound of Silence – Disturbed

Wake up! Pay attention!

The Sound of Silence is, originally, a song by the American music duo Simon & Garfunkel and was written by Paul Simon in 1963/64. The version featured above is a brilliant and powerful cover by the America heavy metal band Disturbed. The Sound of Silence is one of the singles of Disturbed album Immortalized from 2015 and was a major success worldwide.

The poetic and insightful lyrics of Sound of Silence, ‘play’ with the imaginary of darkness and light to represent people’s inability to communicate, which has been destroyed by their detachment and ignorance.

The song makes an allusion to the extreme capitalism and consumerism that is suffocating society – “the people bowed and prayed to the neon god they made” (neon represents the signs of commercial stores), and further expresses a discontent for humans who do not care to pay attention to anything and anyone. They are “hearing without listening” and are not willing to detach themselves from what is superficial. People simply assimilate the world as it is without challenging it since “no one dare[s] disturb the sound of silence.”

The reference starts with a man who had a revelation that awoken him from a shallow world of superficiality. He then rises and walks alone, and sees the light. In vain, he tries to awake other people – “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”.

More and more, people get lost in a myriad of self-involved problems and forget to pay attention to the world and the people surrounding them. People spend time tweeting, posting selfies on Instagram and updates on Facebook to their one thousand ‘friends’, but in other words this phenomena can be translated in an ocean of people craving attention but without the ability to communicate and engage in actual meaningful contact with others. Without meaningful conversations there are no meaningful emotional and social engagements – “people talking without speaking – hearing without listening”.

The main message is extremely simple. We have to look around, to listen to each other, to pay attention to each other. “Silence like a cancer grows” and if people keep feeding the world with ignorance and selfishness, there will be no meaningful future. Inequalities, discrimination, violence and war – this is what happens when we don’t care about each other. So don’t be “Fools” and “Hear my words that I might teach you”. Wake up and pay attention.

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 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

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 dare
Disturb the sound of silence

“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

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon God they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
And 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

Categories
Sounds from the Bucket
Silvie Vale

Passionate about LGBT issues and human rights, Silvie Vale has recently graduated in Development and International Relations from Aalborg University, Denmark. She is specialized in Global Gender Studies and is particularly interested in creating awareness about matters of social justice. She loves travelling, researching and learning new things.
6 Comments on this post.
  • Avatar
    Sabine
    28 September 2019 at 6:14 am
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    My sister died 1 year ago of a very rare aggressive cancer. I like listening to this song. Unfortunately it reminds me of her and makes me cry every time!!

    • Avatar
      Marc
      15 February 2020 at 1:31 am
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      I will soon feel your pain, My granddaughter who is 3 will shortly and inevitably die of Batten Disease. While perfectly normal now, her end will be far from it. This song to me represents power and a fight she will have everyday while the world around her for gets her. Its up to the living to fight on. Hope you found peace.

  • Avatar
    William Jimenez
    30 September 2019 at 11:12 pm
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    This hits so close to home it makes it very difficult to read or listen to.

    I work with the younger society only to see it all in front of me , no matter voice they hear they don’t listen, can not understand and may never the past leanings.

    I and a few now live outside society to live as We did and hopefully help the few that come to realize their path is wrong .

    May We all survive the next millennium .

  • Avatar
    Mick
    12 October 2019 at 8:45 pm
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    I met Disturbed, while working in NewYork.
    I visited a radio station to survey some antennas on there roof.
    Someone mentioned they were recording Sound of Silence as part of an interview. I was asked if I would like to sit in…no brainer there folks as this is my funeral song..
    Played it twice & managed to talk to the band afterwards.
    Good lads..

  • Avatar
    Wanda
    12 February 2020 at 12:35 am
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    Totally a different view now,I hear what he is saying so very true sad and true thank you

  • Avatar
    Boris D
    26 February 2020 at 5:55 pm
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    A revolt song against establishment, injustice, and passiveness of people.
    It is a warning and a call for change, a call for revolt.
    Here is a breakdown of the song the way I see it:

    “Hello darkness, my old friend
    I’ve come to talk with you again”

    Depression. He feels alone with nobody to communicate his thoughts. Nobody who sees what he sees.

    “Because a vision softly creeping
    Left its seeds while I was sleeping”

    Not clear what kind of a vision is he talking about, but from the rest of the song we can conclude it is about oppression, injustice, manipulation, and brainwashing.
    Seeing different types of oppression, and injustice over the time, while not understanding or not even trying to understand what is behind (while I was sleeping), he does nothing about it. Slowly, from all those disconnected pixels of a world around him, he starts forming a bigger picture, a vision, when connected altogether.

    “And the vision that was planted in my brain
    Still remains
    Within the sound of silence”

    Yet, although, he finally starts seeing the problem, and the cause, he still is not doing anything.

    “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”

    The metaphor use in this part is very heavy, so I will try first to explain some of it.
    Narrow – restricted
    Cobblestone – paving stone tightly put together, and firmly depressed into ground – oppressed people with restricted rights.
    Halo – a ring of light around or above the head of a holy person – god, power, police, establishment.
    He feels like if he is the only one who sees that mass of oppressed people, and injustice toward them created by the system, yet he still ignores it (I turned my collar to the cold and damp). [Think of homeless people you pass by. How many times do we turn our head the other way? How many times we ask ourselves why? If we know why, what did we do to change it?]

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

    The moment he completes the picture, the parts are connected and he has a clear vision, the blinds on his eyes are finally off(“When my eyes were stabbed by The flash of a neon light That split the night). He would like to scream and do something (And touched the sound of silence), but still not there yet.

    “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”

    He realizes, he is not alone who sees all that injustice, many more (Ten thousand people, maybe more) sees that, yet they never mention, or understand that, nor they act upon that. Although, they think about the problems, oppression, and injustice around them (People writing songs that voices never share) they are not ready to stand up and change the situation.
    At the other hand, mainstream media and politicians are pushing narrative that is basically meant to passivize people, and distract, push their anger towards invented enemy, minority groups, and religions. (People talking without speaking People hearing without listening).
    They have no courage to revolt against the system (And no one dared Disturb the sound of silence).
    Even though not completely content with the system, and their lives, they would rather comply, and let other people rule them, than to try to change the system afraid to lose what they have.

    “”Fools”, said I, “You do not know
    Silence like a cancer grows”

    He warns people about passiveness (“Fools”, said I, “You do not know Silence like a cancer grows). If nothing gets changed, and people keep complying, slowly they will get attuned to that and it will become even worse.

    “Hear my words that I might teach you
    Take my arms that I might reach you”

    He is calling people to revolt.

    “But my words, like silent raindrops fell
    And echoed in the wells of silence”

    But nobody answers the call.

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

    People still blinded with false idols, money, and false promises, and empty dreams served by the mass media controlled by establishment and used to brainwash and control 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
    And whispered in the sound of silence.””

    At the time the song was written, besides the mass media (TV, radio, and newspapers), the only way people could express their through was through graffiti (“The words of the prophets are Written on the subway walls And tenement halls), but they do not have impact on larger mass of people (And whispered in the sound of silence.”)

    Please, check The Sound of Silence video at: https://youtu.be/5oQWIjoWoZQ

    I heard S&G version so many times, but did not listen…

    Background
    The song was written 1962 and released 1964.
    Paul Simon wrote a song when he was 21 and took him over 10 months to finish it. According to Paul, parts of the lyrics came from literature he read at college at that time and incorporated into song. At that time Paul was frequently passing through the poor parts of the city on the way to college.

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