As the Music Plays #1

This is a series of posts about the music I play while writing.  Today I’m discussing the first two on my play list — The Sound of Silence.  

Music is a powerful thing.  It can set a mood, inspire, energize, or take us down memory lane.  I love listening to music while I work as it helps block out random distractions and sometimes helps me get into the right frame of mind.  While woodworking I tend to listen to sea shanties – working songs of the sea.  While quilting I’ll listen to almost anything as it’s nice to just have a sound other than the sewing machine.  Strangely enough, I don’t listen to music while I drive.  I used to, but one day about 18 years ago I turned off the radio and never turned it back on.

I do listen to music while I’m writing.  I’ll put my headphones on and click on my writing play list on Spotify and bring up my editor and start typing.  I do this partly to block out the random noises in the house and partly to set my mind into a creative space.  Most of the songs I listen to are poetic in their lyrics, simple in melody and all have some special place in my life that bring back memories that help jumpstart a writing session.

Paul Simon’s The Sounds of Silence is the first song I added to my list.  Written and released in 1964, this is one of those songs that has been with me my whole life.  I remember hearing played on radio, at friend’s homes, and even tried to play on the piano once.  It’s a timeless song that any lover of Simon and Garfunkel or 60’s folk music just listens too.  The melody is simple and the combination of Simon and Garfunkel’s voices just bring the words to life.

But it’s the words, the poetry of Simon’s words that have always spoken to me.  This is one of those songs that can be read as poetry and not lose meaning.  There are so many great lines, like the opening, “Hello darkness, my old friend” or “When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light.”  The overarching theme is how we don’t communicate with each other as in, “People talking without speaking / People hearing without listening.” Sounds a bit like the world today.  It would be easy to go into a detailed essay about the meaning and implications of each line, but I won’t today.  I will suggest that you might want to read the lyrics and see for yourself:

The meanings in the lines just trigger a creative side of my brain and drive out distractions.  That gives me the space to focus on just one thing – transferring my thoughts into words on the screen.  It’s difficult to describe, but for years this is the first thing I listen to, the first part of my writing ritual.  I seldom actually notice when the song ends – it’s not for endings, but beginnings.

Now you want to know why it’s two songs on my play list.  Well, there are two versions of the song that I like, the original Paul Simon version released on the album, The Sounds of Silence, and the cover done by the heavy metal band Disturbed with vocals by David Draiman in 2015.

Here’s the Simon and Garfunkel version:

This is the classic version that most of us know and love.  Simon and Garfunkel’s voices just merge, and complement each other.  Their two voices and Simon’s guitar mix in a way few others have matched.  I’ve listened to other covers of the song and never found a version I like better or even as well.

Until I stumbled on Disturbed’s version after a YouTube search looking for the original.  The band Disturbed with David Draiman as lead vocalist is known as a heavy, heavy metal band and until they decided to cover The Sound of Silence, I’d never heard of them.  I’m not really much of a heavy metal fan.

Here’s the Disturbed version:

It’s powerful version and brings new energy to the original poem.  I also like the visuals they did as part of the video.  Draiman’s vocals are interesting the energy range he covers.  He starts out soft, mellow and introspective like Simon does, but then the song builds in energy and even anger and Draiman is practically yelling by the time he gets to, “and the people bowed and prayed.” Following that he brings it back a little and ends with a powerful “the sounds of silence.”  The visuals in the music video are also additive to my understanding of the song.  They start out slowly too as band members find instruments in the landscape and start a journey.  Pay attention to the lighting on Draimans face as the song progress, sometimes lighting eyes or lips.  

All of it just added to my appreciation of the music and now when I want to listen to this song I have to listen to both versions, because my mind naturally wants to drift between the two interpretations of Simon’s words.

About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I worked in the high tech world doing software release engineering and am now retired. Then I got prostate cancer. Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
This entry was posted in As the music plays and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to As the Music Plays #1

  1. Debra says:

    I suppose it’s safe for me to say I’ve loved this song for more than 50 years now? I have both versions in a playlist as well. I was introduced to the version by Disturbed while watching the television show “The Black List.” At a very dramatic moment that song was introduced and I was riveted. I agree with you that the lyrics are pure poetry. I like this series, Andrew. Keep sharing. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post Andrew 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Simon and Garfunkel’s version has been with me my whole life, too; and I’ve always loved it. Disturbed’s cover is a wonderful take on the classic, and its drama and emotion are breathtaking! The original S&G is still my favourite, though. 🙂

    It’s interesting that you play music while you’re writing – I can’t, unless it’s an instrumental piece. Lyrics are too strong a distraction for me. There’s no room for my words when others’ words are pouring into my ears. Different strokes for everybody, I guess!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Lyrics can be a distraction. I find that I’ll only hear the music when the writing is going badly. When I’m in the “zone” the headphones and music are just that thing that keeps other sounds away.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Dave says:

      I’m with Diane – listening to music with words while writing other words is multi-tasking to me. It’s got to be instrumental or I just can’t focus. On the other hand, I guess I’m technically multi-tasking when I drive since I always have music or talk radio on (unlike you).

      I read enough comments here to spend the four minutes on Disturbed’s version of TSOS. It’s an interesting reinterpretation but I’ll stick with the original. BTW, now I have “Feelin’ Groovy” in my head. That song always brings a smile.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. SusanR says:

    I was going to skip the Disturbed version. Never cared much for covers and love the original so much. But that guy was so compelling …

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You have good taste in music, Andrew.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Just listened and watched the Disturbed version for the first time. It was stunning. Wow! Thank-you for introducing it to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Brian says:

    I have always loved the original version of this song, but when I first heard Disturbed’s version I fell in love with it. I still enjoy Simon and Garfunkle’s but Disturbed is my first pick now.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Good morning, Andrew. I can relate to this post in so many ways. I was born in 1961 and my first memories of music were the era around the unrest at the end of the ’60s. While growing up on the south side of Chicago, we received 25 cents allowance each week for doing our chores and usually headed right over to Sears department store on 60th South Western avenue to blow it on a 45 record. I love music.

    ‘The Sound of Silence’ has always been one of my favorites, as were Simon and Garfunkle. Back then, I preferred folk-ish type music to hard-core stuff. Isn’t it odd how our tastes change (and grow!)

    I heard the Disturbed version of the song a few years ago and it immediately grabbed me. I think the word that best described it for me is ‘haunting’. Their version is so passionate and beautiful, I may even like it better than the original. It is the first song on my ‘All-Time Favorites’ playlist. So even if I hit random, I get to hear it.

    I am not a huge fan of metal, either, but this goes to show there is a possibility in just about everything. It opened my mind to trying new genres and at least giving things a chance.

    Sorry to be so long in my comment, but you struck a chord with me on this one. (No pun intended). Music feeds our souls. Thank you. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Music does feed out soul. When I heard the Disturbed version, I just knew it would be on my play list. They managed to add a new dimension to the song – something I didn’t think was possible.


  9. jfwknifton says:

    That was really interesting, thank you. I haven’t listened to any S & G for years. Perhaps I ought to find them and give them a play.


  10. jfwknifton says:

    That wasa really interesting, thank you. I haven’t listened to and S & G for years. Perhaps I ought to find them and givce them a play.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Wonderful writing method! The first time I heard Disturbed cover this, I got chills. Good ones. Thought maybe this is how it should be sung.

    Liked by 2 people

I'd love to hear from you about this post,

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.