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

Debbie Greene /

You could travel to some amazing music festivals all over the world this season, but the best place to connect with people is in your own backyard. There are all kinds of festivals within a day’s drive, and I’m willing to bet they’ll give you a more meaningful time than if you went to California to join 75,000 other people at Coachella.

With spring just a few days away, Mark Foley says it’s time for Music Festival Season.

Festivals have had a profound effect on music ever since the Newport Jazz Festival started in 1954, or possibly as far back as Stonehenge. 

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

This commentary originally aired on March 3, 2015.

You’ve all heard about The Mozart Effect, the theory that listening to classical music will “make you smarter.” Whether or not research bears this out, the Mozart Effect has become a rallying cry for music educators and is even a trademarked way to sell CDs to parents hoping their kids would eventually get high-paying jobs.

With Planet Comic Con coming to Kansas City this weekend, it’s a good time to show appreciation for what nerds, geeks and other assorted dweebs have done for musical culture. It’s easy to make fun of them, but let’s not forget that nerds are the driving force of our digital lives, and the potential for a nerd overthrow of our musical power structure is unlimited.

Weirdly, one of this country’s most popular musical events is a football game - the annual Super Bowl Halftime show. It gets ratings far higher than any concert broadcast - five times the viewers of the Grammy Awards. A sports tournament is not the ideal time and place for an artistic statement. But still it’s worth asking: can the halftime show be a good musical experience?

Musical Space: Masks

Jan 16, 2018

Bjork is wearing masks now. In the pictures, videos and live performances that support the avant-garde singer’s new album Utopia, her face is hidden behind exquisitely made masks that evoke fantasy animals in various stages of their past and maybe future evolutions. Why does it seem more and more musicians are performing in masks?

Lately it’s been hard for me to take a lot of pop music seriously, and one reason is that it has become so shockingly apolitical. As tumultuous as civic discourse has become, there’s not too much on the radio that even touches on politics. Current music has become too polite and well behaved, and that puts it in danger of being irrelevant. Unless we start seeing some acrimony in the coming year’s Top 40, I fear that future musicologists won’t have much to say about 2018.

Musical Space: Blue Xmas

Dec 19, 2017

Let’s face it, Christmas has been engineered for the kids. It’s pretty uncomplicated for anyone under 12; winter vacation, TV cartoons, toys and stockings. The music, too, is simple - all jingle bells and ho, ho, ho.

About a month ago, the city of New York repealed its cabaret law, which banned dancing in any place that didn’t have a license. It was enacted in 1926, a year after the Charleston craze swept the speakeasies of Harlem, and was enforced mainly to suppress gatherings that police found undesirable. Not surprisingly, the New York City Cabaret Law made an indelible mark on music history.

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?