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Seanan McGuire
A Phouka Walks Into A Bar:
Steve Macdonald Wrote A Song...

* * *

...G Am D.

A few of you may have noticed last week that I mentioned Steve Macdonald's 'World Dream' project*, said that I would talk more about it later, and then proceeded not to mention it again for the duration of the column. Maybe you thought I had forgotten, or just hadn't proofread correctly. Well, if you thought that, you were wrong. It just wasn't later yet.

It's later now.

(*Sorry, _still_ refusing to spell it 'WorlDream'. It brings back bad ElfQuest memories of the whole 'WaveDancers' fiasco, and I really have better things to do with my time. Like bleed from the eyeballs.)

For those of you that aren't hugely involved with the filk community (and yes, Lars, I realize that's most of my readers, I promise to return to the world of 'things that aren't filk' next week), the 'World Dream' project is the brainchild of Steve Macdonald, a filker from the Midwest who frankly has too much energy for the amount of time included in a standard day. As a consequence, while the rest of us must be content with the simple twenty-four hour day, Steve is actually running on extra-special _thirty-two hour days_, hand-manufactured by the evil gnomes from WalMart.

Well, no, actually, that's not really true. But it sounds good, doesn't it?

World Dream is basically the filker's equivalent of 'We Are The World'. The same song is being recorded at every single filk convention which takes place during the year 2001 (and that's a _lot_ of conventions). Once all the tapes have been made, they're going to be combined by some poor, long-suffering soundman who will probably wind up cursing the day he discovered filk music. At the end, we'll have a single CD -- a CD which includes the song 'Many Hearts, One Voice', as sung by pretty much every filker to attend any one of those conventions.

One song. Several hundred singers. Sounds ambitious, doesn't it? At the very least, it sounds insane.

To ensure that this Herculean* project would actually be completed, Steve has committed himself to attending every single filk con to occur during 2001. Oh, the sacrifice. Poor, poor Steve. I attend half those conventions in a given year without having the excuse of a giant recording project. I just admit that I'm crazy and move on.

(*Today's fifty-dollar word!)

But anyway, inspired by that extra time in his thirty-two hour day, Steve wrote a song, spoke to the various convention committees, and generally got to the point where his World Dream could become a reality. And that, children, is where today's story begins.

Following the Friday night concerts at Consonance (see the column for 3/5/01, 'Conventional Thinking), I was handed a large stack of lyric sheets and asked to pass them out. Oooooooo-kay. Snagging one for myself, I began waylaying innocent bystanders and thrusting music into their hands, assuming that I would eventually be told what was going on. I'm a trusting sort, aren't I?

The lyric sheets were pretty nice, too, topped with a lovely graphic that I would later find out had been designed by our very own Beckett Gladney. The filking community has long since adopted the dandelion as our emblem and flower of choice. Well, Beckett had managed to fill an entire nighttime sky with dandelions, as well as turning the full moon into a very, very large dandelion. Pity the person whose lawn gets scattered with _those_ dandelion seeds. No amount of roto-rooting is going to save them.

In any case, it was pretty. Too pretty. It lulled me into a false sense of security. As a result, I stayed in the room.

Steve Macdonald took the stage after half the people in the room had lyric sheets of their very own, and informed us that it was time to rehearse for World Dream. Okay. I could handle that. Under normal circumstances, I could even have been excited by it.

Unfortunately, I was still recovering from pneumonia. As a result my normal voice -- a fairly steady soprano -- had been replaced by this intriguing alto squeak which became raspy and unpleasant on anything above middle C. Lucky me. I seem to have this amazing talent for getting sick right before conventions that I want to sing at. So far, the only convention that hasn't been affected is OVFF (the Ohio Valley Filk Festival): I'm fairly sure that my immune system just hasn't noticed it yet. The concept of rehearsing didn't really appeal to me, mostly because I wasn't sure my throat would hold out.

I tried to sneak quietly out of the room. I really did. Have you ever tried to sneak quietly when clutching a large stack of lyric sheets and being hailed from all sides? I'll give you a hint -- don't bother. You're not going to succeed. You will, however, wind up attending the rehearsal, smiling wanly and trying to coax your poor, wounded throat into uttering something above an angry squeak.

