Bob Boilen

In 1988, a determined Bob Boilen started showing up on NPR's doorstep every day, looking for a way to contribute his skills in music and broadcasting to the network. His persistence paid off, and within a few weeks he was hired, on a temporary basis, to work for All Things Considered. Less than a year later, Boilen was directing the show and continued to do so for the next 18 years.

Significant listener interest in the music being played on All Things Considered, along with his and NPR's vast music collections, gave Boilen the idea to start All Songs Considered. "It was obvious to me that listeners of NPR were also lovers of music, but what also became obvious by 1999 was that the web was going to be the place to discover new music and that we wanted to be the premiere site for music discovery." The show launched in 2000, with Boilen as its host.

Before coming to NPR, Boilen found many ways to share his passion for music. From 1982 to 1986 he worked for Baltimore's Impossible Theater, where he held many posts, including composer, technician, and recording engineer. Boilen became part of music history in 1983 with the Impossible Theater production Whiz Bang, a History of Sound. In it, Boilen became one of the first composers to use audio sampling — in this case, sounds from nature and the industrial revolution. He was interviewed about Whiz Bang by Susan Stamberg on All Things Considered.

In 1985, the Washington City Paper voted Boilen 'Performance Artist of the Year.' An electronic musician, he received a grant from the Washington D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities to work on electronic music and performance.

After Impossible Theater, Boilen worked as a producer for a television station in Washington, D.C. He produced several projects, including a music video show. In 1997, he started producing an online show called Science Live for the Discovery Channel. He also put out two albums with his psychedelic band, Tiny Desk Unit, during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Boilen still composes and performs music and posts it for free on his website BobBoilen.info. He performs contradance music and has a podcast of contradance music that he produces with his son Julian.

Longtime NPR fans may remember another contribution Boilen made to NPR. He composed the original theme music for NPR's Talk of the Nation.

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All Songs Considered
6:03 am
Wed February 11, 2015

Ask Me (Bob Boilen) Anything

Caller, you're on air ... uh, the Internet.
Morgan McCloy NPR

Originally published on Wed February 11, 2015 9:27 am

I'll be online at reddit.com/r/music on Wednesday, February 11, 1 to 2 p.m. EST, answering your questions on this post. I'm a little scared because you can actually ask me anything. It will be kind of like a Tiny Desk Concert (intimate, awkward) but I'm sure we'll have fun.

In case you need a little background information about me:

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Tiny Desk Concerts
7:03 am
Tue February 10, 2015

Mucca Pazza: Tiny Desk Concert

Colin Marshall NPR

When I first imagined Mucca Pazza at the Tiny Desk, I honestly had no idea how the Chicago band's 23 members would fit in — in the literal sense of the term. To load-test this performance, we actually gathered a gaggle of interns behind my desk and began to stack people on cabinets, step-stools and, of course, desks.

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All Songs Considered
11:26 am
Thu February 5, 2015

What Is Your Ideal Romantic Song?

Mike Katzif NPR

Is there a single song that sounds like romance to you? My mom might pick Sinatra singing "Fly Me To The Moon." For someone growing up in the '50s it might be "I Only Have Eyes For You" sung by The Flamingos.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
1:41 pm
Tue February 3, 2015

John Reilly & Friends: Tiny Desk Concert

Colin Marshall NPR

Originally published on Wed February 4, 2015 12:04 pm

It might be easy to dismiss a music project from actor John Reilly, but that would be a huge mistake: Reilly is a fine singer, especially when he gets a hold of old-time material, and his guitar work provides a perfect foundation for these church and porch tunes from America's past.

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All Songs Considered
1:03 pm
Tue February 3, 2015

New Mix: Toro Y Moi, Courtney Barnett, Pops Staples, More

Clockwise from upper left: Courtney Barnett, Pops Staples, Toro Y Moi, Other Lives
Courtesy of the artists

Originally published on Wed February 4, 2015 6:51 am

This week on All Songs Considered, we start the show with new music Bob's been waiting for two years to hear: the great first single from Courtney Barnett's debut full-length album. Don't miss the video for "Pedestrian at Best" off her album Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit.

