Filk refers to music inspired by science fiction and
fantasy and primarily intended for the fan communities.
The music is performed at conventions and there seems
to be a special emphasis on having fun with it.
Sci-fi lyrics are often put to familiar
tunes and are frequently humorous. Everyone is invited
to join in.
The tradition began at science fiction meetings as
early as the 1930's. Attendees would gather in the
evenings for socializing and singing folk songs. Inevitably,
participants could not resist putting sci-fi lyrics
to the traditional tunes. When a typo in a magazine
article about the practice referred to Filk
instead of Folk, a new genre was born.
Note that the
genre also includes completely new works with both
original music and lyrics.
Check out the excellent
video made by "award-winning independent
video producer Per Malm" for Julia Ecklar performance
of Leslie Fish's classic Hope Eyrie (mp3),
available on the To
Touch the Stars album.
"1998 Apollo Award Space Song Writing Contest"
The National Space Society announced
a space song writing contest in 1997 to "raise
filk songs from obscurity". The songs could
be in any style but needed a space inspired theme.
In 1998 the following 10 songs (from 28 entries)
were selected as the top finishers and Mike Penkava
performed the winning entry at the 1998 NSS Conference.
Now's the Time to Touch
a Star - Mike Penkava
Queen Isabella, Where
Are You? - Leslie
performed by Kristoph Klover
Big Blue Sky -
Stan Clardy *
The Voyagers -
Don't You Know There's
Space Out There - Wendy Sayvetz
Ten and Counting
Songs of the Space Age
1983 - Off Centaur Publications
Producer Teri Lee, Sound engineer Jeff Rogers
The first anthology of space songs.
Surprise! - written by Leslie Fish,
performed by Leslie Fish, Roy Torley, Julia Ecklar
Mercury-Our First Steps -written
by Harold Groot, performed by Ross Douglas, Julia
Star Fire - written by Cynthia McQuillin,
performed by Julia Ecklar
Toast for Unknown Heroes - written
by Leslie Fish, performed by Julia Ecklar, Leslie
Fish, Doug Olsen
Memorial - written by Mercedes Lackey/Ewan
MacColl/Peggy Seeger, performed by Julia Ecklar.
(Ballad of Springhill by Ewan MacColl &
Peggy Seeger used by permission)
The Phoenix -written and performed
by Julia Ecklar.
Pioneer's Song - written by Jordin
Kare, performed by Julia Ecklar, Leslie Fish
The Ballad of Apollo XIII - written
by William Warren Jr/Gordon Lightfoot, performed
by Julia Ecklar
Legends - written by Bill Roper,
performed by Doug Olsen, Leslie Fish
Apollo Lost - written by Worden/McQuillin,
performed by Cynthia McQuillin, Catherine Cook
Hope Eyrie - written by Leslie Fish,
arranged by Doug Olsen, performed by Doug Olsen,
Sandy Rittenhouse, Ross Douglas, George Spelvin
Minus Ten and Counting - written
by Mercedes Lackey/Leslie Fish, performed by Leslie
Fish, Arlin Robins
Fire in the Sky - written by Jordin
Kare, performed by Doug Olsen, Julia Ecklar
One Way to Go - written by Diana
Gallagher, performed by Julia Ecklar, Arlin Robins,
Joey Shoji, Jim Fox-Davis
Fly, Columbia! - written by Diana
Gallagher, performed by Leslie Fish, Arlin Robins
- [MP3 available currently at Jerry Pournelle's
site - Fly
Everyman - written by Mary Jean
Holmes, sung by Julia Ecklar
The Moon Miners - written by Dianna
Gallagher, performed Ross Douglas, Julia Ecklar
Voyager - written Cynthia McQuillin,
performed by Cynthia McQuillin, Joey Shoji, Catherine
The Light-Ship - written Leslie
Fish, arranged by Catherine Cook, performed by Julia
Ecklar, Catherine Cook, Joey Shoji
Planetbound Lovers - written by
Diana Gallagher, performed by Julia Ecklar
The Mass Driver Engineer - written
by Diana Gallagher, performed by Doug Olsen, Catherine
Sentries - written by Leslie Fish,
performed by Julia Ecklar, Joey Shoji
Witnesses' Waltz - written by Leslie
Fish, performed by Julia Ecklar, Arlin Robins, Catherine
Cook, Gloria Oberste, Jim Fox-Davis, Joey Shoji,
Only about 2500 tapes released
In July of 2002 an original Minus
Ten and Counting cassette tape was
sold at ebay for $162.50. The tape was the first
anthology of space filk when it was released in
1983. Various copyright & personality conflicts
have prevented it from being re-released in CD.
is Alive -- Music Of The Space Shuttles
by Joe Ellis
TAPE TA 10002 - Available at Random
On The Middeck
No Strings Attached
The Challenge of Space
Dawn of Discovery
A Vision of Tomorrow
The Dream is Alive: An instrumental suite
in 4 movements based on a typical space shuttle
1st Mvt: Dawn Pad 39-A
2nd Mvt: Countdown KSC Control
3rd Mvt: Orbit 320 Km
4th Mvt: Reentry and Landing, Edwards AFB
by Jordin Kare
TAPE JK-01 - Available at Random
All Debts Are Paid
Kantrowitz 1972 (HEL Crew's Song)
Sail for Amber
Unified Field Theory
Wanderer\Fire In The Sky
Song of The Bear II
Space Heroes and Other Fools
Julia Ecklar and Anne Harlan Prather
1983 (OCP-16) - Off Centaur Publications.