In accordance with Murphy's Law (Murphy loves me!), the World Dream theme turned out to be written in a nice, high key -- the sort of thing that I would normally really enjoy singing. The sort of thing, in fact, that I had to concentrate to sing anything other than soprano on. Can you guess what came next? Yes, exactly. I would start in a nice, alto key, start concentrating on actually singing the lyrics correctly, rather than just singing them _low_, and would automatically jump into a soprano register. End result: every time I opened my mouth, I sounded like a chipmunk on downers.

We rehearsed for about twenty minutes, then moved next door to the ballroom for the actual recording. Those who played guitar -- or, in some cases, mandolin -- moved to the front of the room, ready to accompany our home-made chaos. Callie Hills of Echo's Children (a wonderful musical duo) was also there, flute in hand, ready to play.

Now. The World Dream song was purposefully written to be simple, easy to learn, sing and play. And I am bearing this in mind as I say that Callie is a Flute Goddess. With twenty minutes of rehearsal -- which wasn't enough for some of the singers to figure out the tune, much less some of the instrumentalists -- she had managed to come up with a flute descant that sounded like it had been polished for months. Yes, the song was simple. Y'know what? I don't care. I hereby nominate Callie for deity-hood -- and if anyone wants to argue, I'll just point them to the recordings from the World Dream.

Filkers spread out through the ballroom, automatically seeking points as far from the microphones as possible. Steve gently nudged us all closer to the recording equipment, despite the fact that most of us were looking at the sound system the way my grandmother looks at poisonous snakes. It was sort of a case of 'immovable object meets unstoppable force': Steve was trying to move a whole lot of people who didn't really want to be moved. Personally, I would have put my money on the crowd.

It's a good thing I'm not a betting sort of person. Steve somehow managed to not only move everyone in that room, he moved us _twice_, and even managed to make us all hold totally silent-and-still for a full minute while the sound levels on the room were checked and verified. Either the man is eventually going to overthrow the world's government, which I doubt, or the World Dream song is actually a complex mind-control device, aimed at the filking community. I'm leaning towards the latter. You have been warned.

Once we had all been settled into place with the flair and elan of Martha Stewart laying out a formal dinner ('...and just to give the room that cultured air, a centerpiece of live filkers!...'), it was time for us to begin singing.

All around the room, harmony broke out like some sort of plague. It was exceedingly neat to watch -- although I'm sure I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't been concentrating so hard to make sure that I was actually staying in the same key for more than thirty seconds at a time. I'm normally pretty good about that sort of thing: starting voice lessons at the age of four will do that to a person. Of course, normally, my voice isn't trying to buck me off like some sort of rodeo stallion.

I suppose it was inevitable that my voice would win. About two-thirds of the way through the second rendition of the song (this time with _feeling_!), everything gave out completely. I made an interesting squeaking noise, and stopped singing. That seemed like my best option, since the alternative was to continue making that exciting new noise and probably get lynched when this forced us to sing the song a third time.

After that, it was off to the con suite for hot tea and grousing. While I was there, I managed to find a mandolin and completely mangle the Tam Lin Talking Blues, but that's neither here nor there.

Oddly enough, despite the remarkable damage that I managed to do to my throat (I'll be abasing myself before my voice teacher for the foreseeable future), I'm really glad that I did it. If only because in ten years, no one's going to believe any of this actually happened. There's value in becoming part of an urban legend. At the very least, it can usually get you lunch.

Now if you'll pardon me, I need to go get some throat lozenges. And maybe some hot tea with honey. And a new throat...

What does this button do?

Seanan McGuire. 3/12/01. _____________________________________________________
'A Phouka Walks Into A Bar' is a non-commercial humor column, written and distributed for entertainment purposes only. If you feel that you have been added to this list in error, please email Seanan McGuire at The contents of this column are (c) Seanan McGuire, 2001, and may not be forwarded or distributed in any form without this notice. Where's my iguana?

Copyright © 2001 Steve Macdonald