Simon And Garfunkel: Folk Music Analysis

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Simon and Garfunkel was a folk-rock duo that was a part of the 1960’s folk revival. Their music evokes certain elements from the folk tradition, including the use of the strophic form and certain themes, such as family, love, and loss. These themes were very important to the folk tradition because it was the reason and rhyme behind these songs. As a short example, the song called, The Boxer, released in 1969, stands out as an allegory for Paul Simon’s life. (Enders, 379) However, the element that stands out the most in this song is not the meaning behind it, but the music itself. The timbres of this song reflect folk tradition, such as the use of acoustic guitars, bass harmonicas, and a soft, steady tapping of the guitar and its strings. However,…show more content…
The origin of folk music dates all the way to the expansion of the ballad tradition in America. (Star and Waterman, 17) During the nineteenth century, England dominated America, leading the popularization of folk ballads. These ballads were mainstream songs that were printed as sheet music that people could play at home and sing with. The most important elements of a folk ballad were its strophic form and looping melody, such as what we hear in the song called Barbara Allen. As immigrants began travelling to America to escape famine and oppression, music began growing more diverse. (Star and Waterman, 19) As American music expanded, the identity of folk music also began to slip into a newer, broader form. Alternatively, when asked about the definition of folk music, modern-day composer, Earl Robinson, said that he believes that the “concept of folk music was living tradition.” (Dunaway, 9) In other words, he believes that folk music is about singing of the events happening around you. However, in the book Singing Out: An Oral History of America’s Folk, it states that, there is a debate about what folk music is. As a matter of a fact, many early folk collectors believe that to be a “true folk song,” the song had to be age old and anonymous, while others believe that folk music squeezes its way into modern society. (Dunaway, 9-10) Many who study folk music would agree that there is a correlation…show more content…
Correspondingly, the timbres of this song contain a haunting acoustic guitar, a gritty electric guitar, bass, drums, and the voices of Simon and Garfunkel. The rhythm of this song has a standard beat, while its form is strophic. The melody of Sound of Silence has an interesting contour because of the way it rises and falls. This melody gives the song a remorseful, melancholy tone. On the other hand, the harmony of the song has an interesting texture because of the way it layers instruments on top of each other, such as the electric guitar on top of the acoustic guitar at the beginning of the song. Overall, this song conveys serious depressing emotions. It is reminiscent of the times when we feel as closed off from the rest of the world. The “sound of silence,” in the song is the sound of loneliness, representing the feeling that no one cares about you, that you are completely alone. I believe that these emotions hit hard with the people during the 1960’s because they have experience those feelings all the time. It reminded them of how the world, society, is against them just because they are a different race, gender, or sexuality. This song made these minorities want to fight harder, which is why I think their song gained so much popularity. Further analysis shows, that the 4th Edition of American Popular Music, by Larry Starr and Christopher Waterman, define folk rock as urban
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