Music stimulates the parts of the brain that register pleasure, provoking memories, reducing stress, and profoundly influencing our moods. It’s both a salve and a distraction. And, during the current novel coronavirus pandemic, it offers perhaps one of the easiest and most accessible forms of self-care.
Music comforts us. It alleviates anxiety, helps us cope with emotions, and offers an outlet. It’s art, and art saves lives.
Here are some suggestions from the Cougar Nation for your listening pleasure during the pandemic.
Dean Karr (’88 Fine Arts)
Music video director, photographer, visual artist
Eruption by Van Halen on Van Halen (Warner Bros., 1978). Sadly, we recently lost one of the world’s greatest guitarists, Eddie Van Halen, due to cancer. Since then, this piece of history has been on repeat at my house.
Hell Awaits by Slayer (Metal Blade Records, 1985). This album, to me, is a fantastical sign of the times we are in now. It does the job every time.
Black Hoodie by Body Count on Bloodlust (Century Media, 2017). It’s been a very upsetting year for racial justice, and it seems we’ve slipped back 50 years. Here’s part of the refrain: Got on a black hoodie, its hood up on my head; I didn’t have a gun so why am I dead?
Why Can’t I Touch It? by Buzzcocks on Singles Going Steady (IRS, United Artists, 1979). When I get down, this one always brings me back up!
Old Man by Neil Young on Harvest (Reprise Records, 1972). This lifelong favorite gets my head daydreaming during these horrible times.
You Can’t Hold Me Down by Suicidal Tendencies on Lights…Camera…Revolution! (Epic, 1990). This pure Venice Beach hardcore instigates productivity with its fast-paced, sizzling guitars.
How the Gods Kill by Danzig on Danzig III: How the Gods Kill (Def American Recordings, 1992). This is a great song with lots of ups and downs—just like this pandemic, and it’s Danzig. C’mon!
New Dawn Fades by Joy Division on Unknown Pleasures (Factory Records, 1979). This is a great statement for awareness of mental illness from one of the best bands to ever exist.
Black Sabbath by Black Sabbath on Black Sabbath (Vertigo Records, 1970). ‘Nuff said!
LiesLiesLies by Ministry on Rio Grande Blood (Megaforce, Thirteenth Planet, 2006). This song helps me vent my frustration with the last four years of politics.
Chris Cook (x’78 Music)
Spokane Symphony trumpet player, Gonzaga University music professor, poet, yo-yo champion, foosball champion, father of Kelsey Cook
Get Up Stand Up performed by Toots and the Maytals on Pass the Pipe (Island Records, 1979). Toots Hibbert passed away September 11, 2020, and I wanted to get reacquainted with his music and be uplifted by its positivity and be made to dance by its groove. Watch a performance.
The Bride’s Dad and Peaceful Morning by Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam from I Had a Dream That You Were Mine (Glassnote, 2016). I caught one of their tracks on Bill Hader’s series Barry. I’m a Hader fan, a Barry fan, and now a Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam fan.
Laraaji: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert (NPR Music, 2019). My son, Grant, is an ethnomusicology student at Wesleyan University, and Laraaji was recently featured in a concert and interview livestreamed to Wesleyan. The only ambient composer I previously knew was Brian Eno, so I thought I’d give him a try. It takes patience and openness to get its full effect. Watch the Tiny Desk Concert.
I’ve Been to Moose Jaw (Now I Can Die) by John Wing. Wing is a Canadian comedian, songwriter, and poet whose work I love. I’ve got two of his poetry books, and his humor and lyrics are smart. If you need a little lift, this one will do it for you. Watch Wing’s performance.
Concerto for Two Trumpets by Erik Morales (2013). Two of my trumpet students will be performing with the GU Symphony Orchestra this year, and they asked me for advice on what piece to play. This was my suggestion.
America the Beautiful performed by Ray Charles from A Message from the People (ABC Records, 1972). Bittersweet for obvious reasons, but nostalgic for me. I got to perform it live with Ray when he was the Spokane Symphony’s pops soloist years ago. It’s one of my proudest musical moments, and the memory still gives me goosebumps. Watch the performance.
COVID Ceilidh by various musicians (2020). My boss, Spokane Symphony music director James Lowe, turned me onto #CovidCeilidh, launched by Highland fiddle player and composer Duncan Chisholm and featuring folk music by Scottish citizens. It’s honest, true, and nourishing like nothing else.
Mongolian Throat Singing with My Daughter by Batzorig Vaanchig (Posted to YouTube on September 4, 2020). I’ve had a fascination with throat singing since the ’80s when I worked at Mirage Records and Tapes in Spokane. We got a demo copy of the Gyuto Monks, a Tibetian Tantric choir, droning out this ground-shaking stuff. The LP’s tracks were extremely long, and it proved useful for driving out customers at closing time. Watch the throat singers.
Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F by Bach. This is a famously difficult piece for trumpeters, and I’m a fan of Caleb Hudson of the Canadian Brass, who played on the version I’ve been listening to.
