Filk Music

Subject : Folk music and science fiction

Posted Date: : Sep 20, 2010 12:55 PM

You are all used to my writing about Irish and/or Celtic music, but I thought I would give you a different genre.  It combines two of my interests – folk music and science fiction.  It is about a phenom called “filking”, or “filk singing”.  There is a great write-up about it in Wiki

I first became aware of filking about 30 years ago, when I was still active in going to sf conventions (and selling things in the huckster room).  Filking was a regular in the Hospitality Rooms, and there were contests in filk singing at some of the conventions.

I remember particularly Bob Asprin of the “Myth” series of books, and his Dorsai Irregulars that he convened at the 1974 World SF Convention (which I was not at because I wasn’t into sf at that time) because I heard a great many stories about it, and I met Bob Asprin at ArmadilloCon one year.  He is a very funny man.

Filking apparently started out as protest songs way back in the 30s and 40s with Fred Pohl and Cyril Kornbluth with their Futurians.

Anyway, I found two other websites that are interesting, including one that has a lot of Celtic lore on it.  They are

Following are the words to one of the filk songs I particularly like.  It will be of interest mostly to mathematicians, astronomers and cosmologists, and anyone who likes the absurd.  It is sung to the tune of “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean”  (and no, the black bodies do not refer to people of a dark colour).

Black bodies give off radiation
And ought to continuously
Black bodies give off radiation
But do it by Planck’s theory.

Bring back, bring back
Oh bring back that old continuity
Bring back, bring back
Oh bring back Clerk Maxwell to me.
(note:  clerk is pronounced as in the British “clark”, and refers to James Clerk Maxwell, a Scot – he is on the internet)

Though now we have Schrodinger functions
Dividing up h by 2pi
That damn differential equation
Still has no solution for psi


Well Heisenberg came to the rescue
Intending to make all secure
What is the result of his efforts?
We are absolutely unsure.


Dirac spoke of energy levels
Both minus and plus.  Oh how droll
And now just because of his teaching
We don’t know our mass from a hole.


Another note:  I could not find who originally wrote the words to this filk song, but I got the words out of a book by Poul Anderson, Ship of a Million Years.

I’ll get back to the Celtic music later this week.  I have several more CDs I’m listening to that I want to write about.  There is just so much good music out there, of all kinds.  I just thought I would share this very different one with you.
Carol Stepp
Austin, TX



About carolstepp

Music is about the most important thing in my life, and I follow a large number of musicians, particularly Irish, Scots, Classical, Crossovers of any of these. I was writing a blog about Celtic Thunder regularly on MySpace, and now I have left them after a year, and will start writing my blogs here. I am 70, retired, living on Social Security, and have a lot of social network fans.
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2 Responses to Filk Music

  1. P.J. says:

    I never met Bob Aprin, but I have everyone of his books, LOL plus Duncan & Mallory, the comic book version.

    Nice blog.


  2. carolstepp says:

    I got into sf so late in life (I was in my 40s) that I don’t think I have read everything that anyone wrote, except possibly Fred Pohl, but I’m not sure about that. I tried to get through Asimov, and I think I pretty well succeeded, other than his Robot series. I may have read every Beam Piper book. My fave alien civilizations have been the Heechee, the Fuzzies, and one I read about in a book about a Neutron star. My fave sf is really hard sf, written by real scientists, but I also like space opera. I don’t read a lot of fantasy, though there are certain authors I like. Anyway, thanks for the compliment. Carol

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