No One Dare Disturb The Sound of Silence

I am no music critic; just a humble listener who knows what they like and what they don’t. What I like? Simon and Garfunkel. What I don’t like? (Generally) People covering Simon and Garfunkel. I understand there is a time and a place for covers – presumably when an artist can bring something new, something unique and something arguably better to the table. There are no doubt countless examples of average songs that have been elevated by an alternative ear, a different voice and a new sound. I myself have over the years, probably to the horror of many, preferred cover versions to their originals. Some of these rooted in almost fact that they are “better” and others based on nothing more than my preference for a particular artist. In regards to the latter I’ll not be too specific as I’m liable to lose all credibility.

When you think about it, it seems an awful injustice that someone, who took the time to craft their melody, perfect their sound and create those meaningful lyrics that probably encapsulate the loss of a previous lover, should be subjected to the misinterpretation of their song. A pain which I’m sure can, thank God, only be alleviated by millions of pounds of royalties.

By the title of this piece, I’m sure you’ve gathered what has inspired my latest rant. To those who know me, they will know that I am a huge Simon and Garfunkel fan. And herein lies the bias. I am fully aware that my words are probably clouded in a spellbinding mist of love and adoration for the duo and are a far cry from a neutral standpoint. For the purposes of this, you’ll also note I have revised the lyrics to the song that you see in the title. They should read “No one dared. Disturb the sound of silence.” In this instance, someone has dared disturb it and ironically they come in the form of a band named Disturbed.  A heavy metal band, this seemed like an unorthodox choice for the group, one which I can respect and understand if little else. I often think had I possessed some kind of musical talent and decided to go on one of those TV talent shows I too would cover The Sound of Silence. A timeless classic of this nature always prompts these lesser renditions.

People writing songs that voices never share. No one dared. Disturb the sound of silence.

As I write this, my initial hardened stance has softened. Disturbed, like many of us, were inspired by the song and wanted to “pay homage and honor” to its creators by reimagining it. It just simply did not need reimagined. It stood in its original format completely perfect.  The softness cannot be emulated; the haunting undertone mirrored; the honesty echoed.

I recall hearing it live – admittedly by Garfunkel alone and 50 years later. Artie, in his seventies and struggling with his voice, still managed to perfectly embody the spirit of the song in a way that a younger man or stronger voice could not have. It belongs to him and Simon (and no, we’re not getting into the Paul Simon vs. Art Garfunkel debate now).

Others have quite openly stated their preference for this newer version. I imagine every time this happens a fairy somewhere dies. And that is where my real problem lies. I shudder at the suggestion that someone could hear both and get more from the latter. I despair at the thought that many will not even know that another or better version even existed; one which captivated audiences around the world and cemented the beginning one of the most powerful careers in music history.

I recognise that some good may come of this. Perhaps when millions flock to YouTube to listen to this song, they will note those two odd looking chaps in black and white and think to click on them – not only offering them the true Sound of Silence but a catalogue of music so wonderful they’ll wonder how they had managed to go their whole lives without ever having listened to those two chaps before. After all, it’s what happened the first time I heard The Sound of Silence.

For that, I suppose I can thank you Disturbed. But I beg you: stay away from Bridge Over Troubled Water.

 

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Walking Without Music

Going for a walk to clear your head is not an uncommon suggestion.  With the wind in your hair, the rain on your face and the (very) occasional glimmer of sunshine on your skin, you are at one with the elements and at one with yourself; free to breathe in the fresh air and take in the sights and sounds of the outside world.

Sort of.

Chances are you noticed none of that shit. Bar the rain, of course. There’s no way you weren’t somehow shocked and disappointed that it decided to rain on you, despite the fact that it rains almost EVERY SINGLE DAY in this place.

I realise that I’m going to sound incredibly lazy when I say that I am not a fan of walking. I never have been. I view it as a necessary evil to get from A to B, not some kind of leisure activity in itself. But now that I have a child, I feel obliged to step outside every once in while – to ensure Caleb meets his minimum intake of vitamin D more than anything else. Sure, if the weather’s nice I’m much happier to take a stroll but that isn’t exactly a regular occurrence in drizzly old N.I. One day last week however, when quite possibly experiencing our entire summer, Caleb and I ventured out with little resignation.

Like most ‘walkers’ I insert the headphones, stick on shuffle, and head off totally unaware of what’s going on outside of the song playing. Listening to the music on my iTunes can only be described as a singular experience. During last week’s walk for instance I was greeted by a medley that ranged from The Last of the Mohicans theme song to Haddaway’s ‘What is Love?’ to Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’ (my musical taste is admittedly slightly dated). This blend of genres and eras had the effect of creating a rather messy mixture of memories and emotions as opposed to providing some kind of cathartic walking experience akin to the likes of a Robert Frost Poem.

One song might remind you of a loved one who’s no longer with you. Another might bring back memories of an old flame you’d much rather forget. Or one might just painfully force you to remember the time poor Hawkeye lost his brother (The Last of the Mohicans reference). It all depends on the hand that ‘Shuffle’ has dealt you. In any case, if you’re anything like me, you end up feeling less like you’re on a head-clearing walk and more like you’re on some emotionally exhausting trip down memory lane.

This is not necessarily negative. The splendour of music lies in its ability to transport us to forgotten moments of the past; evoking our senses in a much more powerful way than any other medium. In my experience, it’s just simply not conducive to clearing your head. It’s what we do when we explicitly want to ‘feel’ something. Whether you want to wallow in your own self pity alongside Sinead O’Connor or psych yourself up to lyrics of ‘We Will Rock You’, music has the power to flick that emotional switch for you.

Isn’t the whole point of clearing your head though the exact opposite of this; being able to abandon the past, shut out the future and focus on the sheer wonder of the ‘now’. It wasn’t until I took out my headphones and replaced them with the ‘here’ and ‘now’ that I realised how much more relaxing a walk could be. Rather than feeling emotionally fucked by Jeff Buckley, I was free to observe the pleasant chirping of the birds, the occasional outburst of gibberish from my son and the warmth of the sunshine against my pasty skin. I was granted rare permission in the chaos of today’s world to fully focus on what is – not what was or might be.

This is not to say I will be shunning music from now on in favour of chanting ‘Om’ to some unknown deity but rather that when I feel the need to escape, I will do just that. I will put Prince (God rest his soul) on pause until the next emotionally drunken night with the girls and save the sweetness of Simon and Garfunkel for another time. But for those walks – the kind of walks you take when you really need one – I will resist the urge to get lost in the music and instead embrace the breeze, trace my footsteps, and watch the world. After all, sometimes all you need are a few drops of rain and a gust of wind to really clear your head.