Furry Music: Songs in the Key of Fur
By Emily White
May 15, 2002
Intercultural Music in America
University of Colorado @ Colorado Springs
Instructor Dr. Smith
The connection of man and animal has been around since the earliest recordings of history. In cave drawings, depictions of animal-men have been around from the time of the images of men themselves. Stories and fables of talking animals, werewolves, Kitsune and changelings are common in every culture. There are so many ways that cultures connect themselves to animals through their dances, music and ceremonies that this is a common theme of mankind. It is these traditions that the furry sub-culture helps to continue. Using modern methods, "furries" around the world try to find their balance and connection to the desire of man to be more animal-like.
The beginning of the furry community was actually the beginning of the "Funny Animal" community. The term "Funny Animal" was used to identify cartoons, which were the most popular form of anthropomorphic animals. The reason the term is not used as often today is because "Funny Animals" are misleading. While many furries are fans of cartoons, there are many that identify with animals in completely different ways. Still, the term "Funny Animal" is still used by some furries and the debate can get very heated between the two differing viewpoints.
From most of the interviews with furries, the definition of a furry is very loose. The most basic definition is any anthropomorphized animal. This can range from animals that talk, such as The Lion King or Watership Down, to more humanized versions, such as the ancient Kitsune of Japan or the modern "Mickey Mouse." However, this definition leaves out those furries who believe in normal animals that are their spirit guides, furries that believe in a spiritual connection to the animals around them, and furries that believe that they have been reincarnated and had a previous life as the animal they feel a connection to. Conflicts of who can call themselves a furry have also become more heated since the Internet allowed furries to contact one another easier. However, most furries donít care how you interpret furriness so long as you understand that it is a connection of human and animal.
The amount of connection between these animals and the "furry" is dependent on the furryís own beliefs. For some furries, there is no distinction between their human self and their furry self. They incorporate habits of the animal they feel has chosen them into their daily routine, often subconsciously. Other furries feel a separation from their furry self and their human self. Others believe that their furry self is actually a spiritual guide, much like the Native American cultures that believe that every being is born with an animal waiting to guide them throughout their lives. Some furries believe they remember their previous life where they were some sort of animal and felt they were the most balanced and happiest in that life, so the animal characteristics carry over into their current life. There are some that believe in were-creatures, or changeling ability. This is more comparable to the belief held by some Native American and African tribes that a person can take on the characteristics of a certain animal through some spiritual way. Still others are content only to admit that they like the artwork of furries and feel they have no true connection to furries. This last group is often the subject of debate as to whether they are actually furries or merely admirers of the culture. The only common connection between everyone is that there is more than an average admiration and connection to animals.
There are many different terms that the furry community uses in order to communicate among themselves. Terms like "furry", "furson" and "furs" identify furry individuals. The term "Furry" can be used to identify real people or the animal, in whatever forms the animal is that the person is connected to. "Fursuits" refer to the full body suits that furries wear for multiple reasons. "FurryMUCK" is a site that is popular among some of the more computer-oriented furries where role-play as their furry alter ego is common. Growling, "rr"ing, and many other animal sounds are considered normal in a group and social setting. Some sounds that animals make have taken on a greater meaning. "Yerf" is a common word that no one really knows where it came from, but is connected to an art community online and a fanzine offline. "Yiff" and "Yiffy" is another word that supposedly came from an animal sound and is considered to mean sex and sexy. An important part of the furry community is the renaming of people. Every furry typically has two names. One is their given name, and the other is the name of their furry persona. Sometimes a furry has more than one furry persona and so will have more than one name. These names are used online and offline. The language of the furry community can make meeting with a bunch of furs an interesting experience until you learn it.
The furry community is made up of many different types of beliefs and lifestyles. Itís impossible to say how many different beliefs there are. The one common theme among furries is that typically they are much more accepting of many different beliefs. The common theme is "As long as you donít hurt other fursons by your actions, then you are welcome here." There are a great number of religious beliefs, but the most numerous are those beliefs that allow for a greater animal to man connection. Furries often feel free to explore Paganism and anti-theology because of the need for the freedom of interpretation of the man-animal connection. However, it seems that nearly every belief system is represented. Rarely will you hear furs discussing religion unless they know that other furs wonít be offended by their beliefs. There are also a number of alternative lifestyles in the furry community. Homosexuals and bisexuals make up a good portion of the furry community. On a whole, however, the furry community seems more accepting of these lifestyles and itís not a real problem for the majority of furries to deal with.
Furries use several means to communicate. Before the Internet, fanzines and publications were the main tools to communicate with. A common magazine is "In-Fur_Nation", which gives current events, meeting information, and a sampling of art. Another magazine put out for the furry community is "Furrlough". The publication is monthly and focuses more on art with some communications. However, since the earliest computer connections, furries have been using the computer to communicate with one another. Typically, a furry will tell you that they have always had the inclinations to be a furry, but were unaware that anyone else out there might have the same feelings until they met someone online. Email chat groups, chat rooms and role-play are the most common ways that furries find and communicate with each other.
