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 Apple Podcasts or Google Play

A couple years ago I was playing in an opera production; a famous Hungarian singer was slated to star. Except that his visa application was held up because of a backlog, he couldn’t legally fly to the states, and the company had to hire a last-minute substitute. This kind of thing has been happening lately to international musicians, authors, dancers and filmmakers wanting to present their art in the U.S. using a special visa, the same kind used by athletes to compete and scientists to present at conferences. The paperwork is cumbersome and the decisions can be arbitrary.

It looks like Apple is killing its music app iTunes. Introduced when mp3s were becoming the new medium, iTunes was a brilliant move for Steve Jobs, and perfect for the revolutionary iPod, and it soon made Apple the world’s largest music seller. 

Musical Space: O Canada

Jun 18, 2019

Canada Day is July 1, so I figured I’d send my browser to points north to find out what’s going on up there musically. 

I’m seeing all kinds of good concerts coming to Wichita this summer. And the lineup is surprisingly free of washed-up acts trying to squeeze the last dollars from their fleeting fame. Instead, we’re being treated to musicians with a lot of hipster cred, including some rising stars. 

Weddings are just about the only events where it is still traditional to hire a band. Sure, you can get by with a DJ or even a digital playlist, but live music is still classier - they’ll wear tuxedos for you - and this may be the only opportunity for your nephew to come face-to-face with a living, breathing, member of the ancient fraternity of professional musicians.

So if you’ve hired a string quartet, jazz combo, or Top-40 band for your wedding, congratulations, you’re carrying on a thousand-year tradition.

I’ve been talking lately about good film music, but what about films about music?  I imagine it’s difficult to do - what can a movie say about music that the music itself doesn’t already tell you? - but great directors have turned their cameras on music makers in lots of different ways.

The recent tragic fire at Notre Dame got me thinking about that building, and others like it. Music history is tied to a thousand years of cathedrals being at the cultural center of every European city.

A lot of movies use music as sonic wallpaper - just background sound to fill silence and fit the genre - but bold, memorable films tend to have equally strong and unforgettable music at the forefront. Great filmmakers have a way of merging images and narrative with the visceral power of sound. It happens a lot in art-house films, like those you can watch on the new Criterion Channel. I’ve been perusing their catalog lately, and lots of titles have come to mind.

Musical Space: Criterion

Mar 26, 2019

There’s a lot happening in the movie biz: Disney just bought 21st Century Fox and will be launching their own streaming service later this year. More interesting to me, though, is what’s going on with the most important distributor of serious film - The Criterion Collection. 

A lot of the music you hear comes from production music libraries. These are collections of sound cues that are licensed for use in media. It’s like using stock footage in a movie; convenient for a producer who can’t afford or be bothered to hire a composer, which is why stock music has become as universal as it is generic.

The concept of production music is as old as talkies - film studios had reels of generic music they would reuse to accompany fight scenes, love scenes, and chase scenes.