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Filk Song

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Dear Other Tropers, do you like this song?
I hope it's good and famous, you can sing along
Jus' rewrite the lyrics, keep the rhymes alive
There's a certain art, and it's called writing
A TV Tropes Filk Song
A TV Tropes Filk Song!

See this song was written by the Beatle Paul
You might see this done to anything at all
If it's Meat Loaf, folk songs, or a Broadway Hit
Just rewrite the words, then you're set to have a
TV Tropes Filk Song,
A TV Tropes Filk Song!

TV Tropes filk song, filk song, filk song...

There's a thousand filkers, name me one or two
Like you know Weird Al, Johnny Coulton too
It's an old tradition, old as song itself
It's a tricksy art when you wanna write a
TV Tropes Filk Song,
A TV Tropes Filk Song!
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Self-demonstration aside, "filk" is best described as the music of science fiction fandom, or at least, the music of the filk community. Songs about SF books or movies, fandom in-jokes, or even just related topics such as computer geeky references are all common sources for filk. And, despite what the self-demonstration says, filk doesn't have to be new words to old music, or spoofs of the lyrics of original songs — many filk songs are originals. Filk can also be thought of a special genre of Folk Music.

The term originated as a typo in a proposed essay for an SF fanzine in The '50s. The essay wasn't published at the time, but the editor liked the typo and spread it around, and it was applied to the nascent but already peculiar style of musicianship, weird humor, and camaraderie of fandom musicians. By the mid-60s, the term was widespread within fandom.

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Filk has a few general styles: humorous, serious but positive, and depressing and angsty. The humor is often, but not always, parody (here defined broadly as "new lyrics," not only the ones referencing the originals — see Parody Satire Pastiche) — some filkers are specifically parodists, some do both parody and original, and many only do original work. Some even specialize in "refilking," parodying others' original filk songs.

Parody filk is sometimes seen on fanfic sites as an exclusively literary form — lyrics parodying a popular song, but not necessarily meant to be sung (and sometimes taking such liberties with the meter that it cannot be sung to the specified tune). The example seen to your right is a parody filk written to the tune of The Beatles' "Paperback Writer." Sing along at your discretion.

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The angsty stuff is called "ose," as in, "it's ose, ose, and more-ose." Of course, like all things, especially fandom, there can be some overlap — there are terms such as "cheeri-ose," which is both cheery and depressing; "sucr-ose," sweet and sugary and depressing, and "verb-ose," long and drawn out...and depressing.

(Oh, and in case it isn't apparent already, a lot of filk songs have puns. Lots of puns.)

Most SF conventions nowadays have a room set aside for the filkers to sing in large bardic-style circles once the main panels end for the day — some even have concerts. Filk-specific conventions do exist, the biggest being the Ohio Valley Filk Fest, which includes the annual Pegasus Awards for best filk songs. Check it out for some examples of particularly well-regarded filk. For more examples of filk, there's also The Virtual Filksing, which bills itself as the oldest anthology of recorded filk music on the Internet.

Unfortunately, defining filk more concretely than "the music of fandom, or at least, the music of the filk community" can be tricky; even in fandom circles, filk is sort of a Red-Headed Stepchild that a lot of people don't like. That's probably because they've been exposed to one too many bad singers — filk has a performance aspect, and mangled music can put you off of the entire field. And Sturgeon's Law still applies, after all — it's just that, unlike fanfiction, filk will often be sung aloud, which makes it harder to avoid the bad stuff when you're looking for the good. The filk culture also used to be quite aggressive in getting general participation in the singing, and it still lives on.

Partially as a result of that, there are a number of artists — such as "Weird Al" Yankovic and Jonathan Coulton — whose work is frequently sung in filk circles, but who don't consider themselves filkers. Other filkers, especially ones more on the "funny and pun-filled" side, prefer the term "dementia," derived from the Dr. Demento show, which has been playing comedy and novelty music since the '70s.

The examples will therefore be divided into "Filk," where the artist considers him- or herself a filker (or dementia artist; we're keeping it simple) and part of the community; "Found Filk," where the artist isn't a filker, but the music qualifies and has probably been sung in circles; and "Somewhere in Between," where it's not so clear.

A more detailed history and examination of filk can be found in Tomorrow's Songs Today by Gary McGath. Related genres, as far as themes, are Heavy Mithril, which almost by nature qualifies at least as "found filk," Nerdcore, and Wizard Rock. The music of the Society for Creative Anachronism has also many connections with filk and filkers.

Note there's a related phenomenon in the Second World, called "minstrel song" in Russia. It's also a phenomenon of the fandom, but it's derived from the Soviet tradition of bard song (which is itself derived from the early XX century Russian urban romance music). Basically, Three Chords and the Truth about various fandoms, mostly fantasy (and among fantasy, mostly J. R. R. Tolkien). Oh, and it almost never recycles melodies from older music.

Compare Song Parody, To the Tune of..., Bardcore and Suspiciously Similar Song. Sub-Trope of Fan Work, of course.

Not to be confused with Flik of the Blue Lightning.


Tropes Associated with Filk Songs:

No examples, please. This merely defines the term.

Alternative Title(s): Filk

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