On the Internet, role-play for furries is very normal. The oldest role-play area is "FurryMUCK", an extensive role-playing community that allows you to adjust the role-play environment to suit the individualís need. For instance, if someone views themselves as a fox and wants to make a den, then they can find an empty area and spend time programming the MUCK to have their den there. When other furries come through that area, then they will see what the furry fox has made. On a MUCK setting like this one, furries also communicate about real life issues ranging from schoolwork, furry acceptance and life-problems. These "Out of Character" communications help furries to create bonds while waiting for the all too infrequent real life gathering.
Off of the Internet, furries meet one another in a variety of places. Where there is more than one furry, expect a meeting to happen at one time or another. In the Colorado Springs area, there are only a few furries and only one furry club. The "Anime and Furry Art Appreciation" club on UCCS was created this year and met consistently throughout the year. Traditionally, itís common for a furry club to ride on the skirts of an Anime club since Anime has a more common fan base. A far more active community is in Boulder, where furries meet for fursuiting, drawing, and any excuse they can find. "Howloween" is an annual dance that takes place around Halloween every year. There are also a variety of camping adventures, hikes, and other outdoor games. Much larger community gatherings are at Conventions.
Conventions happen at many different places around the world. Conventions are typically named for the area that they are happening or for fun. Because of the large furry community in Europe, there are a number of conventions that happen there every year with the largest being "Eurofurence". American conventions happen in every state. The largest furry conventions happen on the west and east coasts, because of the large furry community present there. There are also large furry conventions that move from state to state, trying to fill the need of furries without making them travel too far. There is talk among the Colorado Furs of hosting a furry convention, though that may take a little time to truly happen. A successful convention has furries come from all over the world to meet. No matter where they meet, furries are a very physical group as a whole. "Scritching", hugs, and other physical contact is considered very normal and a furry or person who doesnít feel comfortable with physical contact usually has to make that known or risk a surprise pounce and hug attack. Once a furry knows that someone is uncomfortable with that, then they will respect those wishes. However, most furries enjoy the contact.
The way that a furry expresses himself is as varied as just enjoying looking at the art to being a part of it. Art is a large part of the furry community. Nearly every furry has tried to draw how they feel when they think of their furry self. Some artists are extremely good and published while others are only beginning in their expression. The traditional way for furries to exchange art is to go to a convention and draw something for someone while they draw something for you. The more common way is the selling of prints and online trading. Comic books are also a common way for furries to exchange art.
Another way that furries express themselves is through their sewing skills. The wearing of tails and ears in public is a way of showing pride in their furry self, as well as a way of feeling more connected to their furry side in real life. Less common are the full fursuits that can be as simple or complicated as the furry inside of them. These are like mascot suits, some so complicated that they have cooling units inside of them. These cooling units are often needed as the temperature inside of a fursuit can reach unbearable heights. The reasons for wearing a fursuit are mostly to feel a greater connection to their furry self and to entertain others. Fursuiters usually like to perform in plays, fashion shows, or in other ways.
Writing stories is a less popular way that furries express themselves in comparison to drawing. Still, there are thousands of stories written by furries on the Internet. Every magazine published by furries contains furry stories. These stories can be in comic book form or in normal novel or short-story form. Since the furry community isnít very mainstream, furry novels that are enjoyed by furries arenít always exclusively from the furry community. The "Redwall" series by Brian Jacques is an extremely popular novel series for furries. Movies also typically come from non-furry sources. Disneyís Robin Hood, Balto, The Lion King, Never Cry Wolf, The Secret of N.I.M.H and Watership Down are a few movies that furries enjoy as expressing furry thoughts or feelings.
Another way that furries express themselves is through puppets and puppeteering skills. A debatable furry expression is the "Funday Pawpet Show" that is shown online every Sunday. The Pawpet show is a puppet show using animals and a variety of props in a variety of situations. Even though the Funday Pawpet sets are available for purchase on Furbid, it generally advertises itself as not being furry. Other puppet shows are more common at conventions and gatherings. Itís just another fun way for a furry to express what they feel without actually having to wear a full fursuit
A less common way for furries to express themselves is through music. In talking with furries, most were unaware that there was a "furry music scene." Still, every furry could tell about music that they felt was furry. The most extensive furry music collection on the Internet was found at The Furry Music Foundation that is based in Europe. While the majority of furry musicians connected with the Foundation were Europeans, some are in America. The Furry Music Foundation also gives a listing of music that is considered furry, though itís not necessarily from a furry source. Soundtracks to favorite movies like The Lion King, or other songs that were obviously talking about furry animals make up this list. There are songs from rock groups and punk groups that are generally considered furry as well. This music is debatable as to whether itís truly furry, however. The argument is that if the artist didnít write it intentionally for a furry audience, then it may not be considered furry. However, this music is enjoyed by the community as a whole and should be considered a part of the furry community.
