Musical Space

Musical Space is a look at all things music, by KMUW Music Commentator Mark Foley. Mark is Principal Double Bass of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra and Professor of Double Bass and head of Jazz Studies at Wichita State University.

He has been a featured soloist with the Wichita Symphony Orchestra, performs extensively as a jazz artist is also an avid bluegrass player. Passionate about promoting new and diverse music, Mark is the founder and music director of the Knob Festival of New Music, a series of concerts held in Fisch Haus Studios every Fall.

The Musical Space commentary airs on KMUW on alternate Tuesdays. You can subscribe to the Musical Space podcast on iTunes or Google Play

As I was saying last time, immigration is the driving force of American music. Many American immigrants are now from Mexico; sales of tomato salsa have famously overtaken those of ketchup. It’s inevitable that Mexican-American music will also have a cultural impact.

Other than what was here before Columbus arrived, all American music is the result of migration. It’s been happening since Plymouth Rock; music is carried in with waves of immigrants and thrown into a Darwinian mosh pit, subjected to opposition, transformation, juxtaposition, synthesis, and evolution. And the sounds that survive change from being “World Music” into “American Music.”

Part 2

Last time we talked how I wanted 2017 to be as musically revolutionary as 1977 - how punk rock shook things up exactly 40 years ago.

Part 1

My New Year’s wish is that 2017 would be as musically important as 1977. Though you wouldn’t know it from looking at that year’s Billboard Hot 100 chart, an undercurrent of experimentation and subversion suddenly changed our musical space.

Most film scores are designed not to draw attention to themselves; they stay in the background like wallpaper, for decoration only. But exceptional movies feature unique and memorable characters or situations. Film composers like to match these elements with sounds that stick out - often from instruments you’ve never heard before. Connected to our film heritage is a virtual museum of obscure musical oddities.

Different eras of pop music have signature sounds - studio tricks used by record producers to hype up the music. Sometimes these sounds are a part of why certain songs have become timeless. When Sam Phillips recorded Elvis Presley, he used a particular kind of tape delay technique that he called “slapback echo” to add depth and rhythmic interest. Songs like “Mystery Train” have an unforgettable sound.

Jukeboxes used to be cool. In the age of the 7” 45 record, bars and restaurants would rely on them to maintain the atmosphere and keep customers entertained. Singles were chosen to match the mood of the place; each jukebox was a unique mixtape that defined the establishment as much as their burger baskets and fries. 

Warning: Some of the lyrics featured in this Musical Space podcast contain explicit language.

The arts hold a mirror to society, and sometime those in power don’t like the reflected image. There has always been censorship in music, and as the media have become more institutionalized, so has censorship.

Musical Space: Looping

Oct 11, 2016

In this Musical Space podcast, Mark Foley and KMUW's Fletcher Powell discuss 'looping'.

A new vinyl release of groundbreaking tape recorder experiments by literary pioneer and Kansas resident William S. Burroughs got me thinking about how words and music have always been interdependent. A musician who write songs necessarily becomes a poet. It’s interesting to me, though, that the direction can go the other way, when poets and authors undertake musical projects.