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What is it?

This is the eternal question within the filk community. We point to an excellent article by Jordin Kare on filk whicht appeared in Sing Out!, The Folk Song Magazine, and is appended to the IF pages with their permission. Jordin includes the viewpoint of filk as fannish expression, and gives excellent highlights of filk history.

However, there are as many definitions of filk music as there are filkers...so we offer a few of the various descriptions we've found online and off...



Leslie Fish's album title, "Folk Songs for Folk Who Ain't Even Been Yet" (© 1976), is an apt and concise description of filk if ever there was one.

The "jargon" definition -- the one that gives filk a bad name -- presumes that all filk is based on pre-existing music and intended to be humorous.

Nick Smith wrote a concise and comprehensive article on filk that included a little history. Originally produced for distribution at Los Angeles music events, Nick's widely quoted work is an excellent focus on both music and songwriting.

Steve Savitsky refers briefly to filk as "the folk music of the future" and gives an appropriate warning to suitability of content for children.

fascinating essay on the history of early filk that clarifies many points — including the elusive origins of the word "filk"

The MASSFILC definition of filk looks to the content rather than performance modes of filk.

H. Paul Schuch, PhD, briefly describes filk in an excerpt from the SETI League in their filksong book. He makes mention of some early historical points in filk history.

East Coast filker, Glenn Arthur has written a very balanced view, with a focus on the songs rather than performances as the most important aspect of filk.

Another East Coaster, Gary McGath, has a folk music oriented viewpoint.

From the western states, writer/filker, Julia West, takes the point of view "Filking is what people do at filksings!"

From Swarthmore "Filkloremaster", Jed Hartman, comes a considered look at both defining filk and filk history.

Tom Smith's "A Brief Guide to Filk?" is comprehensive in description. It is more inclusive of style than others, and focuses toward performance rather than song, but captures the spirit of the community quite nicely.

Since filk doesn't just happen in North America, here are some links from British and German filkers:

Expatriate Erica Neely and Britain's Mark Richards offer a slightly different opinion as to the origin of the word "filk".

A short German Definition follows the definition Erica Neely uses, and makes passing reference to parody, found filk and original material. It also makes reference to some of the well-known influences in North American filk. Kirsten Tanger's definition (also in German) provides a more in-depth description.

Of course, filkers being filkers, we have the inevitable song version of "What is Filk?" from Maureen O'Brien Faq1.1.

As a final note, Interfilk offers this point of view:

Making music together builds and benefits all. Filk music is more than performance, songs, filk conventions, concerts, and open filks. It is all of these things and more. Filk is the community which builds and is built by them. We have room for a wide diversity of preference, focus, and style. Promoting that diversity, Interfilk works to construct networks and strengthen relationships for the benefit of the entire filk community.



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