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.)

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Blues guitarist Robert Johnson is said to have gotten his musical talent by selling his soul to the devil at the crossroads close to the famous Dockery Plantation in the Mississippi Delta. The same story was told earlier about another bluesman named Tommy Johnson.

A fire destroyed an obscure factory in California a few weeks ago. Apollo Masters Corporation ran one of only two plants in the world that supplied lacquers, crucial components in the creation of vinyl records. The source of three-quarters of the world’s lacquers is now gone. I had never thought much about this process before, but the prospect of a lacquer shortage has given me a new appreciation for the arcane art of making records.

Musical Space: Cold

Jan 28, 2020

Winter is dragging on, and I’m not a fan of the cold. Freezing weather brings pain, a lingering kind that you sit and ruminate over. Add to this the uncertainty. January temperatures in Wichita have ranged from -15 to 75. The weather might blow from the Texas Gulf or from North Dakota. The fickleness builds hope, only to destroy it. Songwriters agree: Winter is misery, which is probably why there is so much music about the cold.


Tomorrow - New Year’s Day - a number of works written in 1924 will have outlived their legal copyright status and enter public domain. This means anyone can record and perform these old songs and symphonies without having to pay royalty fees to estates or publishers. 

With the cold weather season driving us indoors, it’s a good time to consider how room acoustics affect our sonic space. 

This year’s NEA Big Read book is Lab Girl by Hope Jahren, and you’ve probably heard about all the local celebrations of this botanist’s memoir. The book drew me into Jahren’s joy of uncovering secrets and finding connections with plants. As a musician, this is a subject dear to my heart — Lab Girl underscores how the music world relies on the diversity of tree species.

Musical Space: Brexit

Oct 22, 2019

Watching a country tear up its continental agreements has gotten me thinking about how music is an international industry. The U.K. exports more than three billion dollars worth of recorded music a year. Its artists make another billion from live tours, acting as goodwill ambassadors in the process. A lot of this success comes from British artists’ abilities to freely sell their records and live music to other EU countries. But it seems 10 Downing Street has forgotten both how important music is culturally and its part in offsetting the mounting English trade deficit.

Musical Space: Oil Boom

Oct 8, 2019

Historic events can shape the course of music. This week marks the anniversary of the Kansas Oil Boom, when a well just east of Wichita struck crude in 1915. 

As a musician, I always have to evaluate my connection to history. Most of the music I’m hired to play is from before I was born, and I have to decide how much to make it sound like it actually did when it was written.

I have no plans to help storm Area 51 on the 20th of this month. I’m referring to a joke Facebook event that some UFO enthusiasts have taken seriously: Their motto is “They can’t stop all of us.” There are also plans for an impromptu, unlicensed music festival in a nearby village.