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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Field Recordings
2:12 pm
Wed September 11, 2013

Bill Callahan Sings 'Small Plane' In A Serene City

Bill Callahan in the 6th and B Community Garden.
Mito Habe-Evans NPR

Originally published on Tue July 8, 2014 8:52 am

When we first approached Bill Callahan to do a Field Recording in New York City, we asked him if he had any special place in mind. His reply surprised me: "A community garden." I guess I'd stereotyped him in my head, because after all those years of dark, thoughtful songwriting — first as Smog and then on the pensive records he's made under his own name — I'd imagined a library, someplace quiet and dark.

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All Songs Considered
10:18 am
Sun September 8, 2013

All Aboard A Magical Mystery Train

One of the nine restored train cars that are part of the Station to Station public art project. This car is called Lambert's Point Executive Lounge
Bob Boilen NPR

Originally published on Sun September 8, 2013 12:24 pm

What happens when you fill nine train cars with noisemaking musicians Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, Japan's The Boredoms, LA's fuzzed-out Ariel Pink and more?

I'm about to find out.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
7:34 am
Sat September 7, 2013

Bombino: Tiny Desk Concert

Bombino performs a Tiny Desk Concert on June 19, 2013.
Erica Yoon NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 6:12 pm

There's something alluring and charming about Bombino, whose childlike face belies his fierce, hypnotic guitar playing. The first time I saw him perform, I found myself screaming his name at the end of every song — partly to praise his amazing jams, but also as an exercise in bonding. It felt as if I were yelling out to a buddy on stage, even though I'd never met him. I just felt a connection; his sound is that personable and familiar.

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All Songs Considered
1:45 pm
Thu September 5, 2013

Dancing Vegetables, Singing Ground Beef: TMBG's Old-School Video

Courtesy of the artist

They Might Be Giants' John Flansburgh and John Linnell have just delivered an old-school video — think "early days of MTV" — and it's a pleasure to see. Over the course of 16 albums, the two Johns (first as a duo and later as bandleaders) have always kept humor at the core of their sound and general attitude. They continue the tradition with "You're On Fire," the first single from their 25-song, 45-minute album Nanobots.

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Field Recordings
12:18 pm
Wed September 4, 2013

Anna Von Hausswolff Finds A Pipe Organ In New York City

Mito Habe-Evans NPR

Originally published on Wed July 2, 2014 9:14 am

One of my most surprising discoveries of 2013 is an artfully poppy pipe-organ record called Ceremony, by Swedish singer Anna von Hausswolff. Though she doesn't consider herself an accomplished pipe organist, von Hausswolff quickly learned the instrument's power, as well as some of its subtleties.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
7:41 am
Wed September 4, 2013

Baths: Tiny Desk Concert

Chloe Coleman NPR

Originally published on Fri April 25, 2014 11:50 am

Baths, a.k.a. Will Wiesenfeld, plays mysterious and textured electronic music. When Wiesenfeld came to the Tiny Desk, I expected contemplative tones and a laid-back performance; he does, after all, call his project Baths. But what sets him apart from the vast majority of like-minded performers is that his music doesn't get buried behind the buttons or lost in a hypnotic glaze.

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All Songs Considered
8:03 am
Thu August 29, 2013

First Watch: Zola Jesus, 'Fall Back'

Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu August 29, 2013 8:25 am

I suppose it would be natural, if you grew up relatively isolated in a Wisconsin forest, to find yourself fascinated by cities. And so it is for the 24-year-old Russian-American singer Nika Roza Danilova, best known as Zola Jesus. In the video for her song "Fall Back," from the new album Versions, we see Nika in two settings: the vast coldness of urban concrete and the nature of the forest. "Shooting in the forest was very important," Nika writes. "The forest is raw and naked, which is in line for my intent for Versions.

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All Songs Considered
10:38 am
Tue August 20, 2013

Hear How A Song Takes Shape

Jordan Geiger of the band Hospital Ships.
Adam Smith Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue August 20, 2013 10:47 am

Did you want to hear how a song evolves? How a single spark of inspiration transforms into words and then melody and finally a fully produced complex production?

Jordon Gieger, known by the moniker Hospital Ships, has unveiled his journey as a songwriter for us. "Desolation Waltz" is a song Geiger began writing in Columbus, Ohio after "listening to a very fiery preacher on the radio, who would break into little melodies in the middle of his sermons. I decided to write songs a capella, in my car."

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Tiny Desk Concerts
3:36 pm
Mon August 19, 2013

The Front Bottoms: Tiny Desk Concert

The Front Bottoms performs at a Tiny Desk Concert in July 2013.
Chloe Coleman Chloe Coleman/NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 6:14 pm

When I first saw The Front Bottoms, I was stunned to see 350-plus singing, shouting club-goers repeat verse after complicated verse back at singer Brian Sella. Then it happened again at a hot, sweaty club in Philadelphia, and later in D.C., and then again in Baltimore. The community that's formed around these songs — as total strangers purge deep emotions in a public space — is a beautiful phenomenon, a testament to the passion and compassion that this band radiates.

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First Listen
4:22 am
Tue August 6, 2013

First Listen: Typhoon, 'White Lighter'

Typhoon's new album, White Lighter, comes out August 20.
Jaclyn Campanaro Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed August 21, 2013 12:13 pm

Kyle Morton writes songs for Typhoon as if they were the last works he might ever create. His band is big by rock standards, with somewhere in the neighborhood of a dozen members playing mighty, powerful songs whose instrumentation conveys big, bold joy. But underneath it all are the words of a young man living on what he feels is borrowed time.

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