A filksing is anywhere that people sing filk music. Since most people who sing filk are anarchistic or libertarian, they usually all have a well-defined sense of fairness. And since most everyone who comes to a filksing actually wants to pick music, or sing, or otherwise perform, it was only a (short) matter of time before rules came into being.

The general rules are:

  • On your turn, you can:
    • pick -- that is, ask another member of the circle to sing a specific song, a song on any given topic, or really any song at all.
    • pass -- give up your turn, in favor of the next person in line.
    • play -- perform a song or poem yourself.
  • In any given filk circle, there is usually a theme, and a moderator (called the ghod) to keep the circle in order. Follow the theme... or else.
  • If there are children around, do NOT bring out your bawdy material -- save it for later, after they go to bed. (Or if their parents or guardians are around, ask them for permission -- but do not assume that they will say yes.)
  • If you don't like how someone sings, you MAY NOT make rude or hurtful comments directed at them, in any circumstance. A filksing is a gathering of friends (or reasonably friendly people), not a flamewar.

Now, there are several different styles of filksing. Here are the main types that this author is familiar with, as well as their basic rules:

  • Bardic Circle: This is the most basic form of filksing organization you can get. You come in, the turn passes in a defined manner (usually deosil (clockwise), but sometimes widdershins (counterclockwise)), and when it gets to you you get your turn. This is why 'pass' is an option -- if you have to go directly after a beautiful song that tears your heart out and stomps on it up and down the scales of A minor, and you can't get your voice to respond, this pass is for you. :)
  • Poker Chip Bardic: This is a modification to the Bardic Circle, above. Each round, you get a poker chip, that you can throw into the center of the circle to claim your one turn for that round. This is to minimize the number of passes from those people who really do have some beautiful material or voices, and who want to participate.
  • Khaos: Anything goes, specifically chaotic by definition. Some singers, such as Kathy Mar, refuse to participate unless it's this mode.
  • Moderated Khaos: Khaos with a ghod to maintain the flow -- the ghod's job in this case is to ensure that everyone has a good time, and to pick people to have a turn when the flow's been too stagnant.
  • Chaser: If you have a song that matches the theme (any theme) from the prior song performed, you can speak up and perform it. A variant is where -you must- perform a song that matches the previous theme, until the ghod declares the topic verboten. (theme, in this case, can be very generic -- author, subject matter, rebuttal, tune, same lyrics to a different tune, punnishment, or even scansion and rhyme of the song, the title, or the subject matter. This author actually came up, after a performance of the song I Am Kitten, "well, we've now heard about cat-tamer's mommy, let's hear about a Horse-Tamer's Daughter." Which was amazingly horrendous, because when properly performed Horse-Tamer's Daughter lasts for at least 11 minutes.)

There are other forms, but those are the most basic forms that you will find. And you'll often find a circle drifting from one form to another, depending on the mood of everyone involved in that circle.

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