Oh, Filk!

Music is an industry requiring high levels of commitment and perseverance to achieve success. But as many musicians under a time crunch may have wondered, is it possible to complete this process in one day? Yes! Twice, actually.  This was demonstrated during Instafilk 2019, an event where panelists and the audience work together to create and record a filk piece in the span of only one hour.

The process was led by moderator Amber Hansford along with Brobdingnagian Bards Andrew McKee and Mark Gunn along with Toucan Dubh member Ian O’Donnell. They all assert that 1PM is still morning (for musicians). The process begins with brainstorming a list of songs to parody and themes to elaborate on. Since Dragon Con frequently goes all night, we settled on “The Coffee Family,” a riff off of its Addams counterpart. Since “editing is so much easier than writing” (according McKee), the filk tradition of parody lends itself to the short time frame. We began to workshop lyrics—the discussion started slowly, but soon many were jumping in with suggestions for lyrics and verses. The exchange was filled with laughter and interjections of what the next lyric should be. The conversation fired back and forth between flavors of coffee and an emphasis on scansion, finally settling on several verses of caffeinated goodness. We ran through the song as a group then began recording, complete with snaps and a recorder intro.

We completed the song with twenty minutes to spare and began to pursue, just as the panel did last year, a second song. With far less time to spare, we settled on a song with some repetitions: “Johnny, I Hardly Knew You.” This piece focused on this week’s impending doom: Hurricane Dorian. We addressed both the storm itself and our determination to weather it for the joys of Dragon Con. Though the process was more rushed, it only served to intensify the flow of ideas and exclamations.

As someone with limited experience with filk, it was a pleasant surprise to see how considerate and open the crowd was—all ideas were welcomed and audience members frequently interceded on behalf of each other’s ideas. With performance art often being competitive, it was refreshing to experience an event where the focus is on collaboration and not on credit. As McKee told me after the event, artistic endeavors are often closed off and inaccessible. Filk, however, is a creative expression that is open to all people, regardless of their level of experience or musical talent.

If you’d like to listen to the songs themselves, keep an eye on the Dragon Con Filk social media on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

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