I haven’t been delving into the arena of Filk and fandom related music for very long but when it comes to how people relate to one another, I tend to notice things quickly. And I’ve noticed some of the ginormous fissures in the music community in relation to sci-fi and fantasy fandom.
Being as new to this as I am I don’t have a whole lot of what I would consider sage words of wisdom on the subject. Like most times when I see a divide like this in an otherwise potentially very productive community, I tend to notice mostly the trivial issues that people seem to have with “the other side” and I generally don’t understand the whole thing. I hate to take legitimacy away from anyone’s feelings on the matter… but so far I have to say that I think it’s kinda stupid.
There are a lot of opinions on “What Filk Is” and I’ve noticed that there are certain names of certain filkers that, when said in certain circles, get a wrinkled nose or a rolled eye in response. I WILL grant that in the two groups I’ve actually done filk sings with (the one at ConFusion and the one in Plainfield at the Suttons’), I haven’t run across said attitude. Those folks just seem to enjoy good music wherever it comes from, and I can get always down with that.
But when I hear people pop off about what “real filk” is, I guess it irritates me. I understand when some folks feel like a particular music is capable of something better than what they’re currently putting out and they may be using the “filk” umbrella to cover the fact that they’re kind of half-assing things. And I’ll admit, I have what most would consider an incredibly generous definition of filk. Then again, I have what most would consider an incredibly generous definition of FOLK, one that might even include some of what people would consider “pop” music. I think of folk music as that music which speaks of and to a culture, talks of it’s mythology and signifies what’s important to it. It’s the music that becomes ingrained in a community or society’s general sense of history… which to means that the word “folk” can describe many things, from a song like “O Danny Boy” to the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” to Michael Jackson’s “Beat it” or Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”. Hymns of various religions could be considered folk music. To me, there just isn’t that stringent and dogmatic definition as what I see some people try to apply to it. And, because Filk is essentially “the folk music of fandom”, then, to me, “Filk” can include anything from a fifty year old song about unicorns to a thirty year old accoustic number about a starship to a five-minute-old electronica spoof about Battlestar Galactica or Eureka or the last season of Doctor Who. The wordings can be complex and modeled off of old English or they can be modern and to-the-point. And to me, because fandom ecompasses not only “science fiction and fantasy”, but also a host of things that are important to fans, like, for example, humor… I don’t think that a song has to be about a starship or a unicorn to be “filk”. It can be about ancient mythology like the old gods or dragons or fae, or it can be about more contemporary mythology… like Paul Bunyan or alien invasions or WMD’s in Iraq. Humor as a part of folk music is probably as old as folk music itself, but humor as a part of filk music almost definitely is. I’m sure that that doesn’t mean that “just because a song is funny, it must be filk”, but I DO think that this idea widens the filk umbrella to include quite a few more things than some of us are willing to admit.
I guess my point is, I don’t think that filkdom should be exclusive and I have no intentions of treating that way. I consider myself both a folk musician and a filker. I have no problems with what other folks might consider themselves. But I do have a problem with folks sequestering themselves, naming one another the “Secret Masters of Filkdom”, and declaring that no one who doesn’t fit their definition of the art may be allowed to consider oneself “a filker”, and they will furthermore NOT play or write any music that does not fit their stringent definition of filk.
And what I mean by that is, I intend for myself not to be one of them and, furthermore, don’t much respect their definitions. You can DO that kind of thing if you want to, that’s your prerogative. But you’re going to be missing out on a lot of good music.
And, as a general rule, my company. *shrug*
Blogger’s note: this entry is not to be taken as being directed at any individual with whom the author has a personal relationship or regular contact. If these statements applied to you in particular or I had you in mind when writing them I would have discussed them with you on a personal level first as opposed to passive-aggressively attacking your viewpoint in a public forum. IE: If I were talking ABOUT you, I would be talking TO you.