Above: “Shades of Shadow,” off the album A Wolfrider’s Reflections, based on the ElfQuest comic. (The official album songbook is here; lyrics to this song are about halfway through.) Lyrics by Mercedes Lackey, music by Leslie Fish, sung by Julia Ecklar. The speaker in this song is Winnowill, a powerful magic-worker and master manipulator.
Below: Bob Kanefsky’s “Shapes in Shadow” is one of those filksongs that can’t really be called a parody of the original song, as there’s nothing comedic or satirical about it. Like the original, it’s about power.
So tell me a story, aren’t all stories true?
Tell me a story and I’ll tell it back to you
There’s always someone else there, up the river, up the river
Got to find my own way up the river
“The River,” a song about trying to make art when it feels like there’s someone upstream in the river of creativity (for example, Bob Dylan), catching all the good ideas before they get to you. But in good filk fashion, Vixy and Tony point out the bright side – the fact that there are other people fishing means we can help each other. Idea fish , unlike meat fish, don’t get used up, they grow.
The splendid Scottish folksinger Karine Polwart tweeted one day about witnessing a girl being told not to climb a tree because she was in a very nice skirt. Or maybe just in a nice skirt, it was some time ago, and either way, this little song fell happily out and has been sung a handful of times since.
There is a particularly British distinction, I think, betweem a skirt, a nice skirt, and a very nice skirt. And you can climb trees in any of them, so there.
“Polly,” by Talis Kimberley, a very modern song in a charmingly traditional style.
There are stories of the Dutchman, the Celeste and Barnham’s Pride
There are stories of the Horseman and the Lady at his side
But the tale that makes my blood run cold, the more because it’s true
Is the tale of Jayme Dawson and his crew
Yes, the tale of Dawson’s Christian and her crew
A newer recording of one of my favorite classic filk songs, “Dawson’s Christian,” a space opera ghost story, originally Duane Elms.
This song was written by Marshall Burns (and animated here by Sunny Adams) for the novel Autonomous by Annalee Newitz, and she wrote a really good post about the genre she’s calling “Canadian prairie futurism” and how it relates to traditional music. I’m just gonna copypaste a chunk of it here because it’s such a good explanation of a huge part of the filk ethos:
Two summers ago, when I was finishing the first draft of my novel Autonomous, I watched Marshall play and thought about the future. Back then he was at Leopold’s Tavern, and I’d come to the crowded bar with a bunch of family after a long dinner full of conversations about politics and art. This is the sort of thing we might do more often if there were an apocalypse, I mused. We’d gather in some communal shelter, after a day of hunting and gathering in the trashed wastes. Then somebody from our family would start to sing. We’d raise our voices too, to take our minds off the famine and plague and wildfires.
But it’s also the exact kind of thing we’d do in a Utopian future. Imagine us surrounded by carbon-neutral farms whose plants are monitored by sensors and satellites. Our brains would be crackling with ideas, thanks to government-funded science education. After a productive day in the fields and the labs, we’d gather at the co-op watering hole and sing our brains out in agrarian socialist solidarity. We’d all sound great too, because we’d have optimized our vocal chords with open source biotissue mods.
Maybe it sounds a little strange to say that Marshall’s old-fashioned songs gave me these vivid, contradictory images of the future. But I see the future clearly in these anachronistic moments. If we can still hear traditional prairie music in a modern city bar, then it’s a kind of guarantee that people of the future will still be listening to us. As Marshall sang, I could imagine distorted bits of my own culture still alive in a world utterly transformed by time’s passage.
And besides all that, enjoy a song about sad robots!
I just noticed we got 25 NEW FOLLOWERS in the past WEEK which is huge for a pretty small blog, especially considering…we haven’t posted much at all recently. So welcome, I’ve loaded the queue for a while in all of your honor, here’s hoping we can keep it up!
Feel free to bother us with “why haven’t you posted x yet” or “do you know any songs about y!” Sometimes we need to be poked.
Spoilers for The Adventure Zone, up to episode 67!
I debated posting this here vs. waiting until I finished the full version but I’m trying to ride the wave of being psyched about actually writing something so here’s an acoustic version with just my voice, a ukulele, and words.
So many incredible moments in this episode. I got chills at basically every turn.