This ongoing series looks at the various ways people get involved in fandom. This issue, we’re looking at fanmusic.
Music is a huge part of modern life. It’s used so universally to set the mood of a scene in anything we watch that something missing that musical soundtrack element stands out and can seem jarring. But it’s a constant in the real world, too. If you’re reading a book, the chances are you’ve got music playing in your own environment – if you’re walking down the street, you might hear music from a car. It can affect your mood and boost your energy; it can make a trip to the shop feel like an epic quest (try playing the Lord of the Rings soundtrack next time you step outside).
So what? I hear you ask. Music’s kind of a big deal, but what does that have to do with fandom? Well, some fans are artists; some are writers. And some are musicians.
There are some fantastically creative people out there who create and adapt music as an expression of their fandom. This comes in a few different varieties, such as fanmixing, parody, and original creations.
Fanmixing can be as apparently straight-forward as making a sort of ‘mix tape’ playlist for a character or a list of songs to listen to as you read specific parts of a favourite book, or as involved as taking 30 tracks of characters speaking, putting them together and pitch-adjusting until you’ve got what seems to be a coherent musical number. One of those might seem easier than the other, but building a playlist involves relying on other artists – not yourself – to have captured just the expressions and sentiments you require, while the more technically-complicated you get with your fanmixing, the more freedom you get to change things to the way you want them.
Then there’s parody, often an underappreciated art form. Personally, I love a good parody of a song – anyone who’s spent ten minutes on the fandom side of Tumblr will have heard at least one fandom version of ‘Call Me Maybe’, I’m sure. The scope of these parodies is quite a wide range – from your simple edits of dialogue in at the end of the chorus, through entirely redrafted lyrics, to those incredible multi-track video recordings people make of themselves performing what they’ve adapted. And they’re usually even funny.
Taking a well-known song and rewriting it, for example, to be about the famous central romance of Pride and Prejudice, or creating a playlist to sum up Romeo and Juliet, means that whenever you hear a particular piece of mainstream music you might be reminded of your favourite characters, transporting you from the mundanity of the real world to the dazzling fantasy an author came up with some time in the past – whether that was six months ago or six centuries ago. Music has a very potent power to take us away from where we are and deposit us in a completely different world – and if it’s a world you’re a fan of, so much the better.
I shouldn’t forget to mention covers – taking a song or a piece of music from a film or show and re-recording it yourself. This can be singing into your phone’s voice recorder function or setting up a camera and splicing together video of yourself playing every single instrument you could find a way to incorporate into a punk version of the Doctor Who theme tune. There’s no more sincere expression of appreciation than trying to recreate something, in my opinion, which is what most covers aim to do, albeit with the occasional quirk.
And then there’s those people. You know the ones, the ones who make you just frown at them for a few minutes, trying to work out where that spark of inspiration came from. People who come up with original music for a fandom and just run wild with it. That’s not to say they’re better fans or better creators than the people who sing into their phones, but the mind-boggling talent it takes to make something worthy of your fandom is much more strikingly apparent when it appears that this creative spark has come from nowhere. Some of the biggest Wrock (Wizard Rock) and Trock (TARDIS Rock) bands blow me away just with the way they look at the world in a slightly different light and make sweet, sweet music out of it.And here’s the thing; because the people who create fanmusic – of any type – see the world the way they do, they allow us to see that same world the same way. I remember being super-excited to get my copy of Jingle Spells 2 when it came out a few years ago, because not only was this a compilation of some of the best Wrock bands out there, but it was Christmas-themed and that meant I could play it obnoxiously loudly while decorating a tree. Suddenly, Harry Potter could be part of my world while I did something completely unrelated. More recently, I enjoyed WrockBox – again, there I was, sitting at my laptop, doing some work, listening to wizard radio. Obviously, those examples both come from the same fandom, but it’s by no means the only one it applies to.
There’s something about the way music has permeated every aspect of our lives these days that gives it an uncanny ability to make something feel real without being intrusive. Listening to music related to our fandoms – especially created by other fans – gives a real feeling of belonging and a connection to something outside ourselves – even though our love for the thing we’re fans of stays mostly inside. We spend so much time listening to music that it can be one of the easiest ways to carry something with us wherever we go. Besides, you can have great fun seeing how long it takes someone to work out that the new rock band you just have to introduce them to is singing about Twilight.
So big respect to the fan-musicians (many of whom have their own fans, but let’s not get into that here) for bringing the worlds of fantasy and reality that little bit closer together.
The series will continue next issue by looking at another way fandom can be expressed, so don’t miss that! Meanwhile, why not let us know about your favourite fanmusic in the comments below?