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 Apple Podcasts or Google Play


The battle continues.



We’re hearing an example of a tenor battle--two jazz tenor sax players going head to head, taking turns trying to one-up the other. This one is John Coltrane challenging Sonny Rollins on a tune whose name sums up the spirit of the competition: Tenor Madness.

Cory Norton


Last time I talked about musical geography - how style springs up from places that artists and audiences can identify with. I gave lots of examples from all over the country, but the most important aspect of this is that there is a musical nexus right here.

Music becomes distinctive when it reflects its own geographic space. This could be a neighborhood, a bar, a church, or even a sports arena; things click when a group of musicians feel a connection to a particular place.

As I was saying last time, immigration is the driving force of American music. Many American immigrants are now from Mexico; sales of tomato salsa have famously overtaken those of ketchup. It’s inevitable that Mexican-American music will also have a cultural impact.

Other than what was here before Columbus arrived, all American music is the result of migration. It’s been happening since Plymouth Rock; music is carried in with waves of immigrants and thrown into a Darwinian mosh pit, subjected to opposition, transformation, juxtaposition, synthesis, and evolution. And the sounds that survive change from being “World Music” into “American Music.”

Part 2

Last time we talked how I wanted 2017 to be as musically revolutionary as 1977 - how punk rock shook things up exactly 40 years ago.

Part 1

My New Year’s wish is that 2017 would be as musically important as 1977. Though you wouldn’t know it from looking at that year’s Billboard Hot 100 chart, an undercurrent of experimentation and subversion suddenly changed our musical space.

Most film scores are designed not to draw attention to themselves; they stay in the background like wallpaper, for decoration only. But exceptional movies feature unique and memorable characters or situations. Film composers like to match these elements with sounds that stick out - often from instruments you’ve never heard before. Connected to our film heritage is a virtual museum of obscure musical oddities.

Different eras of pop music have signature sounds - studio tricks used by record producers to hype up the music. Sometimes these sounds are a part of why certain songs have become timeless. When Sam Phillips recorded Elvis Presley, he used a particular kind of tape delay technique that he called “slapback echo” to add depth and rhythmic interest. Songs like “Mystery Train” have an unforgettable sound.