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.
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!
Because this post is getting attention again, I would like to append something wonderful that I recently learned. The musician you hear here is trans and now goes by the name of Alexander James Adams. Because of his obsession with fairies n’ shit, he steadfastly maintains the kayfabe story that his previous self, Heather, was a changeling and he, Alexander, was the child she replaced, but won the right to return from fairyland in a “Devil Went Down to Georgia” style fiddle duel with the faerie queen. This is a song he wrote that tells the whole story.
Since this is a show theme song, I’m not sure if it counts, but… Rocket Robin Hood! This feels like something that could have a filk following, just because the concept opens up so many questions! (I’ll admit, I’ve never actually watched it, and I only just now found out the thing existed.)
…can’t say I’ve ever heard of it either, but MAN what a concept. And now if I had to explain filk to someone without using any actual filk music…I might just show them this.