Hello Darkness…

Men of the East Yorkshire Regiment, Frezenberg, 1917.  Ernest Brooks, photographer. (IWM Q3014)

The silhouette. Men of the East Yorkshire Regiment, Frezenberg, 1917. Ernest Brooks, photographer. (IWM Q3014)

…my old friend

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”.
(Often attributed to Edmund Burke, Irish Statesman, circa 1770).

The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time.
(British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey, British Foreign Secretary, 1914).

We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light a candle that can guide us through the darkness to a safe and sane future…For the world is changing. The old era is ending. The old ways will not do.
(John F. Kennedy, U.S.A. Presidential Nominee, 1960).

The Sound of Silence – a recent steady investigation of an old tune, now a new tune, from the unlikeliest of sources. Written by folk musician Paul Simon this 1960s song represents an era of desired change and questioning and yet with its re-recording, by Chicago-based heavy metal band Disturbed, that change and questioning now echoes and resonates in a true haunting of the historical and the present.

The power of Disturbed frontman’s voice, David Draiman, brings a new darkness to The Sound of Silence. That darkness – a constant old friend that one can find in the contemplation of military history its causes and effects, its people – its ghosts, its darkness and light. Perhaps it is my familiarity with another song by Disturbed, Down With the Sickness, that first attracted me, the contrast between the two songs, however, cannot be further apart. And yet it is my continual interest in point – counter-point, dark-light, and the “on the other hand” of history, that has made me want to re-investigate these words by Simon as a present day observer of the historical tangle of trenches and wires, the wreckage of man’s mirth with industrial and scientific slaughter.

As I read through the lyrics and cast myself in my adaption I see our veteran survivor, not necessarily alone, not necessarily haunted, but one who must live with what they have seen. The constant reminder being darkness who our soul visits on occasion, and where in the night the subconscious becomes tangled with memory and reality. Always pondering those recollections, keeping the silence…

And still, fresh with these visions and the creeping, our friend sees these things that disturb his silence – the reminders and the triggers – the neon light, perhaps a flare – the capture of movement leading to the constant “duht-duht-duht” of an all-searching machine gun’s voice.  As I continue to envision the lyrics I see 10, 000 people talking but without speaking – observers hearing without listening. I can only grasp at those lost voices now below the earth, within the darkness, in search of light, in search of one that might…hear their voice…

It is the shadowy ache of this song, the dark that we all know and the desire to find the light that I find entrancing. Dark-light, folk-metal, Simon-Draiman all fuses together as witness and sage to the silence in each one of us and beckons for peace to be with you and for all. As one who has silently contemplated the carved markings of soldiers in their habitats, one can only hope that their chiseled record, within these halls, will resonate within the silence of our observations and that perhaps as we whisper our thoughts to ourselves, we will find that the light that rises each day – our more than equal friend to the darkness.

The Sound of Silence (Lyrics as sung by David Draiman)

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 dare
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
Echoed in the wells of silence

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign lashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said, the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls
And whispered in the sound of silence
[Written by Paul Simon, 1963-64. Performed by Simon and Garfunkel]

Screenshot from the official Disturbed video "The Sound of Silence". 2016.

Screenshot from the official Disturbed video The Sound of Silence. 2016, featuring a silhouetted landscape.


About The Author

pferguson
In April 2007 Paul met Casey and Ian Williams of the Paradigm Motion Picture Company in Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul has worked with Paradigm since 2009 as Producer and Historian. Paul's sensitivity to film was developed at an early age seeing his first films at RCAF Zweibrucken, Germany and Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was amazed by films such as David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Film captivated Paul and he became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography and soundtracks. At the University of Victoria, Paul studied and compared Japanese and Australian film and became interested in Australian film maker Peter Weir and his film "Gallipoli" (1981). Paul was entranced when he learned Weir had visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. The film "Gallipoli" alone led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii and Gallipoli. It was, however, when Paul watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", that Paul understood how his own experience and insight could be effective and perhaps influential in film-making. Combining his knowledge of Museums and Archives, exhibitions and idea strategies with his film interests would be a natural progression. Paul thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm an eye (and ear) to the keen and sensitive interests of; content development, the understanding of successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Like Paul's favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, he believes in the adage “To deepen not broaden.” While on this path Paul always remembers his grandmother whose father did not return from the Great War and how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to guide him.

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