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First Listen
10:03 pm
Sun February 1, 2015

First Listen: Paperhaus, 'Paperhaus'

Paperhaus' new album, Paperhaus, comes out Feb. 10.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue February 10, 2015 1:19 pm

Paperhaus is my kind of guitar band, with power in the lyricism instead of just the chords. Its music can be jarring and jagged, but Paperhaus can also sound dreamy the way groups like Television could, with lilt and grit. These are long songs that take twists and turns of the variety you might find in a prog-rock band. But Paperhaus is more pop than prog, with excursions that serve the music rather than the musicians themselves.

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All Songs TV
9:17 pm
Thu January 29, 2015

Courtney Barnett, 'Pedestrian At Best'

Leslie Kirchhoff Courtesy of the Artist

Originally published on Fri January 30, 2015 12:40 pm

The visual: A clown past her prime. The words: "Put me on a pedestal and I'll only disappoint you."

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:00 pm
Tue January 27, 2015

Bobby Bare Jr.: Tiny Desk Concert

Susan Hale Thomas NPR

I was in Nashville, standing in line at a food/music festival, when this guy behind me hears my voice, recognizes me and says, "Hey, Bob Boilen! Bobby Bare Jr. here. I've been hoping to play your desk." Truth be told, I'd been hoping to make that happen, too. And so the deal was sealed over a pork bun. Thirty minutes later, at the same festival, Bare was on stage with his dad, the country legend Bobby Bare Sr., and Kings Of Leon. That's Nashville for you.

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All Songs Considered
10:43 am
Tue January 27, 2015

Tiny Desk Concert Contest Phase 2: Judging Begins

This is all I do anymore.
Morgan McCloy NPR

Originally published on Tue January 27, 2015 1:37 pm

I've basically stopped going to concerts. For me, this is kind of like I've stopped eating or sleeping. If you're looking for me these days, you can find me at my computer, watching musicians play their heart out for a chance to perform at NPR's Tiny Desk. After six busy weeks, the Tiny Desk Concert Contest eligibility period is now closed, and we've moved on to the next stage: judging.

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First Listen
10:02 pm
Sun January 25, 2015

First Listen: Asaf Avidan, 'Gold Shadow'

Asaf Avidan's new album, Gold Shadow, comes out Feb. 3.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue February 3, 2015 1:47 pm

It's easy to listen to Asaf Avidan and not know if you're listening to a female singer from long ago or a guy singing 21st-century pop songs. Avidan is a bestselling 34-year-old singer from Israel who is little known in the U.S. This record, Gold Shadow, is likely to change that. On his first official release in North America, Avidan has written a batch of killer songs that make use of one of the most compelling and unusual voices I've ever heard.

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All Songs Considered
10:58 am
Wed January 21, 2015

Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield, 'Somebody That I Used To Know'

Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield.
Crackerfarm

The songs of Elliott Smith are widely revered — especially by those who came of age in the '90s — but a new generation of listeners is only beginning to discover him. Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliott Smith is likely to expose new fans to the great singer-songwriter. Smith released five albums in his lifetime and died in 2003 from two stab wounds to the chest; he'd left a suicide note. His songs, which often dealt with depression and desperation, were beautiful and frequently quiet.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:18 pm
Tue January 20, 2015

Rubblebucket: Tiny Desk Concert

Susan Hale Thomas NPR

Originally published on Wed January 21, 2015 12:03 pm

Before Rubblebucket played its Tiny Desk Concert, its members asked if they could bring a confetti cannon. And, though I said no — dear coworkers, I really do care about you — the band still brought a fun mix of brass and brash to the Tiny Desk.

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All Songs Considered
11:49 am
Tue January 20, 2015

New Mix: Dan Deacon, THEESatisfaction, Jackson Scott, More

Clockwise from upper left: Dan Deacon, Tanya Tagaq, THEESatisfaction, Jackson Scott
Courtesy of the artists

Originally published on Wed January 21, 2015 9:15 am

This week on All Songs Considered: Our favorite electronic artist, Dan Deacon, is back with another playfully infectious dance party, one he recorded both in the studio and in bathrooms and greenrooms during his most recent tour. Also, NPR Music contributor Katie Presley joins us with a hypnotic groove from the Seattle-based duo THEESatisfaction and a slow-burning jam from New Orleans singer-songwriter Kristin Diable.

