quarridors: Not high on sugar (September 2010)
This weekend I'm at the 24th annual UK Filk Convention, Duple Time in Grantham. I've written before about why I love filk music and the filk community so much, so let's take it as said that I've been looking forward to this. (I'm writing this on my phone so expect more links to be added later).

I was sensible enough to book a half day off today, so just for once I was all registered and in my hotel room an hour before the opening ceremony! I had a 30 minute set in the second slot at 8pm and managed to do a full sing through in my room before heading down to the con floor and saying hello to everyone.

The opening ceremony was a little bittersweet as our con coordinator Keris sadly died in a car crash in November, but we agreed that the con is a tribute to him and very much what he'd have wanted. Brenda has created an Absent Friends chair cover that means Keris will always have a seat at the convention, which seemed very apt, especially as it's sat behind the tech desk this con... UK guest of honour Lissa then cheered us all up by providing everyone at the con with a kazoo ...this made the sound check for the first set somewhat 'interesting'...

Valerie's Pick 'n Mix was the first set with some great songs including a rousing sing along to Following In Valentina's Footsteps, but I confess I mainly had my mind on my own rapidly approaching set.

When my turn came, I got off on the wrong foot by managing to start Second-Hand Songs in the wrong key and got thrown off by being able to hear my voice over the speakers. So not the strongest start ever, but that just made my second song sound amazing in comparison ;)

Next I sang Stacy's amazing Concrete Wilderness, which is Talis Kimberley's apocalyptic Worlds End but told from the perspective of a city dweller. This is a song I genuinely tried to write myself before reading Stacy's far superior version of the same idea. I hope I did it justice with my sincere Tracy Chapman-esque 'urban soul' performance.

Next I performed a revamped version of The Changes, which was in fact revamped late night on Thursday - mainly removing some repetitive lyrics, adding a bridge and putting in a gratuitous key change :D ...this did mean I felt a little unsure with my performance....

Then Breaking Out Is Hard To Do, an extremely fun to sing rendition of Boom Shadow (to the tune of Cat Stevens Moonshadow), a (slightly strained) cover of Paper Worlds by Talis and finally an enthusiastic performance of Singularly, my fun Billy Bragg Sexuality filk. All in all it was a good set with only a couple of minor lyrics slip ups. I wish I could've weaned myself of the lyric sheets given I know the words perfectly to all but two of the songs. I also need to learn what to do with ny hands...

I've had some lovely comments about my voice having an 'almost gospel' quality for one song and being 'chameleonic' with male and female qualities changing between songs.

I still have to do the androgynous vocal techniques workshop I'm running in the morning and then I can enjoy the rest of the con without worrying about straining my voice!

In fact it's late and I'm tired, so I'll finish this tomorrow in the hope I actually manage some sleep before my workshop tomorrow...
quarridors: Not high on sugar (September 2010)
Update 2013-04-30: For the 40th anniversary of The Tomorrow People, I re-recorded the vocal to reflect the newer lyrics I wrote based on feedback from Talis and others in the UK Filk community. The song is now slower, makes use of the different vocal qualities my voice is capable of, has a new bridge, a gratuitous key change and a softer ending.

Update 2011-11-02: Now updated with an improved vocal performance (I hadn't warmed up and only did one take yesterday).

Inspired by listening to Talis Kimberley on BBC iPlayer this morning, I wrote and recorded a new song over my (extended!) lunch break.

It's about classic British children's television science fiction and the experience of being a queer teenager. Listen for free here:

http://quarriesandcorridors.bandcamp.com/track/the-changes

Lyrics for The Changes below... )
Big thank you Talis for inspiring the folk protest song style I'm using here (and probably the tune, I not usually very original with that sort of thing).

You also may be interested in a video I made for PracticalAndrogyny.com about vocal androgyny, where I sneakily included some filk music:

Practical Androgyny - Vocal androgyny in speech and singing

I'd be interested to hear your feedback!
quarridors: Not high on sugar (September 2010)
You've probably seen me post about filk and share filk song lyrics here. It's occured to me that some of my readers might not be familiar with what filk is, so here's an attempt at a primer.

Filk is the music of science fiction and fantasy fandom. It's something that grew out of general conventions (originally a programme book typo for 'folk singing') and still goes on at bigger conventions, but it's also big enough in itself to have its own conventions and communities in various parts of the world.

There seems to be a misconception in Internet-based fandom that filks are always existing songs rewritten with new SF-related lyrics and mainly humorous. While this is of course a big part of what filk singers write and sing, it's by no means representative of filk music. There's easily as much original music inspired by science fiction and fantasy, probably more serious than humorous over all, and no shortage of music about mythology, space exploration, science, technology, beer, cats, knitting, music itself, filking, filkers and anything else filkers are interested in. The genres filk covers are wide as well, while singing in circles does tend to lend itself to folk or at least acoustic music, there are no shortage of filk rock bands either. It's very hard to pin down exactly what filk music is except that it's the music that filkers make.

The format of the annual UK filk conventions is a daytime programme made up of 20 or 40 minute sets by various performers, in the main hall with professional quality sound equipment. These are open to anyone, to the point where I've had sets of my own at two past UK cons. The convention also has guests of honour; a UK guest and an overseas (North American) guest. Sometimes a duo are brought over as the guest. The con also pays for a young Footloose Filker brought over from continental Europe (always Germany and always female as far as I'm aware but I don't think this is the rule). The guests of honour run workshops on the weekend mornings, overseas Saturday morning, UK Sunday morning. They also get a set each on each day. In addition to this there's a filk fund auction, a 'main concert' in which anyone can perform a single song (or reading) and an award ceremony where the con-goers' vote wins for four different categories. In the evenings there are filk circles in which everyone sits in a circle and takes turns to perform, either bardic-style going around the circle and taking turns or more chaotically with whoever has a 'follower' song or the confidence to push in goes next. After the con ends, there's a 'dead dog' circle where everyone who's staying overnight at the convention gets together in a room and sings together, usually with lots of accompaniment, harmonising and singing along.

The main reason why I love filk is that it's an all abilities community that celebrates and encourages creativity and expression in everyone, not just those who are particularly gifted. Two of my favourite 'filk manifesto' songs, Take It Back and Second Hand Songs express this the best and are often sung early in filk circles (or at least I'll sing them if no one else does). I also wrote my own song about discovering filk Where The Fandom Sing, which you may enjoy.

It's always been one of my biggest regrets that I gave up music early in my secondary school career (for painful reasons) and I made various attempts during my twenties to learn musical instruments and develop my singing voice. I first stumbled across filk at a CCDE (camping in a reclaimed landfill sitefield with a bunch of Discworld fans) about ten or eleven years ago and it had a big enough impression on me that I started writing songs and calling them filk, but I only got over hang ups with my voice enough to consider filk singing in my late twenties. My confidence has grown considerably in the last four years, mainly through the encouragement and inspiration of the filk community.

Filk conventions are the time where I get to be around amazingly talented people (singers, musicians and song writers alike), get to sing with them and have them sing and play along with me, and pretend for a few days that I'm a real musician like them :)

Update: My convention report for this year's convention can be read here

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