Thoughts On Strange Visitors - by Leslie
Fish, performed by Julia Ecklar and Anne Prather.
Ballad to a Spaceman by Leslie Fish, performed
by Julia Ecklar.
Helva's Song - written and performed by
Space Hero - by Leslie Fish, performed
by Julia Ecklar and Anne Prather
Iron Mistress by Leslie Fish, performed
by Julia Ecklar.
Hero's Lullaby - written and performed
by Anne Prather.
Hymn to Breaking Strain - lyrics by Rudyard
Kipling, music by Leslie Fish, performed by Julia
Ecklar and Leslie Fish. .
Darkness - by Jordin Kare, performed by
Pushing the Speed of Light - by Jordin
Silver - by Julia Ecklar, performed by
Julia Ecklar and Leslie Fish
Syble's Song - written and performed by
Cold Dreams - by Cynthia McQuillin, performed
by Julia Ecklar.
Hanrahan's Bar - by Cynthia McQuillin,
performed by Julia Ecklar and Anne Prather.
Crystal Singer - written and performed
by Anne Prather.
Homecoming - by Julia Ecklar, performed
by Julia Ecklar and Anne Prather.
Thoughts of a Homeless Alien - written
and performed by Julia Ecklar.
by Black Book Band
TAPE DR-10011, CD DR-10011D - Available at Random
Monorail to Atomland
If I Had a Rocket Launcher
Lady Be Crazy
Madman On the Watchtower
Comin' Back to Me
More space filk songs and audio files:
Roget de Lisle finalists - sound files for the
2004 Mars Society song contest winners and honorable
mentions. Here are some of the entrants with online
event in May 2000: "Tina Swindell and
the Nite Owls: Tina Swindell, a Marshall employee,
and her husband Bill Swindell are singer-songwriters
who have written "A Time for Courage," "Thank
God Dreams Survive" and "Beyond the Stars."
Their music has been embellished with scenes
from NASA’s video library, to inspire and honor
those who have dedicated their lives to the
Filksing - several space song MP3 files
are included at the "largest collection
of recorded 'filk' music on the Internet, with
nearly two hours of performances highlighting
both serious and silly songs of science-fiction,
fantasy, and technology"
Conway - professional artist who works
in several musical styles and genres including
Salad Abduction - "A huge filk
(sci-fi folk music) album. An album of excesses,
theremins, harmonies, instruments galore,
electronics, and strange interludes. FILKADELIC!!!!
A twin release with My
Mind's Island - each follow the journey
begun on the Earth
Rising CD - Alien Salad Abduction follows
the journey outwards - the other twin ,
the inward journey. "
Kristoph Klover - "a singer/songwriter
and performer of the 12-string acoustic guitar,
octave mandolin, and oboe. He has performed
with the Marin Opera of California, Celtic rock
band Avalon Rising, Celtic bands Four Shillings
Short and Beltane, and many smaller ensembles.
He has been performing and teaching voice and
guitar for twenty years." - Flowinglass
In the more mainstream folk music community there has
been, of course, much less singing about the wonders
of space exploration.
A so-called Folk
Revival occurred in the late 1950's and early 1960's
and was especially popular on college campuses. Musicians
like Pete Seeger and the trio Peter, Paul & Mary
revived many wonderful traditional songs, while others
such as Bob Dylan wrote original music that was heavily
influenced by folk music styles.
The Sputnik surprise had a huge affect on American
society and so inevitably affected many of the artists
in all genres of the time, including those of the Folk
For example, the space events had a big impact on the
Trio, one of the most popular groups of the revival.
They wrote several space related songs.
Seven Men, for example, pays tribute
to the seven Mercury astronauts (included on
Time to Think album, Capitol T/ST 2011, December
1963). Other songs include Those Who Are Wise
which acclaims those "who gaze at the sky"(on
the Sunny Side! album, Capitol T/ST 1935, July
Stewart later in 1969, after leaving the Kingston
Trio to pursue a solo career, wrote the song Armstrong
(lyrics). It was strongly criticized as a put down
of the Apollo landing in that it juxtaposed the mission
with poverty on earth. But he said he actually intended
it as a positive message that pointed out that all people,
regardless of their situation, could share in this great
human accomplishment. See more about this in Space
Milestones In Song - Space.com - Aug.26.00.
Other folk related space music:
- composer/performer who fuses rock, folk, jazz and
other styles. Often his compositions are space inspired.
As with folk music, country music might not come to
mind when considering space music but in fact there
are many space inspired tunes written and performed
by country artists. This was especially so back during
the post-Sputnik period, particularly if rockabilly
type music is included.
Here are some resources about space inspired country
Blast-Off Columbia - Roy McCall &
Southern Gold - 1981 - According to Colin
Fries, this song was written by Jerry
Rucker who worked as a technician on the shuttle's
external tank. The song was transmitted as a wakeup
call to Young and Crippen on the first flight
Beach House On The Moon -
has a strong interest in spaceflight. This album,
for example, includes this song with the lines "..There
are relics from Apollo trips, When the earthmen came
to play, ..".
From St. Somewhere
(2013)- this album includes the song, The
Rocket That Grandpa Rode, as a tribute to