Filksong Genealogy: Shapes in Shadow

(Series: Filksong Genealogy)

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.

The River – Vixy & Tony

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.

Polly – Talis Kimberley

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.

Fences (A Sheep Shanty) – Talis Kimberley and Chantelle Smith

Alfie Purl, Christopher, Ruby and Zack;
Move the sheep and the fences around!
Take the ones from the front and put these in the back
Move the sheep and the fences around.

Why would you write a shanty about sheep?  Why not.  Sung, appropriately, in a field, by Talis Kimberley and Chantelle Smith.  Featuring the names of real sheep!

Dawson’s Christian – Vixy & Tony

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.

Autonomous – Marshall Burns

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!

Small Mended Corners – Talis Kimberley

There are women I’ve been who you would not have liked
Very much – and I can’t say I’d blame you for that;
but I had to be them before I could be me
They are threads on the loom of the woman you see

And they’re all – here – sewn in the lining of me
In the seam-folds and the small mended corners
Tucked into collar and sleeves in the lining of me

“Small Mended Corners,” by Talis Kimberley, a song about identity and sewing – which, as someone who has struggled with both, I appreciate.

The Deep Shall Bite Down (Akanisian folk lullaby) – smols-darklighter

smols-darklighter:

The moons are the moons and the sun is the sun
The fish bite at dusk and the fish bite at dawn
But a sun is a star and a moon is a world
And the deep shall bite down when the dusk unfurls.

The sea is the sea and the land is the land
A fish is a fish and a man is a man
But men are as fish to the land of the sea
And fishes, like men, cannot live hungry.

An arm is an arm and a leg is a leg
A seed is a seed and an egg is an egg
One for to butcher and one for to thresh
But the flesh of all is all one flesh.

A womb is a womb and a prick is a prick
The slow fish are slow and the fast fish are quick
But a womb may have thorns and a prick may bear wounds
Oh the swift break their fast, but the slow shall eat soon.

And the deep shall bite down when the dusk unfurls
From the hungriness at the heart of the world
So sleep, little fishes, swift may you dream
And slow may you wake to the arms of the sea.

– local woman of Scaparus Port, Arkanis recorded by Sabekka Pallopides, student of Sentient Cultures at Theed University, Naboo

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Everybody Knows – badwolfonbakerstreet

connyhascontrol:

Everybody Knows

Collaboration with kristalbrooks who wrote the lyrics and I offered to write the music and record it. She also made the cover.

Download on Soundcloud

Lyrics:

INTRO
“Our lives are back to front: his future is my past, his firsts my lasts. The day is coming when I’ll look into that man’s eyes, and he won’t have the faintest idea of who I am. And I think it’s going to kill me.“

VERSE 1
Do you remember any of my faces?
You were older but still I recognise you
Sometimes you knew me well, sometimes you didn’t
And it would break my heart when you didn’t trust me

VERSE 2
You used to yell at me for knowing things you didn’t
And I would hear you scream a thousand times now
If I could run from here, somewhere you don’t see me
So, is this how you start, is this how I end?

CHORUS 1
‘Cause since the first day you came into my life
It’s always been ‘spoilers’ and twisty time lines
Never thought this was going to be our goodbye
But, love, you have always known, this is how I die

VERSE 3
I can’t seem to break this glass case to wake you
I feel the world breaking, falling, burying me
This is the first time you meet me, I can see
It’s written in your eyes and it’s killing me

CHORUS 1
‘Cause since the first day you came into my life
It’s always been ‘spoilers’ and twisty time lines
Never thought this was going to be our goodbye
But, love, you have always known, this is how I die

CHORUS 2
And I should have known, ‘cause when I last saw you
You made the Towers sing for me and we danced
I heard you cry as you held me close to you
So, love, you have always known, this is when I die

BRIDGE
And I know I won’t see you any more
But, sweetie, you’ve got all of that to come
It’s all still waiting for you, all that we’ve done
You and me, time and space, you watch us run

CHORUS 1
‘Cause since the first day you came into my life
It’s always been ‘spoilers’ and twisty time lines
Never thought this was going to be our goodbye
But, love, you have always known, this is how I die

CHORUS 2
And I should have known, ‘cause when I last saw you
You made the Towers sing for me and we danced
I heard you cry as you held me close to you
So, love, you have always known, this is when I die

And everybody knows everybody dies
Everybody knows that everybody dies