minstrel: Who's afraid of the big bad filk?

Donald F. Harrington dharrington at uswest.net
Sun Mar 12 10:51:47 PST 2000

I'm sure I'm going to regret getting into this.  I'll have to speak for
myself only, representing only my views on what works for me in the SCA, of

----- Original Message -----
From: Paul Saxberg <paul_saxberg at hotmail.com>
To: <minstrel at rt.com>
Sent: Sunday, March 12, 2000 7:48 AM
Subject: minstrel: Who's afraid of the big bad filk?

> I have no objection to period music and authenticity--but the fact of the
> matter is, many modern filks are beautifully made, and wildly funny.

Yes, they are.  By modern filk, I will assume that you are referring to a
well-known modern tune (like a show tune or rock song) with new words,
usually making witty reference to people or concerns within the SCA.  They
provide the performer with good hooks into the audience, by sharing that
commonly known tune.  It thus appears easier to gain an appreciative
audience with a modern filk than it is with a more period piece.  It's also
a more efficient route from concept to product, as the composer generally
starts with a tune they already know.  A person looking to do a period piece
has to seek out the music a little more, as it is a little less commonly
available (a situation that is improving over the years).

A better payoff for less work is some people's idea of the American Dream,
actually.  So I see the modern filk as an attractive option to people
interested in music who become involved with the SCA.  And I also see, in my
experience, this easier route divert people from studying the music of the
Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

And there's the loss.

Each modern filk at an SCA event is one less piece of music that has a
significant relationship to pre-17th century western culture.  It builds the
expectation for that kind of modern music in an SCA context.  It creates a
sub-culture of "SCA Bard" that has an ethos and aesthetic entirely
self-contained with, once again, little significant relationship to early

And early music is so rich, so diverse, so complex, and so accessible - it
is an almost untapped vein of riches in the SCA.  Think of court with
blaring trumpets, tournaments with live period music, dances with live
period music - think of how much it enriches the event when that occurs.
Every emotion you might wish to invoke in a filk is available in period
music.  Period music is full of models that can be used to do your own
period filking.

There is so much beautiful, perky, solemn, whatever-you-want period music,
and I hate to see it go unused to hear another country-western tune with
funny words.  I can go to many places and hear filking kind of music, which
(believe it or not) I enjoy.  But hearing early music at an event helps
transport me into that feeling of being in another place and time, and a
filk has never done that for me.

> [snip]

> It is illogical then to declare everything not
> period at an event "bad" and "should be banned"--we cannot eradicate every
> last bit of modernity.

I am not calling for a ban.  This is just how it affects me personally.  Nor
would saying "please, no filks" be equivalent to "eradicate every last bit
of modernity".

> [snip]

Lazarus Artifex
Don Harrington

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