A Wonderful World by Nazelah Jamison. Nazelah is a wonderful poet from the Bay Area, and she and I met at multiple Individual World Poetry Slams and National Poetry Slams back when I was representing Spokane. It’s her first composition and song performances, and she shared it on her Facebook page. Watch Jamison’s performance.
Okanogan Dog Songs, Vol. 2 by Leif Mulch. Leif is my neighbor in Spokane, though he grew up in New York City and moved to Seattle before landing here. He’s fascinating, intelligent, eclectic, and thoughtful—as he is in his music. All of his albums are available on Bandcamp.
Director, WSU School of Music and Choral Activities
Mass in C major op. 86 by Ludwig van Beethoven, performed by the Monteverdi Choir and Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, conducted by John Eliot Gardiner. I have always found the music of Beethoven complex, beautiful, and nourishing. His Mass in C allows me to enjoy his symphonic writing while bathing in the dramatic performances of the choir and soloists with a historic text. This piece satisfies my choir itch when choirs are not able to meet in person. For those of you who read music, and would like to follow along with the recording, you can find the free public domain score online (PDF).
October Road by James Taylor (Columbia Records, 2002). James Taylor’s music is timeless, but this album is perfect for fall. His voice is both powerful and effortless, and he draws upon each with ease when needed. I highly recommend the song September Grass.
Best of Rajaton by Rajaton (Plastinka, 2009). I first heard this Finnish acapella ensemble when I was presenting at the same conference at which they were performing. This is the best of what the U.S. thinks of as a cappella music with a flavor of Finland. Very refreshing. Their sonic treatment of text is crafted so well that people can understand the meaning even though they might not speak the language. I highly recommend Butterfly, Fernando (Abba cover), and Dobbins Flower Vale.
WSU Faculty, Students, and Guests in Concert, various live-streamed performances. It is such a joy to hear the outstanding music presented by WSU School of Music faculty, students, and staff in my home. This brings me joy, makes me proud, and reminds me that I’m a part of a long legacy of something special here in Pullman. You can listen, too.
Regents Professor of Music and coordinator of Jazz Studies, WSU
Central Park North by Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra (Solid State, 1969). I have been listening to this record since high school, one of the greatest big bands of all time. Much of what I know about how to score music for big band comes from my study of Jones’ scores.
Chairman of the Board by Count Basie (Parlophone, 1959). Count Basie always puts me in a good mood, the hardest swinging band of all time. This collection includes some of the band’s greatest recordings, many composed by Frank Foster, Thad Jones and others.
Joe Henderson by Joe Henderson Big Band (Verve, 1997). Henderson is one of my favorite saxophonists. I actually took some lessons from him. His distinctive sound and thoroughly original approach separates him from all the rest. Here, his compositions are performed by an all-star big band, including pianist Chick Corea, with masterful arrangements by Slide Hampton, and Henderson himself.
Sugar by Stanley Turrentine (CTI Records, 1970). Stanley Turrentine had one of the greatest and most personal saxophone sounds in all of jazz. And, he was a master of the blues. This album is perhaps his best known, featuring the amazing Freddie Hubbard on trumpet.
No Need for Words by Sean Jones (Mack Avenue Music Group, 2011). Jones is, for me, the greatest living jazz trumpet player.
Radio Music Society by Esperanza Spalding (Heads Up International, 2012).
Songbook by Kenny Garrett (Warner Records, 1997).
Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Opus 90 by Johannes Brahms
Director of Athletic Bands, Associate Director of Bands, Associate Professor of Music, WSU
Hamilton: An American Musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda. (Atlantic Records, 2007). I can’t stop listening!
Recordings by WSU alumni and faculty
Giants in the Trees (Giants in the Trees, 2017) and Vol. 2 (Giants in the Trees, 2019). The self-titled album and its humbly named sophomore effort offer their own dynamic and interesting brand of rural Pacific Northwest rock—folksy, fun, funky, dreamy, danceable, rootsy, and all-around approachable. Jillian Raye’s haunting, ethereal, sultry, sometimes husky vocals are supported by a trio of seasoned musicians: Erik Friend on percussion, Ray Prestegard on guitar and harmonica, and Krist Novoselić (’16 Soc. Sci.) on bass and accordion.
Anything and everything by Nirvana, particularly Nevermind (DGC, 1991), In Utero (DGC, 1993), and MTV Unplugged in New York (DGC, 1994). Novoselić is a founding member of the iconic grunge band. Complete discography.
Butterfly Launches from Spar Pole by Novoselić, Robert Michael Pyle, and Ray Prestegard (Murky Slough Music: 2019). This acoustic folk offering celebrates the natural world with profound but approachable spoken-word verse inspired by the cycles of life and sciences of ecology and geology. Read “Consider the butterfly” from Summer 2020 about the collaboration.
Breaking Through by Paul Henning ’98 (Paul Henning, 2016). This eight-track album, recorded live with a full 48-piece studio orchestra, “blends modern sensibilities with a nostalgic Americana voice,” according to Henning’s own website. Expect piano solos performed by the composer himself as well as hints of Celtic folk tunes, Shaker melodies, and soaring melodies. Read about Henning and his work.
