The National September 11 Memorial: Paul Simon Performs The Sounds of Silence

The National September 11 Memorial

It was a day of quiet grace and open grief, a time for solemnity, reflection and togetherness. The National September 11 Memorial was commemorated today not with the cutting of a ribbon, but with the ringing of a bell, the same bell that had clanged for the past nine years, calling out the impacts of those four planes, the collapse of those twin towers. Paul Simon performed The Sounds of Silence in front of the families of 9/11 victims at Ground Zero, an appearance that was part of the observances for the 10th anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks in New York City. Simon’s performance was described as perhaps the most moving moment of the ceremony.

Remembering 9/11: Paul Simon Performs Sings The Sounds of Silence

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Photo of the Day: The Warriors, Angels and Prophets Spread the Word

Photo of the Day: The Warriors, Angels and Prophets Spread the Word

Photography by:  Joseph O. Holmes, NYC

The words of the prophets,
Are written on the subway walls,
And tenement halls,
And whispered in the sounds of silence.

-Simon and Garfunkel, The Sounds of Silence

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Arthur Garfunkel: Belated Gratitude

A SENSE OF CALM

What follows are a number of reminiscent thoughts about an early friendship, an open letter of thanks to Arthur Garfunkel.

Arthur, I have often thought about the gratitude that I have always harbored for what you gave me, I’m sure unknowingly, during our friendship in New York. But now, for some reason, I have come to actually feel that gratitude. An interesting reversal of things, for we often struggle to attach thoughts to our feelings, rather than, as in this case, suddenly experiencing the feelings associated with a thought.

I remember our first encounter, when I was a relatively unimportant assistant director in the financial aid office at Teachers College, Columbia University. You came into the office and described how you had just returned from England, where your first album had been released to little critical acclaim and little general notice or popularity–quite frankly, a “flop.” You had decided that, in the face of this seeming musical failure, you would turn your attention to becoming a teacher, to helping children.

Young and really knowing little, in my position at Teachers College I had quickly figured out how to help a prospective student fill out his/her financial aid application in a way that made it a “slam-dunk” success. So, in a way, I think that I helped to provide you with some sense of safety and comfort during a period of some significant disappointment and despair. And you hid it well. I remember, with great humor, your asking me if I wanted to join your new back-up band. “But what would I do?“, I asked. You replied, “Play the guitar, of course.” “But I don’t play the guitar,” I responded. “Oh…,” you said.

About a month later, the album was released in the United States, instantly becoming a monumental success: The Sounds of Silence. Suddenly, you were on the royal road to national fame and significant financial wealth. And I was off to a an unplanned journey to becoming a teacher for the poor and later, a psychoanalyst working with young people suffering from disturbed emotions. As our lives took different paths, my memories of you have always remained with me.

The Sounds of Silence and your later album, Bridge Over Troubled Water, have always been quiet inspirations to the way in which I have always worked with young people. And now I actually feel the gratitude toward you that has always been a part of my reminiscent thoughts about you.

Arthur, thank you very, very much.

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