My good pal, Julie Gomoll, recently introduced me to a cover version of Simon and Garfunkel’s classic, The Sound of Silence (video below). This unexpectedly beautiful interpretation by heavy metal band, Disturbed, took my breath away. I’m not a huge fan of metal, but this haunting version was worthy of multiple listens, which triggered a memory I’ve kept stored in a cardboard box since 1983.
My 9th grade English teacher, Mr. Khouri, was a cool cat whose unique superpower was his ability to make poetry interesting to a room full of angsty teenagers—no small feat. He treated us like adults and earned our respect by speaking to us in language we could understand; sometimes that language was music.
Since a thoughtful investigation into the deeper meanings behind Van Halen’s Hot for Teacher seemed inappropriate, we went back in time to find a song resembling poetry. To a bunch of 15-year-olds, anything further back than 1980 was as distant as William Blake, so Mr. K had plenty of options. He decided The Sound of Silence was a worthy challenge and asked us to interpret it. (If you’re into trite student essays, scroll down for a real treat.) Thanks to my mom’s excellent record collection,* I was already familiar with the song but hadn’t really considered its meaning.
This morning I dug up that assignment and was surprised to find a prophetic, if overly dramatic and awkwardly written, paper. Embarrassing melodrama and repetitive content aside, the thing that sticks out most is how weirdly current it seems. It could have been written by a technology-savvy kid today (hopefully one with a more extensive vocabulary and fewer clichés).
Keep in mind, I wrote this before cell phones and Facebook. Tweeting was bird-speak, and the library card catalog was years away from being replaced by Google.** When we weren’t in school, our parents had no idea where we were or what we were doing, unless we checked in by payphone—a hazardous act akin to French kissing the outbreak monkey.
My question is this: What technology was I referring to in my paper? Touchtone phones? VHS recorders? The Space Shuttle…? And if Teen Weenie’s interpretation of The Sound of Silence is accurate, what technology were Paul and Art referring to in 1964? Color TV? Cassette players? Valium…? Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe I’ll ask my mom.
Next time on Weenie Writes: Ilene reflects on her essay about George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984. (No, I’m not kidding. I still have that one too, and it’s just as bad… maybe worse.)
*For any youngsters who may be reading this, a record is like a very large, round iPod that spins on a DJ’s turntable—only without the DJ or ecstasy-laced lollipops.
**Again, for the Millennials: A library card catalog is basically the Internet in drawers.
The Sound of Silence, by Disturbed:
Embarrassing 9th grade essay (two pages, click for larger versions):