Below is one of four interviews from Still Water
Interviewer: When did your interest in music begin?
Art Garfunkel: Music came to me because it was around the house. My parents sang; we had a wire recorder in the Forties; so I just sang because I had a voice, and realized it at age four, and because I had the example of harmony from my parents. I would sing to myself as I was walking to school, and I would sing as if I were preparing to be a singer. I remember singing a song and doing it again in a higher key, walking to school in first grade. I must have been working on getting my range higher. I would sing songs by the Crew Cuts, or the inspirational ones like "You'll Never Work Alone." I guess I was waiting for rock 'n' roll to happen, which hit the radio when I was thirteen. I had just become friends with Paul Simon, my neighbor; we were in school together, so we both jumped on singing and listening to rock 'n' roll.
Interviewer: How old were you when you first performed?
Art Garfunkel: I first performed in talent shows when I was a fourth grader; I must have been nine. As I formed a friendship with Paul in junior high school we would sing in school, and we started doing the songs we wrote. Then we would go into the city and make demonstration records of our songs.
Interviewer: Did you ever envision that you would be well known?
Art Garfunkel: When I was around eight, the idea of being famous seemed like a big kick. And I knew I had a voice, and that it was a good voice. When I was in my early teens and heard records on the radio that Alan Freed was playing, I thought I can do that; I can compete with that level of tightness. . . And I practiced constantly with Paul with a competitive instinct. By the teens I knew I had a shot at the charts. So, in my early years, I must have wished to transcend the neighborhood; to justify my "weirdness" in the neighborhood.
Interviewer: You mentioned finding the perfect place for a good echo.
Art Garfunkel: This is a complex notion. Singers love the reverb, or the bounce-off-the-wall echo effect; it puts sustain on your notes. The modern era of the recording industry, since "Vaya con Dios," is largely about playing with echo and reverb. So I've worked with echo as if it has been my singing partner as early as I can remember; I'd sing in a stairwell, or any bathroom with tiles. Recently I was singing in Central Park under one of those viaducts, and as I centered myself along the axis of the tunnel I realized there was a remarkable echo if one was lined up right in the middle. Then I started to think that possibly the shape of the sounding chamber in the throat and mouth was repeated in the roof of the tunnel, so you were producing a sound from vocal chords to mouth chamber to tunnel chamber, and the shape was a repeat on a larger scale. I thought possibly that was the reason why the tunnel gave such a good echo.
Interviewer: You mentioned that in your trip to Japan, the best part of the day was being able to sing as loudly as you wanted, with no one around to hear. Is it a relief not to have to perform when you sing?
Art Garfunkel: I sing because it gives me pleasure to hear it when it's right. I always bring a kind of shyness to the experience when I sing in front of people, because I'm more comfortable as a singer producing a sound that my own ears enjoy. If others want to listen to it, they may, but I'm not altering my posture toward them. This is why a recording studio is ideal for me; you perform in front of a mike with no one around, against your own standards. That to me is a more comfortable thing than stage work. Privacy goes with singing.
Interviewer: You say that you bring shyness to music. How difficult was it to decide to publish your poems, and was there anything that made you start thinking along that direction?
Art Garfunkel: At some point I was bitten by the inspiration to write. You keep doing it; it takes hold of you. There is no ulterior motive other than than an idea wants to get expressed. So the initial impulse has taken care of itself. But at a certain point, you say, "Who am I writing this to?" Since had the initial inspiration and finished it, who was that for? Was it the therapy of getting something out that needed to be said? Or is it simply, I am seeing who I am, or what's going on in me, crystallized on paper? You realize you're writing to someone, even if it's to a soulmate you're hoping to find. Then you realize: Okay, I'm writing to others. But you think, Which others? How many others? So you think: Okay, I'll send them to friends of mine, so they can know a little better what I'm about. Then you think, I"ll send them out in general. In childhood, the music was born out of the fact that I can sing. With writing, I just had to write these things. With encouragement of various people, I have dared to put them out.
Interviewer: A fair amount of poems deal with the loss, through suicide, of someone you loved very much. Did it help to write about her?
Art Garfunkel: She died in the late Seventies, and I began to write in '83. It became the thing I most wanted to talk about, the thing that was strongest to me. You have many thoughts about someone who leaves you. You know, I'm a great fan of J.S. Bach. Bach left us; but he left behind tremendous work. She left me her journals and memories and pictures, and in 1980 I was not so much hung up as I was a commemorator and an appreciator. I spent a lot of time with her greatness, after the fact; the same way I would if I were uncovering Bach's manuscripts after he departed. There was that aspect of the loss, because she was so fabulous to me. Then, there was the day I realized, I'll never get over this. Because 'getting over it' is synonymous with sweeping the memory under the rug and getting on with life. I kept honoring her, thinking, I'm just giving credit where credit is due.
Interviewer: But then did you feel that life wasn't going forward for you?
Art Garfunkel: That's what they said to me then, and I would say, "Well, what do you think life is for, why is this a wrong way to spend my time? Should I be putting aside this acquaintanceship I'm immersed in, with her journals and books, so I can get on to being acquainted with Dan Rather's six o'clock news? Is that what I should do? Get on with the culture I live in?"
Time can put you in a slightly different place, from which you'll have different feelings about the same things. Sometimes I think: We're born and we encounter living on earth. We encounter it from all the 360 degrees until we die. It stays the same; only the vantage point changes; a nine-year-old's; a twenty-nine-year-old's; sixty-nine-year-old's and loss is in it. The zebra is the same zebra; we just get to see it from all the angles.