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. Listen here or subscribe to the Musical Space podcast on Apple Podcasts or Google Play. (If you'd like to learn more about ways to listen on demand, read our guide here.)

It was just announced that the late rapper Mac Miller’s death a few months ago was due to an overdose of the opioid fentanyl. I’ll admit I’d never heard of him before his death, didn’t know about his hitting No. 1 in the charts or his relationship with Ariana Grande. But, to be fair, he was only 26.

Since musicians are role models and trend setters, I think it’s important to talk about how opioid abuse has been killing our musical heroes.

The laws of physics are against musicians who play low notes. Any sounding medium - like a string or the air in a tube - vibrates at a frequency inversely proportional to its length; the longer it is, the lower the note. 

Halloween has gotten a little musically unscary, in my opinion, because it’s become too much about the kids. Nothing against trick-or-treating and dressing like superheroes, but I’m talking about the one holiday that invites us to think about death and its unearthly consequences. 

What’s your discovery service? In other words, how do you find out about new music?

Fall has just begun, so this is a good time to talk about a certain song - a pop tune from a forgotten French movie that became one of the most-played jazz songs. The many recordings of the 1945 song “Autumn Leaves” show how obscure tunes can become jazz standards.

(Music: YVES MONTAND - Les Feuilles Mortes 2001: Inédits, rares & indispensables (Mercury, 4-CD boxset) (first release 1950)

Any work of art is basically an arrangement of elements that are part of our culture - the sounds of our shared memories are the building blocks of music. These don’t even have to come from musical instruments - the sounds of everyday life, like that of opening a can or starting a car, are just as much a part of our sonic heritage. Sounds enter and exit our collective consciousness over time; it might be good to start thinking about preserving our sonic diversity.

wichitalibrary.org

September is Public Library Sign-Up Month. Seeing as how I hadn’t yet visited the brand-new Advanced Learning Library, I knew exactly what I had to do. Here’s my review of the place from a musical perspective.

The term “open source” was coined 20 years ago this month by some software engineers who had the radical idea of allowing their code to be freely shared, copied and modified by anyone else. They realized they could make more money by giving away their product instead of selling it, and selling the support services instead. The open source model is a growing part of the arts, and nowhere more than in music. Recordings make so little money that creators now offer them for free and make their money from live shows instead.

We need to talk about net neutrality. It’s a simple idea: Everything gets sent to your web browser at the same speed without middlemen, gatekeepers, or censors. This would be a perfect situation for musicians with all of the swirling currents of music subgenres available to listeners, and the best bubbling to the top in a democratic and Darwinian process. 

johncoltrane.com

I try not to live in the past, but when an album of music by John Coltrane is discovered and released decades after it was recorded, I’m justified in getting a little maudlin.

[Music: John Coltrane, “Untitled Original 11383,” Both Directions at Once: the Lost Album (2018)]

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