Filk Music

I’m currently e-reading Larry Niven’s (ed al) “Fallen Angels“. I like the story, but the book is about fandom, which is a new world to me.  So, I did some googling, which gave me 33,700,000 results, of course a lot from Wikipedia, all – at least the first three 🙂 – very interesting. Eventually I also learned about Filk, also new to me:

a musical culture, genre, and community tied to science fiction/fantasy fandom and a type of fan labor.

As I see it, these are lyrics, counterfeited to popular or at least well known songs, inspired by scifi or fantasy.

Interesting websites are

Some samples:

Somewhere Over the Barstool

Words: Gail Pittaway
Music: “Somewhere over the Rainbow”

Somewhere inside this starship
Must be booze.
No one could chance to run out,
Not on a five-year cruise.

Somewhere outside this rec room
We’ll explore.
Maybe inside Kirk’s stateroom
We’ll find a little more.


The Day that SF Died
© 1988, Arlan Andrews, Sr.
(roughly based on melody of “American Pie” by Don Mclean, ca.1971)

So, farewell, Mr. Robert Heinlein
Thank you for your stories and your soul and your mind
We wish you well while traveling the galaxy’s girth
Far away from the green hills of Earth
Far from the green hills of Earth.

It is a mer a boire; unfortunately the performances I heard – sung by Filk-Singers – are not that great.

Web surfing can be very dangerous: while exploring the topic at hand, you always end up finding something entirely different. And so the SWIL Filkbooks collection also gave me a link to Physics Songs.

Songs about physics can help students to remember critical concepts and formulas, but perhaps more importantly they communicate the lesson that physics can be fun. They certainly help to establish an informal classroom atmosphere, in which even shy students are willing to ask questions.
The songs may also activate a different part of the students’ brains. In 1983, Howard Gardner advanced the theory that each person has many different kinds of intelligence (Frames of Mind : The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Basic Books). His original list had seven categories: verbal/linguistic, mathematical/logical, visual/spatial, bodily/kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. Songs about physics link into the musical aspect of intelligence, helping many students to build a richer “knowledge tree” relating to the concept being taught, and thus promoting better retention.

True – although personally I have some doubts with Gardners Multiple Intelligence-theory. But it is a fact that music can help you remembering things, for example the famous “Do Re, Mi” song from “The Sound of Music”, which helps you remembering the names of the notes, but, since the notes are also on the correct pitch in the musical scale, you can learn how to find them in the tonal space. The concept is, in fact, stolen from a medieval song, “Ut quéant laxis” that, by the way, coined the solfege syllables.

The songs by Tom Lehrer (Nomen est Omen – “Lehrer” is of course German for “teacher”) are also well known (he wrote more than just “The Elements”).
Other interesting projects, mentioned on this weblog before, are the Pi-Songs and the Symphony of Science ProjectA Glorious Dawn“.
The Particle Physics Song, lyrics by Danuta Orlowska, performed by the CERN Choir in the CERN Control Center based on the tune: “The Bold Hippopotamus” by Flanders and Swann is here as an example (and, given the fact that the singers are not professionals, quite well sung) of the still expanding database (complete with search engine) of physics songs.

Not sure if this post is about Filk Music, Physics Songs or creativity for educational purposes, I will include in this post the link to ThinkGeek’s Haiku contest. Obviously geeks are creative!
Let’s quote something scifi:

Learn from the Jedi.
Discipline, control, respect.
Dangerous muppet.
— Patrick in Anaheim, California

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  • The Aesthetics and Beauty of Knowledge

    Shih was the opposite of facts and raw information; shih was the elegance of knowledge, the insight and skill to organize knowledge into meaningful patterns. As an artist chooses colours or light to make her pictures, a master of shih chooses textures of knowledge – various ideas, myths, abstractions, and theories – to create a way of seeing the world. The aesthetics and beauty of knowledge – this was shih.

    – David Zindell, The Broken God, 1993

  • Geek Attitude

    The attitude thing is about flexibility, portability, creativity, sociability and jamming (ran out of suitable “ity” words!). It’s about improvising – in the practical and musical senses of the word; not getting tangled in boundaries and the “right” way to do things.
    Definitely the only way to travel.
    Martin Delaney – “Laptop Music”.