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All Songs Considered
5:03 am
Mon January 19, 2015

Song Premiere: Bob Dylan, 'Stay With Me'

Bob Dylan's next album, Shadows In The Night, out on February 3, is a selection of songs made famous by Frank Sinatra.
William Claxton Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Mon January 19, 2015 5:53 pm

Trying to predict a musical future is impossible. I have proof: Bob Dylan is recording songs Frank Sinatra made popular! No one saw this coming and nothing could prepare us for it. It's weird and kind of wonderful. Here's a man clearly in love with the Great American Songbook and despite his restricted vocal he's brave enough to tackle it.

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First Listen
10:03 pm
Sun January 18, 2015

First Listen: Amason, 'Sky City'

Amason's new album, Sky City, comes out Jan. 27.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue January 27, 2015 11:08 am

Amason is a Swedish musical pastiche with a lot of names and a lot of talent: Gustav Ejstes (from Dungen), Amanda Bergman (who performs as Idiot Wind), Petter Winnberg and Nils Törnqvist (from Little Majorette) and Pontus Winnberg (from Miike Snow) all contribute voices and sounds. So it's no surprise that Amason's debut feels all over the map. In fact, that's its strength.

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All Songs Considered
10:00 am
Fri January 16, 2015

Tiny Desk Contest Entries Just Keep Coming

Our search to find the next great unknown musician to play at the Tiny Desk ends Monday.
NPR

Originally published on Fri January 16, 2015 12:33 pm

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Tiny Desk Concerts
1:55 pm
Tue January 13, 2015

Daniel Lanois: Tiny Desk Concert

Susan Hale Thomas NPR

I came to know Daniel Lanois through his instrumental collaboration with Brian Eno, Apollo: Atmospheres And Soundtracks, in 1983. I fell in love with Lanois' own music through his singing and the heartfelt, textured songs on albums like 1989's lovely Acadie (with its New Orleans flavor) and 1993's For The Beauty Of Wynona (with its haunting sounds and stories).

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First Listen
10:03 pm
Sun January 11, 2015

First Listen: Red Baraat, 'Gaadi Of Truth'

Red Baraat's new album, Gaadi Of Truth, comes out Jan. 20.
James Bartolozzi Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed January 21, 2015 9:32 am

One of the greatest, biggest, most enjoyable brass bands has just made its best studio recording. Red Baraat is a beat- and brass-driven affair, with a double-headed Indian drum as its timekeeper and rhythm maker. Sunny Jain plays the dhol, and on Gaadi Of Truth he feeds those rhythms through processing pedals, expanding on the Indian traditions he experienced growing up in his Rochester, N.Y., home. This is the first record I can think of that applies a lot of effects to the sousaphone.

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All Songs Considered
7:03 am
Sat January 10, 2015

Bob Boilen's Favorite Concert Photos Of 2014

Ty Segall on stage at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C.
Bob Boilen NPR

I go to so many shows, and for years I've been taking photos with my phone and posting them on my Instagram account @tinydesk. But a few months into 2014 I bought one of those tiny little mirrorless cameras by Sony. Then I caught the photo bug pretty bad (or good).

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All Songs Considered
7:03 am
Fri January 9, 2015

662 Shows In 365 Days: Bob Boilen's Year In Concerts

St. Vincent's Annie Clark, who played Bob Boilen's favorite concert of 2014, on stage at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. on March 2, 2014.
Bob Boilen NPR

Originally published on Mon January 12, 2015 10:28 am

I missed another year of TV shows. I missed every single Netflix and HBO series. I did, however, see four times as many movies in 2014 as I did in 2013: four, instead of just one. What I did see once again was a whole lot of live music, 662 performances to be exact. (I count each band as a show or performance.) In a year packed full of concerts, I saw 555 different bands in 144 venues across 16 cities. It turns out I saw exactly the same amount of shows this year as last, which made me laugh ... guess I've hit my ceiling.

