This Tunesday, we handed the turntables over to Joshua Hertz, assistant teaching professor in the College of Engineering, who plays music for his students as they’re entering class.
“For the past couple of years, I have been playing music over the classroom speakers during the five to 10 minutes before class has started, while students are entering and getting prepared,” Hertz said. He teaches in the first-year engineering program, which can be intimidating for many students, and he uses music “to set us at ease and create a positive, collaborative climate.”
His playlist consists of some of the songs he’s played before class this year. “It’s all pretty up-tempo and relatable in order to set a happy, comfortable mood, but I try to avoid songs that we’ve all heard before,” he said. “l often pick songs that relate—in some small way—to that day’s class topic.”
Interested in being a guest DJ for an upcoming Tunesday? Contact staff writer Molly Callahan at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here’s why Hertz hand-selected each track on the playlist:
“Shoe Boot,” Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
Like a few of the musicians in this playlist, I first saw this band at the Newport Folk Fest, one of my favorite weekends each summer. This band is a party.
“The Life of a Scholar,” 3 Titans
Yes, this is literally three elementary-school-aged kids rapping, and, yes, the lyrics are about the importance of education. A strong beat and rolling horns from members of the Dap-Kings and Antibalas keep it from being just a novelty song.
“This Land is Your Land,” Chicano Batman
Another band I saw at the Newport Folk Fest. I was surprised that they didn’t play this song, which is the traditional folk song you know but with a fast tempo, strong rhythms, and one verse put—as a political statement, I have to believe—in Spanish. Esta tierra es para ti y para mí.
“Grazing in the Grass,” Hugh Masakela
It’s a classic for reason. I had to play this song before class in January, when he passed.
“Peepers,” Polar Bear
Fusion jazz, but louder and more riff-y. They get a lot of mileage out of one-note vamps in this song.
“Maria También,” Khruangbin
I don’t know much about this band, but I’ve been following them on Spotify for a couple of years. They’ve been putting out pretty solid groove-based music.
“Germ Free Adolescents,” X-Ray Spex
I enjoyed the TV show Halt and Catch Fire, in part due to the music. That’s how I found this song. Awesomely punky late-70s synth.
“Peace Blossom Boogy,” The Babe Rainbow
Spotify tells me this band is from Australia and that this song was recorded last year, but this is how I imagine the late 1960s West Coast sounded.
“Supersonic Rocket Ship,” The Kinks
How many extra syllables can Ray Davies squeeze into a line?
“Porque,” Grupo Fantasmo
Really nice lyrical and musical translation of the Beatles’ “Because.”
“Les Cactus,” Jacques Dutronc
The lyrics are suggesting that it was hard to be a rock star in 1960s France, but the swagger of the drums tells me otherwise.
“From the Dead,” Shintaro Sakamoto
Space-age lounge music from Japan.
“Glass Jar,” Tristen
Pretty and poppy, but the lyrics have some bite.
“The Way We Move,” Langhorne Slim
Another Newport Folk Fest discovery for me. They put on one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen (and they’re going to be back at this year’s festival, held on July 27-29).
“Jealous Guy,” Donny Hathaway
So much better than the John Lennon original.
“Massachusetts,” Bee Gees
This is the Bee-Gees from before disco was invented. You can hear how they ended up there. I’m playing to the hometown crowd with this pick, I guess, but it’s nice to have something besides The Standells or Dropkick Murphys to do that.
“Heart it Races,” Dr. Dog
I’m not sure which version I like better: this one or the original. I think this one, but maybe just because I like the sound of handclaps.
“Mudzimu Ndiringe,” Hallelujah Chicken Run Band
I’m always looking for something new to listen to, and music streaming technology has made this so much easier. When you’re browsing around and see a band with this name, how can you not click play? I’m glad I did.
“This Must Be the Place,” Sure Sure
I like the Talking Heads, but sometimes the 1980s-ness of their recordings gets in the way (did the treble knobs all go to 11 back then?). This cover version of a Talking Heads song keeps the fun but updates the mix.
“Oom She La La,” Haley Heynderickx
Like a David Lynch movie, this song is built on conventional American tropes but keeps you feeling unsettled. Lyrics about sour milk and vocals that waver and build to a rage before retreating, at least for now, to a garden in the backyard.
“Partido Alto,” Medeski Martin and Wood
For a few years back in the early 2000’s, Medeski Martin and Wood was my favorite band. They’re hard to categorize. To me, this song is the sound of civilization falling apart, but it’s all anchored by a gritty groove until a whimpering end.