minstrel: whither filk

Lisa and Ken Theriot lnktheriot at compuserve.com
Sun Mar 12 13:22:50 PST 2000

Julian wrote:

<Nobody pretends they are period-and I wouldn't step up and sing one in 

Bless you sir; unfortunately, you are incorrect that "nobody" pretends or 
thinks they are period.  I have judged bardic competitions wherein some 
well-meaning person entered a "traditional piece" only to have them launch 
into "The gypsy rover came over the hill...", or something else not only 
NOT period, but under active copyright.

There are two big "dangers" to filk.  One, which affects everyone, is that 
much of it is outright plagiarism; the resulting copyright violation runs 
the danger of causing us to lose a site if they get dinged by ASCAP because 
of our behavior (and at open sites that isn't as unlikely as people would 
like to think).

The other, infinitely more subtle, is exactly what you describe.  YOU know 
better, but many people do not.  Every time an experienced bard does filk, 
they send the signal that it's okay, and the less experienced bards are 
sure to take it to the next, even less appropriate level.  Just as 
inexperienced bards can hear "Watkin's Ale" and think, "Ah, bawdy songs are 
good..." and launch into the "Ball of Ballynoor", any song obviously based 
on even traditional melodies (like the zillions of Christmas carol filks) 
can open the floodgates for "Let There Be Wars on Earth" and "Achy Breaky 

Sadly, the phenomenon of Lowest Common Denominator is very real.  The 
larger the bardic circle, the more likely that loud, humorous, and 
out-of-period will go over big.  Even filk DEF2, original words and tunes 
on an SCA theme, tend to take the circle down to the LCD if it is obviously 
in an OOP style (like 12-bar blues).  A good friend of mine has written 
many lovely, "peri-oid" songs on classical themes, period battles, etc.; 
however, the songs that get requested are the funny songs he's written in 
blues and country-western styles, because they are accessible to the LCD 
(and the LCD seem to be the loudest when it comes to requests).

Perhaps we need another color ribbon to tie in with Tibicen's idea:
BLUE=Bards welcome, any material acceptable
BLUE&RED=Bards welcome, period material only
BLUE&GREEN=Bards welcome, peri-oid material only

Strictly based on my own repertoire, I don't want to be stuck at the "blue" 
bardic circle, but I have only a few things to contribute to the "blue and 
red" circle, and my husband nothing at all.  We could play (and listen) all 
night at the "blue and green" circle.  Like any political issue, I think a 
lot of people are in the middle; they don't want to hear 12-bar blues, but 
they don't want to cut out all the great material after 1600, including ALL 
original work.  I for one do not feel like "Burden of the Crown" ruins a 
"period" atmosphere, but it won't fly at the "blue and red" circle.  This 
is tough, I know, because it is somewhat subjective, but you've got to 
start somewhere.

Looking for the middle ground....


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