The most efficient way for furries to exchange music is over the Foundationís website, where there are many songs available for download. There are also three CDís connected to the website that can be bought. The first CD released was called "Furry Fantasies" and was mostly computer-generated music. "Silky Fur", the next CD released, has an even greater variety of music from vocals and traditional to completely computer-generated. "Furry Fantasies II: The Soundtrack" was released most recently with more traditional musical expression, though computer generated was still a part of it. The connection to stories and music is seen most clearly in the title of "Furry Fantasies II: The Soundtrack" in that the artists decided to identify it as a soundtrack. The reason given was that each of the songs was written with a story in mind. The trend is that every CD released by these independent producers increases in quality. These CDs are enjoyed by furries the world over.
Public playing of furry music happens most often at conventions. Furry concerts are sometimes organized at conventions. Usually these concerts give artists a chance to show their music and share old favorites. These concerts range from organized performances to less organized jam sessions. Another way that furries publicly exchange their music is by meeting in smaller groups during conventions. These impromptu jam sessions are a fun way to share music. There also usually is a dance at conventions and this is another place that music is integral. Not all of this music is furry, but a majority of it is. This need to dance may account for the high amount of techno music that furries seem to produce.
Furry music comes in a variety of styles. Everything from Classical to modern Techno is found on the Foundationís website. The only style not seen was country, but itís only a matter of time before a "cow"boy makes his way on the site. Some songs arenít really categorized in any type of style. "For a Sqrrl", or a squirrel furry, is a parody written by Chama from a ballad called "For a Cat" written by Jumpy. Another interesting song to listen to is "Mizarian Porcupine Overture" by Thyromanes, which is the overture to the Mizarian Porcupine Opera "Têka ï së rrakî". This song is written not using diatonical scales. A song not found on the Furry Music Foundationís website is "The Raccoon Song" that no one quite knows who wrote it. This song is reportedly played at nearly every convention at some point.
As a whole, the furry community is accepting of others but often has trouble being accepted by others. Young adults just discovering the furry culture often find their families object. The most common misunderstandings in the past have been worries about bestiality. Even though furries may feel a connection to animals, bestiality is not common and is typically unaccepted. On a whole, sex with an animal is viewed along the same lines as rape because the animal isnít sapient and canít express its views.
There are also a lot of misunderstandings created by the media. Most recently a report given by MTV painted furry as a popular fetish, especially showing fursuiters. This connection of fursuiters to sexual fetishes worried a lot of fursuiters because many fursuiters are simply entertainers, like clowns. A connection like this makes parents and other potential job providers think twice before hiring a furry fursuiter. Typically magazines and television reports focus on the more sexual and fantastical parts of the furry community rather than the regular and typically boring everyday furry. This is frustrating to furries who find that they have to explain what a furry is and argue what they believe and what theyíve seen to people who have only been exposed to the media depictions. "The Wolf In You" by Chama is a very popular song among furries because it expresses the frustration at the feelings of dealing with people who are unaware of what a furry is and the feelings of isolation that furries often have. Another concern to the furry community as a whole is the mistreatment of any person or individual. "Prayer for Danny" by Hali is a very touching song "about a young man abandoned by his family and friends" with the hope of encouraging him to hang on through those tough times.
Most furs will agree that the furry community needs to be more known so that people will understand furries and not react violently towards the community. How this will be handled in the future is uncertain. Because of past exposure, itís generally felt that in order for the furry community to be accurately portrayed it needs to come from Furries. Like most smaller controversial communities, furries are too prone to be portrayed as crazy or depraved in some way because of the differences that are embraced. This is similar to the "Riot Grrl" movement of the 90ís having problems with media coverage forgetting about the message of womenís rights and focusing mostly on the sensational parts of the culture. Some of the ways that furries are trying to come out in the community has been through service projects for causes that most furries support. Animal welfare and environmental issues top the list.
The furry community has been around since the 1970ís and has spread all over the world. The culture has developed from smaller gatherings and continues to grow thanks in part to the Internet. Conventions increase in attendance and sites like Furbid where furry material is auctioned back and forth between furries is increasing in popularity. Online communities are also increasing in population and art is increasing exponentially. Itís doubtful that the community will disappear because there is always a new generation joining the old in the appreciation of the connection between man and animal.
The Anthrofurry Infocenter Ė Information about Furry Fandom, anthropomorphic animals. (2002) http://www.xydexx.com/anthrofurry/
Colorado Furs Group. (2002) http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ColoFurs
The Furry Music Foundation. (2002). Http://www.furrymusic.org
Furbid. (2002). http://www.furbid.ws/
Chama. The Wolf In You, For a Sqrrl
Hali. Prayer For Danny
Jumpy. For a Cat
Thyromanes. Têka ï së rrakî
Unknown. Raccoon Song
Also special thanks to the many furs who donated time to explaining their view of the furry community, the music scene of the furry community, and the many different aspects. Special thanks to Chama for helping me find the furry musicians that I needed to for more information, and to the Furry Music Foundation for the music and contacts to the artists.