Another QuarterNote Heard From

Bill Sutton

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In Which Bill Introduces His Column

Opinions are like bellybuttons. Everybody has one, and they could easily spend their lives contemplating it. In public.

I'm certainly no exception to this rule. After some mumble mumble years in Convention Fandom, I've developed quite a number of opinions on topics regarding music in general and filk in particular. There's only so many people you can annoy in the con suite, though - and nothing provokes thought quite like an annoying opinion.

So, I'm going to take the plunge into writing a regular column. I suppose it took the ease of doing this on the Internet and the inspiration provided by Debbie with The Dandelion Report to push me over the edge. Certainly, I hope that future generations will consider this a Happy Event and not proof of the ubiquitous Imminent Death of the Web ...

In an introductory column, it's Traditional to give you some of my background and a general idea of where I come from within the Universe of Ideas. It's also considered Good Form to give a few teasers regarding future columns, with an eye toward piquing your interest and perhaps generating a desire to see those columns on your very screen in the months to come. As fandom is nothing if not Traditional, and I always consider myself one who plays by the Unwritten Rules, I suppose I'd better do those very things and get them out of the way.

We can probably start with who I am and why I think I have something to say. I "grew up" in Midwest filking, so my own roots are mired deep in shtick and performance-style songs. In my years travelling to cons all over the world, I've participated in enough other styles to project an air of knowledge and acceptance of just about anything that allows people to make music together. I can claim to have been paid for making music, both in respectful folk venues and in the harsh environment of bar music. I've even run a convention or three in my checkered past.

Does any of this make me an expert? Nope. Does it make my opinion more valid than anyone else's? Of course not. What it does mean is that I've seen a lot of people succeed and a lot of people struggle. It means that I've got a perspective (not the perspective, just a perspective) on the way the "filk scene" differs from and resembles other musical and creative ventures. And it means that I knew a good thing when I saw Debbie's new venture and I moved fast.

Now comes the heart of the issue - what can you expect to see over the next months? I want this column to be useful to anyone who participates in filk, meaning any listener, performer, songwriter, watcher, or convention scheduler. That's a tall order for anyone to try to cover. After all, performance techniques might not seem to be very interesting to someone who won't sing in front of the cat, much less in front of an audience of human beings - even if those human beings are filkers. Think about it, though. Performance techniques can be applied to any situation where you find yourself in front of people and need to leave a good impression. And we all know filkers who would benefit from a little education on listening rather than performing ...

There are a bazillion topics that I'd like to cover as time goes on. Most of them would make good panel topics and may have done so in the past. If I run into a good topic or panel discussion during the course of time, I may choose to address it here. If everything goes well, some of the topics I address here might become panel discussions at a con. That would be fantastic, so don't even bother to ask if it's OK - just assume it is. Considering I probably 'gleaned' the idea from another source in the first place, how could I object? Only, please to be calling it research.

To be more specific, here are some of the things I'd like to babble on about in this monthly thingy:

  • Useful tips for working within the different styles of filk.
  • How to set up a good filk room for each style
  • Why not spend a filk not performing?
  • Lyric and music writing.
  • How to overcome that shy streak (or how to feel comfortable being shy.)
  • What is shtick, and when is it too much?
  • In defense of Ose!
  • Critiquing yourself and loving it.
  • And much, much more. NOW how much would you pay?

In short, I'll be doing my best to touch on any topic I can think of - even some that might be a bit controversial - that can help us enjoy being part of this community just a bit more. More or less, I'll be exploring just what this filk thing means to all who are a part of it.

I won't be defining it, though.

Previous columns:

  • Hey, we just started here! Gimme a break!
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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 as part of The Dandelion Report.

Copyright ©2001 Bill Sutton. All rights reserved.