Tonight it's The Simon and Garfunkel Story, at the Music Hall in Aberdeen. These are the two demi-Gods of my own teenage years, I thought then as now they have a sound and a voice that ranges from playful to poignant, from mischief to wistfulness, from passionate political protest to love fulfilled or requited. And as a young man I sensed there was a seriousness in their take on life, a humanity and compassion in many of their lyrics, anger and resistance to those forces and social realities that dehumanise, from civil rights to Vietnam, from urban poverty to human exploitation. That may all sound idealistic, and much of it is, but listening to them nearly 50 years after Sound of Silence was released, their own peculiar sound still re-awakens memories of my own emerging view of a world where JFK, MLK, Vietnam, CND and other issues and causes were worked out in my own developing sense of who I was and who I wanted to be, and what I thought of the world.
Years later, hearing an actor reading Robert Frost's poem, Acquainted with the Night, I sensed the emotional and imaginative connections with the lyrics of The Sound of Silence. So tonight is a tribute show - but for me it has longer roots in my memory. It's an interesting question how formative repeated listening to resonant lyrics borne on music that is emotionally potent can be on moral taste, pers0nal values, life choices and our ability to think for ourselves. Of course we grow away from music of such powerful immediacy, but not before it has touched us into a different awareness of who we are and what matters to us.
There were plenty other groups and artists pouring out music in that decade of my growing up that was the 1960's, when nearly all the classic Simon and Garfunkel songs were produced. They have made a life habit of falling out, re-uniting then splitting again. Paul Simon particularly has pursued a solo career of considerable substance. But the songs in the musical tonight are the iconic ones, given context in narrative and dialogue between the songs. I'm expecting to be a wee bit nostalgic - and grateful for the giftedness of such music into our lives. The Sound of Silence, I am a Rock, Bookends, Homeward Bound, Cecilia, The Boxer, Bridge Over Troubled Water - take your pick, they are masterpieces in my canon of classic folk rock!
For those who want poetry here are two brilliant evocations of urban life, its anxieties, loneliness and understated menace to the humanity of those who live in cities where the drivers are not self-evidently beneficial to those who live there.
Acquainted With the Night (Robert Frost)
I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain -- and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.
I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.
I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,
But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
A luminary clock against the sky
Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.
The Sound of Silence (Paul Simon)
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 dared
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
In the words that it was forming
And the signs said, 'The words of the prophets
Are written on the subway walls and tenement halls'
And whispered in the sounds of silence.