Musical Space

Musical Space is a look at all things music, by KMUW Music Commentator Mark Foley. Mark is Assistant Professor of Double Bass and Electric Bass, and Principal Double Bass in the Wichita Symphony Orchestra.

He has been a featured soloist with the Wichita Symphony Orchestra. He also has performed with the Rochester Philharmonic, the Heidelberg Castle Opera Festival, the Binghamton Symphony, the Minnesota Opera and also performs extensively as a jazz artist. 

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

Jimi Hendrix was one of the first musicians I discovered as a pre-teen. Imagine, though, how my younger self was horrified by the song “Hey, Joe,” when he sings, “I'm goin' down to shoot my old lady, You know I caught her messin' 'round with another man.” Then there was Neil Young’s line,  “Down by the river, I shot my baby.” Why would someone sing a song about killing their girlfriend? It wasn’t until later that I figured out Hendrix and Young were continuing the ancient folk tradition of the murder ballad.

Every community has a musical history. Most of the time, that history gets confused and hazy, but every once in a while somebody does us the favor of writing things down. Luckily for us, there was a Wichita native named Joan O’Bryant, a WSU alum who taught in the university’s English department in the 1950s.

Music vs. Loiterers

Feb 2, 2016

A while ago, standing in the lobby of a New York City train station, I couldn’t help but notice the incongruity of the music piped over the speakers. It was Mozart - a beautiful violin concerto - being blasted at a dance-club volume toward uncaring commuters. The reason couldn’t have only been for aesthetics; here classical music was being used to drive away would-be teenage loiterers.

fawm.org

Next month is album writing month, at least according to an intriguing website, fawm.org. This non-commercial site is designed as a dare for songwriters to write 14 songs in 28 days.

Old Dogs, New Music

Jan 5, 2016

Researchers for streaming service Spotify have found that 33 is the age when musical taste stagnates. That’s the age when people stop seeking out new music. It turns out most of the stuff people listen to is what they liked when they were 16-24. I’m a little distressed. Music shouldn’t just be nostalgia, and young artists shouldn’t get crowded out by hits from the 80s.

Singer/songwriter Imogen Heap is always up to something, like engineering her own albums and inventing musical gloves that allow her to perform using only body gestures. And now she’s taken it upon herself to fix the entire music industry.

Music awards like the Grammys and the VMAs don’t really interest me, except for one. It’s the Barclaycard Mercury Prize for British album of the year. The Mercury Prize is chosen by a panel of critics rather than industry insiders, so it’s more about the quality of the music than how much money it makes for a record company. This year’s prize was awarded Nov. 20. As always, the field of nominees was full of great entries. The Mercury Prize short list has become my favorite music discovery service.

Page 62 of the official Kansas Driver’s Handbook states: “A horn should only be used in emergency situations.” And, yes, the car horn is a safety feature, but how often have it ever helped prevent an accident? The only time I hear a driver using a horn is when they want to send an audio signal to express their feelings. In other words, a car horn is a musical instrument.

When Subwoofers Attack

Nov 10, 2015
laffy4k / Flickr / Creative Commons

As I’ve talked about before, the Fletcher-Munson curve warps how we hear music depending on how loud it is. Low volume equates to less “fullness.” That’s why we like to turn up the bass.

Virtual Bands

Oct 27, 2015
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license / Ian T. McFarland

Virtual bands are a thing.

I’m talking about real bands with real songs, but represented as animated cartoon characters. Virtual bands have been around for generations, starting with Alvin and the Chipmunks in the late '50s. The Archies were a band on TV, as were Josie and the Pussycats and Jem and the Holograms. These were all television studio creations, as is Dethklok from Adult Swim’s Metalocalypse series. Some virtual bands, though, seem instead to have been imagined by the musicians themselves, and they are capable of very interesting things.

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