Today's Moodish Thought, "My old friend, Darkness," or, the "irony" of The Sound of Silence

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Summary: Words are a clay not fully formed until they become shared thought. A good example of this is The Sound of Silence.

BLOT: (12 May 2016 - 01:56:51 PM)

Today's Moodish Thought, "My old friend, Darkness," or, the "irony" of The Sound of Silence

Quick, let's come up with the perfect song for a trailer for a third series of a show about a depressed detective, and we want it to convey a hint of darkness and facing your demons and capturing Nietzsche's "Und wenn du lange in einen Abgrund blickst, blickt der Abgrund auch in dich hinein." What song might convey that?

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
Turned my collar to the cold and damned
When my eyes were stabbed
By the flash of a neon light
Split the night
And touched the sound of silence
Fools said I 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

There are those who will, of course, prefer the original [much like with the Wallander-TV series itself, ha!]. Kina Grannis is missing the more direct religious imagery of bowing and praying and the most famous non-"Hello darkness" line in the song—"The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls and whispered in the sound of silence"—which slightly alters the song from a bit of a lecture about worshipping modernity obscuring communication [which seems quaint in a post 60s world where "worshipping street lamps" would be considered a relatively healthy outdoor social activity] to a more pure meditation on darkness and insomnia as an act of self-alienation that makes you a stranger on the streets.

Words are clay not fully formed until they become shared thought. This song is an example of that, to me, even besides the fact that it deals strongly with being unheard and unhearing. A quick Youtube search for "hello darkness my old friend" [and ignoring covers/concerts/music-videos] reveals almost entirely videos in which people act depressed, are disappointed, are defeated, are mocked, are lonely, or in some other ways are staring into the figurative darkness, where darkness = bad thoughts. But let's go back to the song itself (and this time I will use the Simon & Garfunkel original):

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

Note that it is not the darkness that is destroying the singers, but the light. The darkness represents the night where the singers can be themselves, representing heartfelt communication while the light is treated like a migraine worshipped as a false god.

As a person who regularly walks late at night when everyone else is in bed, a person who gets out and walks around every town he visits once the people he is with go to sleep, and a person who just sits outside in the darkness with his cat and watches stars, I dig it. Also, I might have ripped it off in half a dozen poems. Still, it is important to note that for some people, alienation is required to accept socialization. If I hang out with people for three hours, I need at least an hour or two of alone time to not grow to hate the former. Call it moody if you will, but taking time to face yourself in the mirror of your own thoughts is vital for folks like me.

photo credit: Instagram/emariegraphy

But here is the thing, I am not saying the others are outright wrong. While I am broadly an intentionalist [meaning that the artist's intention should be considered in art analysis], I am not beholden to it. Art lives in the act of being viewed, read, understood, dismissed, chewed up, reused, and so forth. All art is performance art. All art requires audience participation.


Written by Doug Bolden

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