Sound of Silence

The Simon and Garfunkel rendition of “Sound of Silence” (1964) recently got a remake. Performed by the Chicago-originated band Disturbed, this is no folk-song version. I like the original, but I like this version more: it is raw, angry, apocryphal in tone and delivery. I heard it for the first time today as I was driving home from work. I am a person who responds viscerally to music, and when the music is combined with lyrics that powerful, I tend to cry. Today, I pulled over so I could process what I’d heard.

“Sound of Silence” doesn’t make me nostalgic, exactly; though as music will, I am reminded of what I was doing when I heard the song the first time. My friend and I performed this song in our high school talent show. We both dressed in black, wanting to represent the deep and ponderous nature of the song. Did we really take ourselves that seriously? No, but we pretended that we did. The performance was fine, I suppose, insofar as we didn’t get tomatoes thrown at us (do people actually do that?).

Today, I was reminded that music communicates in ways that other art forms do not. I can be astounded by a work of art, impressed with the sheer physical nature of dance, touched deeply by words, or any combination of grateful and humbling adjectives to describe any art form’s impression on my psyche. Music reaches somewhere else, though. It creates almost a form of synesthesia in which I feel the music (like dancing) and see an image (like art or writing) – only different. I am obviously not a music critic or I could describe this more effectively, but essentially Disturbed sang this song in a way that woke me up from my daily grind and whacked me upside the head, in a good way.

Of course, as a wordy person, I listened to the lyrics. The yelling delivery of the line “But my words like silent raindrops fell” exposes the contrast between what people say and what we mean. My favorite lyric: “Silence like a cancer grows.” Taken out of the context of the song, I was reminded of what tends to cause people to misunderstand each other: silence, or at the very least, not very good communication.

In any case, I am grateful to the coincidence that had me tuning into that particular station on the radio. This is why I love music. It’s impressive how changing tone or instrumentation can impact the overall meaning of a song. Wow. Just wow.

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I Put This Moment Here

1986, senior year of college (don’t judge). One of my room mates was an artist, a creative person who acted the part of a tortured soul while wearing designer jeans and vacationing with friends. To be fair, we were all trying on personas; fortunately the tortured soul façade didn’t stick. One aspect that did was that she had incredible taste in music. My own musical choices were more Madonna and top-40 rock ballads punctuated with Safety Dance. Look it up and laugh if you must – it was big hair and loud voices for me. My friend, though, liked to explore the depths of her soul with acoustically jarring music in a range of styles. She liked my top-40 nonsense, but she also liked more experimental music. In particular, she played Laurie Anderson and Kate Bush almost, but not quite incessantly.

A set of lyrics from Kate Bush stayed with me. The name of the song didn’t, but I still remember Bush’s haunting, melodic whisper:

I put this moment … here

I put this moment … here

Many years and multiple top-40 hits later, I still think of this refrain. Perhaps the song itself was shocking, though obviously not enough that I remember anything else about it. The idea of placing memories in locations, almost like a collection, was brilliant, quite relatable for an overly enthusiastic 21 year old with no clear sense of direction. At the time, I figured if I just kept putting my moments … here, answers would reveal themselves to me because I had organized my memories so nicely.

Obviously, it didn’t work out that way. Some of the moments I put away were painful, others were celebratory. Some didn’t get put away very well at all, their telltale reverberations ricocheting around my noggin. Those memories were the recurring ones: holidays, dinner around the table with my family, laughter in general.

This is, theoretically, the time of year when we give thanks. Some people pass their gratitude around the dinner table only to forget it by the time the pumpkin pie is served. I can rattle off a gargantuan list of what I’m grateful for (my family, friends, health, etc.), but truly one of the biggest things I’m grateful for is my memory. All those little mismatched moments piece together willy-nilly to make up my psyche. Depending on the time of year, the music playing in the background, or my mood, I sift through my memories like a child turns a kaleidoscope. Each memory is unique – and because it’s memory, it changes in the act of remembering.

I hadn’t thought about my roommate in a while, until today when I remembered those two lines as I was reflecting on a difficult moment. I own my internal conflict as much as my tranquility and it usually works out that both are within easy distance of each other. So the kaleidoscope turns, and I file another moment away until I need it again later. I was glad to remember an old friend, and I chuckled as I remembered our different yet harmonious blend of music. Kind of like us.