Welcome to our diverse little clan
Don’t worry you’re not good enough, come grow with us
We’ll help you with your melody, we’ll catch you if you trip and fall
We’ll celebrate the art you choose to share with the world
“Filk in the Lobby” by Jeff and Maya Bohnhoff, which I can only assume is based on a true story. The songs referenced in the lyrics are Fire in the Sky by Jordin Kare and March of Cambreadth by Heather Alexander.
Scottish songwriter Alex Campbell also translated the Danish translation of “Anna Lovinda” to English; that version can also be found on Youtube. Both the Danish and the English versions are very faithful to the Bye’s Norwegian original.
Hi! Sorry if this is a stupid question, but do you think poetry could be considered filk too? Because I wanna try writing some filk stuff, but I’m terrible with music, and even changing the lyrics of already existing songs so that it still works with the music seems like a bit too big challenge to me (especially in English, since it’s not my first language), but I can write poems. Not very good poems, I have to admit that, but poems anyway.
Definitely! I’ve heard a few people read poetry at filk events. Sometimes it’s a song they don’t feel confident enough to sing but want to share anyway, and sometimes because they found or wrote a very filkish poem that was never intended to be sung.
Go forth! Write things!! And there’s always a chance that someone else will be able to set something you write to music later!
So there’s this lovely folk song, variously called “Farewell tae th’ Creeks” or “Banks of Sicily,” which like many folk songs has gone through a lot of different permutations. The above is a rendition by the Chad Mitchell Trio; their lyrics can be found here, while the original lyrics can be found here.
What happens when filkers get hold of something like this? Welllll … a lot of things.
Here’s “Green Hills of Harmony” (lyrics) by Al Frank, performed here by (I think) Dandelion Wine. It’s about the Dorsai, a fictional mercenary society from a science fiction book series by Gordon R. Dickson.
And here’s Frank Hayes’s parody of “Green Hills,” entitled “Don’t Ask” (lyrics). It’s … also about the Dorsai. Sort of.
And here is what may be the most recent riff on the same tune: Erin & Rand Bellavia’s Pegasus-nominated filksong “Cliffs of Insanity.”
There’s much more to the story!
(You’re right about Dandelion Wine–that’s the recording from their album “The Face on Mars.”)
See, one major reason the Dorsai are still heard of, despite the Childe Cycle books not exactly being bestsellers anymore (Dickson died in 2001 and hadn’t published a new such book in almost a decade even then), is this:
In 1973, at TorCon 2, the 31st World Science Fiction Convention in Toronto, the only security there were local rent-a-cops, who among other things didn’t get along with the fans and didn’t really work out well–notably someone walked off with a Kelly Freas original (Kelly being one of the most well known artists in fandom) by showing the art show rent-a-cop a receipt for a much cheaper piece. The guard didn’t know any better than to say “no way you paid that for this piece.”
So, the legendary Robert Asprin, SF writer, cosplayer, SCAdian, filker, and fan extraordinaire, decided Something Must Be Done. Thus, he set up a fannish group to help work conventions: Door guards, hall monitoring (for drunk fans needing help back to their rooms as well as extraction from uncomfortable come-ons), auctioneering, even operations help. He got permission from Dickson to call the group the Dorsai Irregulars, the idea being that these were the “weirdos” of the otherwise traditionally military mercenary Dorsai.
And Bob himself being one of the major filkers of his age (arguably, he brought filk out of the back rooms and into function space at conventions; he definitely assigned the filk community its signature whiskey), he got some of his filker friends to help. To this day the roster of the DI is chock-a-block with some of the leading lights and senior songsters of the filk community, including Bob and Anne Passovoy, Murray Porath, Michael “Moonwulf” Longcor, Mark Bernstein, Bill and Gretchen Roper, Bill and Brenda Sutton, Steve MacDonald, John Hall, and more I’m not going to list one by one.
What I don’t see much of is kids in college or just out of college doing it. Maybe they’ve moved on to anime.
Frank Hayes, interviewed about filk music by Alanna Nash
This is hilarious to me (despite being one of the sad truths of Filk These Days), because on one hand I think the (to my mind, at this point artificial) divide between science fiction and anime actually has distanced older fans from younger ones, and on the other hand it recalls the joke that never gets old, pointing at any given thing and saying “is that anime”
“At its best, the filk room is a special locus in space and time, created for and by the community, and is a safe, encouraging place for individual and group play, support and, most of all, co-creation and collaboration. At its core is a heightened group experience, created by active participation and immersive intensity with the goal of giving all participants a feeling of creative satisfaction and belonging…
In the filk room, and in other folk performance forms, co-created group experience arises from the manipulation and eradication of the performer/audience boundary.”
Long-time filker, professor, and ethnomusicologist, Sally Childs-Helton, recently published an excellent article about the nature of filk performance, with an examination of the differences between Millennials and older generations in fandom and what the future of filk might look like because of this. I highly recommend checking it out if you’re interested in The State of Filk or fandom history in general.
If you download the article from this link, it gives the author some digital brownie points, so definitely do that if you can!
And if you don’t have the time or inclination to read academic articles on fandom (why not??? I guess some people are like that), I’ll leave you with a quote from the end of the article, from an interview with someone who had worked as a professional folk musician for years but was attending her first filk session, because I think it’s inspiring:
“You’re sitting around, swapping songs, and everyone gets a chance to play. I’ve
been going to folk music conventions for years, but you people are actually doing folk music.”
I usually prefer to get studio recordings when I can, if only to make it more likely that all the words will be intelligible but…this one is special. They set out to create a geek anthem, and boy did they ever.
Michelle Dockrey said this about writing this song:
Background: this was commissioned by Tony, who wanted a geek anthem. I got partway through writing it and found myself blocked. Thinking of all the things still wrong, and things that were going on at the time both in and out of fandom– harrassment, backlash over representation, lack of protections still for so many– I just didn’t see how I could write a song about how much it got better.
I confessed this tearfully to Tony, who said, essentially, “write it the way you see it.”
“We Are Who We Are,” by Vixy & Tony, lead vocals by Michelle Dockrey with Tony Fabris on guitar, Betsy Tinney on cello, Sunnie Larsen on violin, and the attendants of FilkCONtinental 2014…as themselves. Lyrics and more information here
“Every Single Song She Sings Is Tragic,” by Jeff and Maya Bohnhoff, a parody of (do I need to say it) “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” by The Police
….this song could be about me and I feel the need to apologize, even in the context of this blog – I know I pass over a lot of probably good songs because I’d just rather have ose, dammit
This song made it onto the “Best Adapted Song” Pegasus brainstorming poll for 2016, and I urge you to check out the lists, whether you plan on voting (and every single one of you is eligible to vote, yes, looking at you) or are just looking for some good song recs.