FAQ Table of Contents

WHAT THE HECK IS FILK MUSIC?

last updated October 26, 2014
What is this stuff called filk? My own favorite definition is simply "the folk music of the science fiction/fantasy fan community.", but if you ask four filkers you will get seven definitions. :-> Here's what Nick Smith had to say about it awhile back:
WHAT THE HECK IS FILK MUSIC?
by Nick Smith (of LA Filkharmonics)
Well, it's sort of like folk music. It is a mixture of song parodies and original music, humorous and serious, about subjects like science fiction, fantasy, computers, cats, politics, the space program, books, movies, TV shows, love, war, death. . .

Filk music started off forty or fifty years ago, at science fiction conventions, where people got together late at night to have good old-fashioned folk music song circles. Well, late night circles being what they are, some folks got a little silly and started singing song parodies about their favorite SF books and authors. Fans started writing song parodies about themselves or each other. Some started composing serious songs about favorite topics. Some authors started composing original songs for their books. If the author didn't list a tune, fans made up one. Sometimes two. Sometimes several.

Eventually, Filk songs wre written for just about every major science fiction or fantasy work. Some of them were actually good enough that people wanted to learn them, or just listen to them more than just at conventions. At that point, song books and recordings started being made.

Over the last decade, Filk Music has reached the point where there are entire Filk Music gatherings, conventions, recording companies, and publications. Filk Music includes song parodies, original songs, and slightly musical poetry. It's a fun way to indulge in a little musical creativity, especially if you are a science fiction or fantasy fan as well as musically inclined. If you are only a fan, but not musical, you can still listen. Filk circles aren't pushy about requiring you to play or sing. If you are only musical, but not a fan, no one will hold it against you. Remember, we're in this thing for fun!

[Written for flyer for distribution at California Traditional Music Society Annual Summer Solstice Dulcimer Festival and other local Los Angeles folk music events and stores.]

What Nick didn't tell you is that the name started out as a typo of "folk" and was gleefully adopted by all and sundry as a term for what is after all a somewhat unusual subset.

More about filk can be found at the Interfilk Site , Gary McGath's essay on "The Spirit of Filk" , and D Glenn Arthur Jr.'s "What is 'Filk'?"

For some early history see Tracking Down The First Deliberate Use Of "Filk Song" and Lee Gold's essay on the history of the term, "filk"
Kay Shapero, Keeper of the FAQ