What is furry music?
The furry fandom is, by-and-large, a visual fandom. Internally, we elevate visual art to the point where sites like Fur Affinity and SoFurry are often referred to as "art sites", despite hosting various kinds of content. Similarly, outside attention on the fandom has tended to exaggerate fursuiting, another highly visual aspect of the fandom.
This focus on visual aspects is quantified in The State Of The Fandom 2008. Although this is far from the most recent set of results available from the Furry Survey it is the most complete report on the results. It shows that approximately 90% of furries consider artwork, 59% consider writing and only 23% consider music to be important to the furry fandom. In addition, 36% said that music was unimportant to the fandom, compared to 7% and 6% for writing and art respectively.
One of the difficulties music faces in the furry fandom is how it can even be considered furry. This has led to rather strange definitions of furry music, as from WikiFur:
Furry music is a term that is often used to describe music (of any particular genre) that is either performed by self-described members of the furry fandom, or centred around themes of a furry nature, or both.
The last definition, "centred around themes of a furry nature", is not controversial and is essentially the same criteria we use when judging whether a story or artwork is furry. I had in the past looked at the Furry Music Foundation site (now only semi-functional) and listened to few songs by Chama C. Fox. No one could really deny that his song, The Wolf In You is a furry song. We can judge the lyrics of a song by the same standards that we would apply to a piece of writing.
Who could you ask when they lack understanding?
Who could you tell that you're not of their kind?
More than just human shape, not only hairless ape.
What could they find inside your mind?
What should you do when others turn against you?
What to believe when all they know is hate?
Could your belief be true? Is there a wolf in you?
What is your fate at heaven's gate?
However, many furry musicians do not feature lyrics at all, instead producing only instrumental works. In what way can an instrumental track be considered furry? Some might say the sort of techno dance mixes that are popular for fursuit dances as "furry music", but there is nothing inherently furry about that. That music style existed before the furry fandom adopted it; its primary audience lies outside the fandom. In any case, describing something as furry merely because it is appreciated by a large number of furs is a much weaker claim than saying that it has an inherent property that makes it furry. If many furs enjoyed playing Call of Duty, would that make it a furry game?
One could make a more convincing case for an instrumental work inspired by furry themes to be furry. For example, 1922 saw the publication of French composer Camille Saint-Saëns' The Carnival of the Animals (Le carnaval des animaux). This is an instrumental work with each movement inspired by an animal and attempting to recreate the feeling or mood of the particular animal. If someone wrote a piece of music which conveyed the feeling of transforming into a werewolf as you gaze at the full moon then perhaps that could count as furry music.
However, considering how such a criterion could be applied to visual art would immediately suggest a fault with this line of reasoning. Music is, by its very nature, an abstract form of art. Would we be willing to accept an abstract piece of visual art to be furry art? Suppose one titled a work of art Blind Rage and produced a pure red canvas to symbolise the anger of a bull about to charge – would that be as furry as a picture of an anthro bull, eyes red, nostrils flaring in anger as he lowers his horns? I think not. Similarly, I would not consider something along the lines of The Carnival Of The Animals to be as furry as The Wolf In You.
Things become more confusing when we consider the first part of the suggested definition of furry music, "performed by self-described members of the furry fandom." To be honest, this seems to me to be a way for furry musicians to try to force themselves to be relevant. That's not to say that there's anything wrong with furry musicians; just that not everything has to be about the fandom, nor is all that a furry produces also furry.
When one considers such a classification one needs to ask the following questions, "Is there such a thing as gay music? Or right-handed music? Or vegetarian music?" A furry musician may be all of those things but we wouldn't consider them relevant to the sort of music they produce. There is such a thing as Christian music, but we know it from its lyrical themes, not from the religion of its producer. (Although I should admit there do appear to have been a small number of instrumental pieces classed as Christian music.) If one were to be particularly pedantic, and I'm afraid I am going to be, then let's really look at what "performed by self-described members of the furry fandom" actually means.
Performed is not the same as written. This would suggest that a furry playing any generic pop song is producing furry music. In addition it means that an instrumental track, written and performed by a furry, would be furry music while the same track performed by someone from outside the fandom would not be. Not only that, but if the mere act of doing something while identifying as a member of the furry fandom is enough to make that thing furry, then we will have to recognise furry cooking, furry commuting and furry going-to-the-toilet. Furthermore, "self-described member of the furry fandom" would mean that a furry song would cease to be a furry song if they person left the fandom and continued to perform it!
It's easy to complain about poor definitions, but the challenge of defining what is and isn't furry remains, with music being one of the trickier areas. I have tried to improve the definition of furry before but, while it stimulated much debate, I do not recall any consensus. Some even question the need to know what we're talking about in the first place! I'm not going to try to define furry music here, although mine would probably not be far off from furry musician NIIC's:
For me, personally, if we can properly define music as being "furry music", I believe that kind of music must contain lyrics and a story about anthropomorphic characters, or contain language that empathizes with the Furry community.
I will instead try to leave you with a mental tool applicable to more than just the furry fandom. If you are going to say that something is furry, whether it be music or art or anything else, you should be able to explain what you could change to make it stop being furry. So a furry picture of an anthro leopard fighting a pack of feral wolves would cease to be furry if you changed the leopard to a human fighting a pack of feral wolves.
Parodies are great at showing you how changing aspects of something can morph the meaning or change the group's focus. So, Lord of the Rings is not a brony movie but Lord of the Rings Reenacted by Ponies is. And Beyonce's Single Ladies is not a furry song, but All the Single Furries! is. In both these cases we can immediately see which aspects have caused the change from mundane (for lack of a better word) to brony or furry. It's both the new visual accompaniment but also the audio component. All the Single Furries! is a furry song by virtue of its lyrics, with or without the video. Single Ladies as a song would not be furry even with All the Single Furries!' visuals, although the combined music video would still be furry.
If you find something where no matter what you change about it – and by "it" I am referring specifically to the furry item, not the process or person that created it – it is always furry, then then you have something where no property is giving it its furry character. That is probably a sign that it shouldn't be considered furry at all.