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.)


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.

Musical Space: John Peel

Aug 27, 2019


Allow me to bring to your attention the British DJ John Peel, whose posthumous 80th birthday is this Friday. Peel worked for an offshore pirate station outside of London before moving in 1967 to the BBC, bringing with him an attitude of independence and iconoclasm. For 37 years he programmed music he thought people should hear, regardless of charts or market research, and in doing so defined what it means to be a music curator, and what can happen when a truly good one comes along.

Every Quentin Tarantino film is a musicological event — a study in the use of soundtrack music  — and his latest is particularly interesting, because he limits himself only to music heard when the movie takes place, in 1969. So, without divulging spoilers or trying to be a film critic, I really have to talk about Once Upon a Time... In Hollywood.

A couple years ago I was playing in an opera production; a famous Hungarian singer was slated to star — except that his visa application was held up because of a backlog, he couldn’t legally fly to the states, and the company had to hire a last-minute substitute. This kind of thing has been happening lately to international musicians, authors, dancers and filmmakers wanting to present their art in the U.S. using a special visa, the same kind used by athletes to compete and scientists to present at conferences. The paperwork is cumbersome and the decisions can be arbitrary.