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All Songs Considered
2:11 pm
Tue January 6, 2015

A New Mix For The New Year: Panda Bear, The Go! Team, More

Clockwise from upper left: Panda Bear, Jessica Pratt, cover art for Red Baraat, Ian Parton of The Go! Team
Courtesy of the artists

Originally published on Wed January 7, 2015 12:04 pm

In case you missed it, we took a rocket ride to outer space for the holidays. But this week we re-dock at the mother ship Earth to ring in the new year toting a new mix that includes premieres from The Go!

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:01 pm
Mon January 5, 2015

Trey Anastasio: Tiny Desk Concert

Susan Hale Thomas NPR

Originally published on Tue January 6, 2015 7:09 am

He came so humble, holding his acoustic guitar and wearing his heart on his sleeve. Trey Anastasio isn't new to NPR: Concerts of his have even included "All Things Reconsidered," a variation on the All Things Considered theme.

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All Songs Considered
1:03 am
Wed December 24, 2014

Have An Oddly Jolly Christmas: A Quirky Holiday Playlist

Crate-digger and director Mitchell Kezin shows off one of his Christmas finds in a still from his documentary, Jingle Bell Rocks!
Elaine Littman Courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories

Originally published on Wed December 24, 2014 8:27 am

Searching for Christmas music you've never heard before? Well, Mitchell Kezin is a collector of what he calls "Christmas orphans," those Christmas songs hardly played and mostly unknown. After being a closet collector of Christmas music for years, now he's directed a documentary about obsessive crate-diggers who specialize in rare Christmas music.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
7:03 am
Sat December 20, 2014

Lucinda Williams: Tiny Desk Concert

Susan Hale Thomas NPR

She came to the Tiny Desk a little unsure, and left singing "West Memphis" with intensity and passion. Lucinda Williams has a voice like no other, and it shines in these intimate moments.

Williams is on a roll with a new double album, Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone, which is filled with fresh and beautiful songs — all this from a songwriter known for working at a deliberate pace. Hearing her perform these new songs with her brilliant band was a rare and exciting treat.

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All Songs TV
7:03 am
Wed December 17, 2014

Watch 'Road Dawgs,' A Mini-Documentary About Future Islands

Winners chronicles Future Islands' success following the band's performance of "Seasons (Waiting On You)" on Letterman.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Fri January 9, 2015 6:25 am

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Tiny Desk Concerts
8:03 am
Tue December 9, 2014

Yusuf/Cat Stevens: Tiny Desk Concert

Susan Hale Thomas NPR

Originally published on Tue December 16, 2014 1:51 pm

In the summer of 1971, I was a camp counselor at a sleep-away camp for a bunch of 5- to 7-year-olds. For those eight weeks, I walked home with about $50. I bought a guitar and began to learn the songs I'd come to love from the recently released Tea for the Tillerman by Cat Stevens.

"Father and Son" touched me most — it's a song about growing old, and about beliefs and conviction. More than 40 years later, that songwriter is performing at my desk with his son standing right behind me. You can never imagine the turns life will take.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
7:03 am
Sat December 6, 2014

St. Paul And The Broken Bones: Tiny Desk Concert

James Clark NPR

Originally published on Sat December 6, 2014 4:07 pm

Close your eyes and listen, and you might imagine someone who looks a bit like Otis Redding. Open them, and you're likely to see someone who looks more like your neighborhood bank teller.

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All Songs Considered
9:30 am
Tue December 2, 2014

Introducing Our Tiny Desk Concert Contest

Introducing our Tiny Desk Concert Contest.
NPR

Want to play a Tiny Desk Concert? Now's your chance: NPR Music and Lagunitas are holding a contest, and the winner gets to perform at my desk here at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
3:41 pm
Mon December 1, 2014

Sam Amidon & Bill Frisell: Tiny Desk Concert

Bill Frisell (left), Sam Amidon and Shahzad Ismaily perform a Tiny Desk Concert on Oct. 16, 2014.
Susan Hale Thomas NPR

Originally published on Sat December 6, 2014 4:08 pm

Sam Amidon takes traditional music and makes it his own. He might begin with a traditional murder ballad and then morph it into something of his own, fueled by Bill Frisell's languidly atmospheric guitar, Shahzad Ismaily's minimal but essential percussion and Amidon's own yearning voice. At other times, Amidon weaves his own new tunes into worn, weary, seemingly ageless sagas.

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