Music and books lead to more music and books. New releases refer to past ones, famous and obscure. Genres cross over, involving similar concepts, tropes, devices. Writers and musicians lift, pay tribute, re-imagine, claim as their own and take it a step further in their effort to tell gripping, original stories. Pick up the trail and we end up making extraordinary connections.
Welcome to Connection Degree Three …
The Sound Of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel; American Gods by Neil Gaiman; The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Three phenomenal pieces of entertainment that reference gods and how people conjure up extraordinary entities to make sense of a harsh world. In the name of these deities, among other things, people rise to the challenge round the world, achieving greatness, or, when things go wrong, sinking to the depths of depravity, committing atrocities, forever keen to act in the name of – and be absolved by – something greater than they.
The Sound Of Silence first came out in 1964. It was an acoustic piece by Simon and Garfunkel that didn’t do well at the time. No one cared, to be honest. But a year later – because persistence is beautiful – the song found its way into the college demographic where it touched a nerve, growing in popularity until it became one of the iconic tunes of the 20th century. Simon and Garfunkel’s once-overlooked debut album turned them into stars. The title of the album was Wednesday Morning, 3 AM, which brings to mind
Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and its second protagonist, Wednesday AKA Odin AKA All-Father, Grimnir, or Votan. Wednesday, leader of the old gods, is on a mission against the new gods. He wants to stop these upstarts from taking over America, a land ill-suited for old deities like himself. Tis the era of blacktop roads, gambling, electronics, TV and pixilation i.e. forces of a technological and ever-changing disposition – fickle, uncertain, ill-defined and pathologically unsure of their power and their place in an ever-changing land, as suspicious of each other as they are of their enemies. One of these fickle new gods is Media, a deity whose name alludes to Medea, niece of Circe, granddaughter of the sun god Helios and infamous sorceress who killed her children to take revenge on her husband, Jason, an atrocity that brings to mind
The Hunger Games Trilogy, a story about a futuristic society called Panem and the struggles it faces in the wake of a ruthless tyranny. Panem is ruled by the lavish Capitol whose fancy lifestyle, expensive technology, high fashion and gastronomy are counterbalanced by Peacekeepers whose job is to crush all dissenters with deadly force. On top of that, Capitolians enjoy a supreme form of media entertainment, the highlight of which are the annual Hunger Games: a brutal competition between Tributes from the Twelve Districts of Panem, namely children (12-18 years old) whose task is to fight to the death in a live-televised show. It’s a media extravaganza sustained by the lives of Panem’s children, a sacrifice to the gods of glitz and spectacle, which brings us back to
The Sound Of Silence and how ‘the people bowed and prayed to the neon god they made.’
And there you have it. The Sound Of Silence, American Gods, The Hunger Games. Three incisive pieces of art about the power of the deities that people conjure to make sense of our lives and the actions we take in our effort to come to terms with our conflicting, contradictory, often belligerent nature.