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Paul Simon performs at Richardson Auditorium March 3. (Denise Applewhite/Office of Communications)
Paul Simon performs at Richardson Auditorium March 3. (Denise Applewhite/Office of Communications)

Singer and songwriter Paul Simon was more interested in baseball than music as a child, he told an audience of Princeton students, faculty, and staff in a conversation with creative writing professor Paul Muldoon in Richardson Auditorium March 3. Simon, who first emerged on the music scene as a teenager as part of the duo Simon and Garfunkel, discussed the purpose of art and how he gets ideas for his lyrics, and closed the event by singing “The Sound of Silence.” He also played a recording of a new song, “The Insomniac’s Lullaby.” The event opened with a cappella group the Nassoons singing several of Simon’s songs. Creating art “is about emotions, trying to reach other people. It’s about art as beauty,” Simon said. Discussing whether one should donate money to help cure a disease or fund a museum, Simon explained the importance of art for him: “If we don’t acknowledge the highest part of our humanity, it’s not a full picture. It’s not who we are. It doesn’t examine joy enough. That’s the privilege of being a human being.” When Muldoon asked how he came up with the song title “René and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After the War,” Simon described looking at a book with a similarly worded photo caption while visiting songwriter Joan Baez and thinking, “What a great title for a song. ... It’s just so unlikely that there would be a story there. It’s not like I thought, ‘There’s my next hit.’ “ Earlier in the day, he sat in on Muldoon’s class on songwriting and talked to the students about the creative process. Simon told the audience, “I kept saying in class today, ‘What don’t you like about your song?’ I feel ... the ear goes to the irritant.”