Another QuarterNote Heard From

Bill Sutton

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RIP Bruce Pelz Aug. 11, 1936 - May 9, 2002

We interrupt our silence for a very heartfelt and serious column.

Bruce Pelz, one of the pioneers of collected and shared filk, died on Thursday, May 9, 2002 of a massive coronary.

I never had a chance to meet him more than just in passing. I wish I had sought him out when I was a poor neofilker, I wish I had spent time talking to him and singing the songs in the Filksong Manuals instead of reading them and enjoying them but being such an anti-hymnal snob.

Here was a man whose collection of songs and body of work led me to many of my earliest contact with filk - whether indirectly through those who built on it, or directly through his settings and publication of settings for Silverlock songs - and I never told him so.

But I don't mean this article to be just a lament that I didn't know Bruce as I would have liked. Nor can my minimal contact and knowledge replace the LASFS memorials or Lee and Barry Gold's Filk Hall of Fame nomination writeups as posted in

It is meant to be more of a public plea to all of you (yes, all five or six!) who read this column.

Filk as a genre has come of age in that its participants are no longer the "young pups" we used to be. We've grown and aged and we are now becoming very susceptible to the loss of those who have been very important to us. This is natural, though every age group feels somehow that they were the first to run into this part of the cycle.

The problem is that the genre as a community is in danger of forgetting who its parents are.

Filk is a folk tradition, meaning many of our oldest songs and habits and in-jokes come from sources that become more obscure as the generations advance. These become so much a part of every circle that we don't remember who started them, or who sang that song the first time, or who started the APA that published that filk stuff, or who sold those filkbooks.

Our convention guests concentrate very much on those who are active in the community. There is essentially nothing wrong with this, because a convention depends on the draw of its guests to bring enough members to pay its bills to be able to afford to do it all again next year.

Once someone gets away from all this - whether by choice or by circumstance - it doesn't take very long for us to move on to the latest phenomenon. Again, there is nothing wrong with this - failing to move forward would be the fastest way to strangle the dynamics of filk, leaving it in the hands of the curmudgeons and rigid traditionalists.

But sometimes I wish I knew more about Those Who Came Before. I wish I had a reference book or a web site or something that told me more than just the history of filk itself.

So I would like to ask all of you who have the time and skills to put these kinds of things together to consider doing so. There must be people out there who thrive on research and storytelling, who can add to the resources we have that can be accessed from places like

If you have access to our shared history and the people who were involved, get those stories out.

Let me concentrate on one particular place this can happen.

The Filk Hall of Fame (FHoF) was started to help honor those who have made it possible to be where we are today. However, there has been such a large quantity of contemporaries who deserve induction that it is difficult to get to the backlog of those who are not as well known.

I have personally been very unhappy that so many of those before us have died before the FHoF has been able to induct them. I understand the difficulty, and part of it is because there are fewer people who know those predecessors well enough to provide a clear, detailed, and compelling nomination.

The FHoF selectors do not decide on the basis of the number of nominations. Rather, they decide based on the amount of information in a nomination and how well that represents multiple points of view. Selectors are meant to disregard their own personal knowledge and rely solely on the nominations provided.

This means that multiple nominations with good information add to the base of knowledge about a nominee and make it easier for the selectors to make a decision.

So if you have ever thought about nominating someone, particularly someone who has not been active in a number of fannish generations (defined as about 3 years to a generation), then please nominate them. Don't just send in their name and 25 words or less - write an essay or even a song. Just tell everything about how this person influenced you and the filk community as a whole.

If you don't feel up to making a nomination, how about collecting stories and oral history for popular access? How about learning one "old" song and singing it or leading it at the next filk? How about gathering all the resources that already exist (and I know they're out there. Hopefully we'll find out about a bunch of them in the feedback for this column) and setting up a page of pointers?

How about thanking the ones who pulled you into this Thing of Ours - directly?

So, though it's too late in too many ways - thanks, Bruce.

I hope you have plenty of songbooks with you, because they'll all want one.

Next column: ... oh, let's not spoil it, shall we?

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Bill Sutton has been active in performing his own and others' music in public for fun and profit ... well, fun anyway ... for over 25 years. His column appears regularly fairly regularly when time permits sometimes as part of The Dandelion Report.

Copyright ©2002 Bill Sutton. All rights reserved.