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.)

Ways to Connect

A lot of thought goes into making and explaining music, but I can’t come up with an intellectual reason for why we actually like it. There is a compelling unintellectual reason, though, and that is body chemistry.

It’s August, and chances are either you or your kids are back at school. I think a lot about school, too, because of the bearing it has on music.

Memphis in 1950 was the logical time and place for a musical sound to be born. Here was the biggest city on a trade route between the blues players of the Mississippi delta and the country musicians of Appalachia right at the introduction of amplification and the 45 single. With impeccable timing, a radio DJ named Sam Phillips opened a recording studio then and there to capture that sound. Sun Studio was the only one around, and he recorded everyone - pro and amateur, black and white.

At a club the other day I saw a sticker for a band called REO Speedealer. I checked into them; as far as metal records go, they were OK, but the name is hilarious. Every town has them - bands with joke names.

Mary McCartney

Music news has caught my attention recently. There was the Fyre Festival debacle, where people paid $12,000 apiece to go to an island in the Bahamas, thinking they were going to an exclusive music festival, but finding out it was conceptual existentialist theater. Then the news that tickets to the upcoming Wichita Paul McCartney concert were going for $7000. These are both symptoms of price gouging, which happens a lot in the music biz in ways big and small. Like the fees tacked on to the price of concert tickets.

Today, the 4th of July, has me thinking about musical revolutions. Styles rise up from social change, and the United States has been an incubator for so many types of music because of our history of political upheaval; the revolutionary spirit behind the Declaration of Independence has continuously shaped our musical space.

You can hear it in our own national anthem: words of defiance set to an English drinking song. What better way to invoke the enlightenment-era ideal of liberty than to appropriate a melody of one’s oppressors?

Tuesday is the summer solstice, the Northern Hemisphere’s longest day, and it’s been a big deal for music since the Stone Age. There must be something about the sun refusing to set that makes cultures want to dance, sing, and party. It’s the Midsummer that Shakespeare named a play after, also known as St. John’s Feast Day, and the Wiccan holiday of Litha. Druids gather at Stonehenge to sing at dawn; Norwegians sing around huge bonfires far into the sunlit night.  

Musical Space: Hooks

Jun 6, 2017

A “hook” is any feature that makes a song memorable. It could be a distinctive rhythm, a sound, a melody, a lyric, anything that catches the ear of the listener and sets a song apart from others.

Top 10 lists are cliche, but there are so many reasons to congratulate the organizers of this year’s Riverfest music lineup that I needed to itemize them. So please forgive the format and see if you agree the 2017 Wichita Riverfest concert schedule is the best ever.

Every year the U.S. Library of Congress compiles a list of 25 important records to be placed on the National Recording Registry, with a mandate that they be preserved for future generations.