YAZZ Band by Greg Yasinitsky (YAZZ Recordings, 2018). This album, recorded in the Washington State University Recording Studio, features original and contemporary big-band compositions by the saxophonist, WSU School of Music Regents Professor, and winner of the 2017-2018 American Prize for orchestral composition, pops division. With WSU trombone professor Sarah Miller, former WSU jazz piano and jazz history instructor Brian Ward, WSU percussion professor emeritus David Jarvis, Patrick Sheng (’07 Music, MA Music ’10), PJ Kelly (’13 Music, ’17 MA Music), WSU jazz bass instructor F. David Snider, and more.
YAZZ Band: The New Normal by Yasinitsky (YAZZ Recordings, slated for release in 2021). This album features original pieces of scored for a jazz “little big band.” About half of the album was recorded by the entire ensemble in the WSU Recording Studio before the pandemic hit. The remainder of the recordings were made virtually, with band members submitting their individual parts, which many of the musicians, including Yasinitsky, recorded in their homes, their “New Normal.”
Flatten That Curve by Yasinitsky and the WSU Jazz Big Band (Greg Yasinitsky Music, 2020). Early in the pandemic, when WSU went entirely to online instruction, Yasinitsky composed this piece especially for the WSU Jazz Big Band. Members recorded their individual parts remotely using whatever technology they had available. Yasinitsky mixed and mastered the audio and created the video. He says, “This was our way of creating music which hopefully people would find meaningful.”
Mediterranean Connection by Yasinitsky and Teo Ciavarella (YAZZ Recordings, 2018). This collaboration between an American saxophonist and Italian pianist features original compositions as well as Ciavarella’s own arrangement of the beloved standard Bésame Mucho. With Jarvis and WSU bass instructor F. David Snider.
Gator Tail by Yasinitsky (YAZZ Recordings, 2016). This album pays tribute to the great saxophonist Willis “Gator Tail” Jackson. With Jarvis, Ward, and retired WSU guitar instructor Brad Ard.
Flute Favorites by Anne Marie Yasinitsky (YAZZ Recordings, 2018). This 11-track album features WSU professor emerita Yasinitsky—wife of Greg—on flute, WSU flute professor Sophia Tegart, and pianist Karen Savage, a former WSU faculty member.
Recordings of the late Frances Yeend (x’35 Music), a classical soprano who made her professional opera debut in Spokane and enjoyed an active opera career from the 1940s through 1960s before joining the. Faculty at West Virginia University. “Frances Yeend has a glorious voice. But more than that, she has a wonderful personality, undying. determination, and unfailing dependability. And all of these are reasons for her phenomenal rise in the musical world,” LaVerna Kimbrough said in a front-page story in the May 16, 1949, issue of The Evergreen. She made numerous recordings on the RCA, Victor, Columbia, Mercury, MGM, and DaVinci labels.
- Yeend’s discography
- Listen to Mario Lanza and Frances Yeend at the Hollywood Bowl, 1947.
- Yeend’s obituary in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Palouse Songbook by Sophia Tegart. (Centaur Records, 2020). Tegart, an assistant professor of flute at WSU Pullman, finalized this album last spring and released it in September. Funded by a New Faculty Seed Grant, the project features flute and piano works by women composers. Tegart dedicated it to the communities of the Palouse. With Michael Seregow on piano.
Cherished by singer Barbara Johnson Tucket, with Horace Alexander Young (’83) as producer as well as on saxophone and synthesizer on the “Hold on Medley.” (BJTCM, 2020) Young is an associate professor of music and artist teacher of saxophone and jazz studies at WSU Pullman. Watch their performance.
Children of the World by Mr. G and the Global Citizen Ensemble with Young as the saxophone soloist on Washing Our Hands, in the horn section on Put on That Mask, and choir member on Cooped Up and Creative and This is the Way. This 12-track album, recorded in quarantine and released in 2020 for children and families, unites artists from five continents and 14 countries.
BAM! by guitarist H Allan, with Young as saxophone soloist and composer (H Allan Music, 2020). BAM! is the catchy title track on this six-track, easy-listening, smooth jazz, instrumental album.
Let’s Celebrate by singer Sheila Moore Piper with Young on the horn arrangement (BDMUgroove Music, 2020). This energetic upbeat single is the latest offering from the award-winning Christian soul artist known for her funky bass lines and live horns.
I Can Hear It Now (1933-1945)—Listen to assorted radio newscasts with Edward R. Murrow (Columbia Records, 1948).
Richard Kriehn (’06 MA Music), a former instructor and academic advisor at WSUs School of Music—where he taught violin, mandolin, viola, and guitar—used to perform with Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion radio road show as a member of The Guy’s All-Star Shoe Band.
What to watch: Movies and TV shows featuring WSU, alumni, and staff
Staff picks: What Washington State Magazine staff are reading, watching, and listening to