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Heather: Filk Music

I have a bent for different kinds of music, diffferent kinds of styles, mixing and matching them. Some would probably say I like bent music. Of course I like puns, and I'm very fond of science fiction.

Filk is a form of folk music that science fiction and fantasy fandom sings. Or plays on their electric guitar, or dulcimer, or whatever. Many people's first experience with filk is a parody, or otherwise uses a pop hit tune. In a way this is sad because even if it's good, some folks demean the music they hear as being just kid stuff. But filk also has original tunes, powerful themes, songs that only work when sunc in a big group, and so on.

One friend of mine, on hearing some of it that I hoped he might like, asked - "For you it's the lyrics, isn't it?"

Well, he's at least half right. The keyword is still folk - if folks can't sing it, folk music doesn't spread. So even powerful themes like "Ladyhawke!" by Julia Ecklar (prrr! love those french horns!) have lyrics and a melody strong enough to be tried alone, or among a lot fewer people and instruments than normally found in a concert hall.

But for me it's the inspiration and the power behind the music itself. If it's a sport, it's a sport where the competitive advantage goes to those who share that inspiration best.

Don't confuse me with Heather Alexander, a good friend of mine, and a really fine Celtic fiddler, singer, and storyteller - nor Heather Rose Jones, a SCAdian bard, and an excellent harpist. Of course we know each other. We all live on the West Coast so the big regional cons give us a chance to run into each other. Of course if you see us it's a lot harder to confuse us at all, we don't look a thing alike. Um, I've also written a lot fewer songs than they have, even though I've been filking for... oh about 20 years or so.

Alas, I'll never be able to take Heather Rose Jones up on her silly offer that we should do a stint together and call us "The Bloomin' Heathers". Heather Alexander no longer walks this world; though Aja (Alexander James) might be doubly amused to try the plan, someday.

For the curious among you, I do know how to play a guitar... classical training and no real strength in my practice makes me a poor choice to just hand a guitar and tell me to jam something good, though. I also own, and can play, a Casio keyboard, but for both these intruments, I really use them to learn the songs I want to sing. As an instrument, my voice fits in my pocket and nobody gives me a ration about finding it an airline seat nor taxes its extra weight in baggage. On the other hand, I do have to protect it from inclement weather as any guitarist or violinist must protect theirs, so we are not that far off from each other.

I like to listen as well and the things I enjoy listening to best are difficult in some sense or other, strange beats and timing, fascinating harmonies, complex tales spun of notes and words. Yeah, I like to listen a lot, and that's good because I'm not very prolific... I've been filking since I was 9, but I have less than one song a year total. The rate of change is improving though. I did a couple of songs about computing last year. I was Music Guest of Honor, along with my sister, at Coppercon. I got about a half-song in there since I ran a workshop.

Here's a list of resources on the web to find out more:

If any of this is interesting to you and you'd actually like to go buy some books, CD's or related materials then take a look at the Random Factors Catalog.