Words & Signs on Tenement Walls

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And the sign flashed out its warning

In the words that it was forming

And the sign said:

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“The words of the prophets are

Written on the subway walls-

And tenement halls,

And whispered in the sound of silence.”

– Paul Simon

“The Sound of Silence” 1964

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Then I grew angry and cursed, with the curse of silence, the river, and the lilies, and the wind, and the forest, and the heaven, and the thunder, and the sighs of the water-lilies. And they became accursed and were still. And the moon ceased to totter in its pathway up the heaven –and the thunder died away –and the lightning did not flash –and the clouds hung motionless –and the waters sunk to their level and remained –and the trees ceased to rock –and the water-lilies sighed no more –and the murmur was heard no longer from among them, nor any shadow of sound throughout the vast illimitable desert. And I looked upon the characters of the rock, and they were changed –and the characters were SILENCE.”

Silence – A Fable

(published 1838)

by Edgar Allan Poe

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12 thoughts on “Words & Signs on Tenement Walls

    1. It is a very powerful performance and the context of the video relates very well to current world events.

      I was wondering if anyone would catch the Poe gaze . šŸ™‚

      I found the the static screen GIF posted as a comment in an online discussion. Use of visuals & memes as part of a dialogue is becoming quite common. One person mentioned that there are generations that have no idea that the static screen was once a common part of the television experience. šŸ˜€

      1. Yes! Now you mention it, yes! I used to be involved with a very talented sound artist. He did a project about endangered sounds. The static sound would make a good addition to the piece. The visuals of the static could be part of an endangered images project

  1. Yes, the words of Simon’s song have just as much if not more relevance now. I find though that I have sensory overload with music videos — the visuals, the performance, the musical arrangements, the performer — all combine to distract from the meaning and affect of the lyrics. Ah, maybe that’s just me.

    By the way I liked the second of your own images — redolent of domes seen from below I can imagine both musical sounds and near silence echoing around and reflecting back from these, like the effects in the Whispering Gallery at St Paul’s in London or up in the dome of Florence’s Duomo.

    1. Thanks so much for the connections you brought the visual compositions. As to your observations about music videos, I agree that most fail to effectively convey the musical performance. So far, I have discerned a few types of these videos.

      1. Straight performance – Post Modern Jukebox are good examples of those.

      2. Narrative & setting – these try and emulate the traditional movie & stage musicals. Starting with the choice of music, much can go wrong in the execution.

      3. Visual Poem – an attempt to create a visual experience that builds on the lyrics /music. I think the Sound of Silence video by Disturbed makes effective use of cinematography to emphasize the current plight of refugees and the media construct of those who try to silence them. Again it is a matter of execution. Too many simplistic lyrics are presented in this style, either generating form without content or demonstrating that the lyric and music only are fully realized in the context of the accompanying visuals.

      4. Hybrid marketing – a selected piece of music that is part of a movie. Present the video as a montage of performance and scenes from the movie. As my grandfather would say, half horse, half rabbit . The result is a big mess in the vegetable garden. šŸ˜€

      1. I liked the way you’ve formulated and described these categories of music videos — much food for thought and further observation. Not that I watch a lot of these videos!

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