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

Musical Space: Gratitude

Nov 21, 2017

Most music concerns itself with basic and raw emotions like love, sadness and anger - and can do a very good job expressing them. Other emotions, like gratitude, are more sophisticated and abstract, which makes them very difficult to bring across in sound. We have a whole holiday devoted to thankfulness, but there’s not a lot of music attached to it - we don’t sing Thanksgiving carols or do Thanksgiving dances. But gratitude is one of our most mature and evolved sentiments; it raises the question: Can music put us in a state of being thankful?

This is the song “Mindflowers” from the 1968 album Behold and See by the band Ultimate Spinach. It’s full of echo-y, distorted guitar, it drones on as though trying to make time stop, and the lyrics, like “take a trip to the center of your mind,” allude to some sort of inner discovery. I’m talking today about Psychedelic music because, even though it is mostly a phenomenon of the 1960’s, our musical space is still experiencing flashbacks.

(Music: Rhiannon Giddens, “Come Love Come,”  Freedom Highway (2017) 

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Sung Kim

This is Joanna Newsom, singing her song “Sprout and Bean.” It’s a beautiful tune, but let’s face it: she has a weird voice: unschooled, childlike, amateurish. Her singing is not bad, it’s in tune, you can understand the words, but it still sounds weird.

Oktoberfest is officially on in Munich with the tapping of a strong local golden lager brewed in March and fermented all summer.

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. Science has found that music affects us because of our hormones. Research has found that our brains produce the neurotransmitter dopamine in response to music.

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.

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