The song Cecilia originated when, at a party, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel began “banging on a piano bench”. The unusual and distinct rhythm comprised of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel slapping their thighs, while Paul’s brother banged the piano bench and another friend strummed a guitar with strings slackened to the point of atonality. Out of the recorded improvised rhythm, there was a 1:15 section that Paul Simon particularly liked. That section was looped in the studio, reverberation was applied, and Paul Simon wrote the guitar line and lyrics. Other musical voices within Cecilia include the sound of drumsticks falling on the parquet floor, and heavily processed xylophone, and, of course, the incredible harmony of Paul Simon’s and Art Garfunkel’s voices.
The contrast within the song arises from the upbeat harmony and rhythm, which create an almost celebratory musical texture against the lyrics of the song, which describe an unfaithful lover. The song’s namesake is a reference to St. Cecilia, the Catholic patron saint of music. In the documentary “The Harmony Game: The Making of Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Jennifer Lebeau (2011), it is suggested that the song might refer to the frustration of an ephemeral muse rather than a lamentation about an adulterous lover who causes both torment and elation (jubilation!) to the protagonist.