SFX Blogger Laura McConnell looks at fan-created music
It has recently come to my attention that some genre fans aren’t familiar with filk.
What? You’re one of them? Well, fear not. I’m here to help. Filk, a mashed-up word that combines its two root words of “film” and “folk” refers to music that is based on films and generally sounds folksy.
As a genre, filk has been around for about 60 years, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that it really started to take off. Or so say Wikipedia and filk.com . I guess that makes sense to me, since that’s when I came into being, and I think I’ve always been peripherally aware of filk. Being a total band geek growing up will do that, I guess.
Still, though, it wasn’t until the internet made the world tiny that I developed a true appreciation for parody and other songs about my favorite television shows and movies, and recently, that appreciation has become easier than ever to cultivate. It seems that filk has truly hit the big time in this age of, “anyone can put music online and share it with the world.” Between Bandcamp and YouTube , songs are shared with the touch of a button, so the audiences for obscure small-time singers, who used to play to 15 people in coffee shops, become potentially huge in an instant. This has taken filk from backyard gatherings to the largest sci-fi conventions around, and it’s given it a legitimacy that it previously didn’t enjoy.
Filk has spread its influence into every genre of music, including rap, country, and rock. The name endures, but filk is no longer restricted to the confines of what a stereotypical hippie might enjoy (though some still prefer the more rigid definition and use terms like “nerd rock” and the like for other musical styles that still fit the theme). There seems to be something for everyone. Not only that, filk is a viable business for some artists. Others produce filk merely for fun, but the fact remains that some people make a living off of songs that once would have been relegated to the, “Oh, that’s all fine and good, sweetie, but when are you going to get a real job?” category of activities.
I, for one, am glad to see that.
You see, I love filk. I am a huge supporter of anything that gives fans more of what they love, and that’s what filk does. It is fans taking something that they cherish and adding their own unique talents to it. It is people not just watching a television show but making it their own, which in my opinion takes nothing away from the show, but instead adds to it. This is how franchises live on long past the day their final episode airs. If imitation is the highest form of flattery, then some might say that cosplay is the best compliment a show or character can receive. (Huh. Look at that. Another mash-up word, this time of “costume” and “play”. We sci-fi types like these composite words, don’t we?) I’ll agree that cosplay is great – heck, I love doing it – but I contend that people who take their imitation a step further and create original works of fan fiction, fan films, and filk based on existing universes not only honor the original work, but add to it by putting more creativity into the world. Maybe it’s not canon, but it sure is fun, and it just might bring new fans to the original, too. There’s just no wrong there.
Yes, you have to take filk with a grain of salt because like fan fiction and fan films, there is a huge variation in the quality of filk out there, but where we used to have few choices for music that also reminded us why we love science fiction and fandom, now there are many. And trust me, there’s good stuff out there for just about any fandom. Browncoats have The Bedlam Bards and Marian Call . Trekkies might enjoy Rick Moyer . John Anealio covers all sorts of topics, and Jonathan Coulton’s “Re: Your Brains” is classic zombie fare. Oh, and anyone who has ever attended a sci-fi convention should really check out Possible Oscar’s “At the Con.”
These are just a few of the filk performers out there, and I’ve enjoyed their work many times over. I hope I’ve spurred some of you who might not have known of the crazy musical world that is filk to check it out, and for those of you who are already in the fold, I’m sure you have favorites, too. I’d love to hear them! Please share!