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
4:40 pm
Thu May 2, 2013

Meet Until The Ribbon Breaks: Stark Music Paired With Enigmatic Images

Until The Ribbon Breaks.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed May 8, 2013 2:25 pm

Pete Lawrie Winfield makes music as Until The Ribbon Breaks, stark music with a good deep vibe; Massive Attack or James Blake would be good touchstones. Until The Ribbon Breaks doesn't have much music out yet, but "Pressure," a new song, has urgency. "'Pressure' was written at a time of upheaval and transition for me," Winfield writes. "I was sleeping at my studio and had no idea what I was going to do next.

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All Songs Considered
3:25 pm
Wed May 1, 2013

Vampire Weekend On New York, Souls Of Mischief And The Secrets Of Its New Album

Vampire Weekend in New York City: (from left) Chris Tomson, Chris Baio, Rostam Batmanglij and Ezra Koenig.
Alex John Beck Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed May 8, 2013 3:22 pm

  • Listen: Bob Boilen Interviews Vampire Weekend

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:03 pm
Mon April 29, 2013

Father Figures: Tiny Desk Concert

Father Figure performs a Tiny Desk Concert on February 6, 2013.
Lizzie Chen NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 6:34 pm

In a small, packed Washington, D.C., living room late one December night, I heard a cacophony of horns, keys, drums and guitars that simply floored me. It was brash, zany, brainy, scary and danceable. At the end of a long year of amazing live music, this would turn out to be one of the most memorable concerts I'd seen.

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All Songs Considered
7:03 am
Thu April 25, 2013

Video: Music Meets Random Imagery In Yellowbirds' 'Young Men Of Promise'

Bernie DeChant

Originally published on Wed May 8, 2013 2:25 pm

Music videos are like funny math, where 1+1=3. That is, images have a meaning on their own, music has a meaning when you listen to it alone, but put images and music together and something new is born. 1+1=3. Try it randomly: put on a piece of music and watch a cartoon or an old movie ... people did it famously with The Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz.

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All Songs Considered
12:18 pm
Sat April 20, 2013

Interview: The Zombies Remember Their Odyssey

Bob Boilen, host of NPR Music's All Songs Considered, interviews Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone of The Zombies at SXSW.
Mito Habe-Evans NPR

Originally published on Thu April 25, 2013 1:29 pm

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All Songs Considered
6:34 pm
Thu April 18, 2013

First Watch: People Get Ready, 'Middle Name'

Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Fri April 19, 2013 9:10 am

It was probably the best performance piece I've seen in more than a decade. Specific Ocean, a piece by the dance troupe/rock band People Get Ready, which I saw at the New York Live Arts theater in the fall, was a model for the ways musicians can break from the standard, sometimes boring, format of playing on a stage. Some of the songs from Specific Ocean ended up on the group's 2012 self-titled album. Now there's a video, a documentation of that amazing New York performance, featuring the song "Middle Name."

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All Songs Considered
12:03 pm
Fri April 12, 2013

First Watch: Iron And Wine, 'Joy'

Craig Kief Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Fri April 12, 2013 1:11 pm

"Deep inside the heart of this crazy mess, I'm only calm when I get lost within your wilderness."

That's a key line in this song, "Joy," by Iron and Wine, the project of Sam Beam. Sam is a songwriter who has a way of making the personal very universal. It's also the line that piqued the interest of director Hayley Morris, who made a video for "Joy." Morris writes to us:

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All Songs Considered
4:03 pm
Wed April 10, 2013

First Watch: Thao And The Get Down Stay Down, 'We The Common'

This American Life's Ira Glass and John Hodgman in a video for Thao Nguyen's song "We The Common."

Originally published on Thu April 11, 2013 1:14 pm

I first met Thao Nguyen in 2008, in the earliest days of the Tiny Desk Concert series. I was a big fan of her witty, catchy songs. After she finished playing the Tiny Desk, Thao said something that has endeared me to her forever. Walking toward the elevators on her way out of NPR, she said, "That was intimate and awkward ... a lot like my last boyfriend!"

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NPR Front Row
8:03 am
Wed April 10, 2013

Brainstorm: NPR Front Row

NPR

Originally published on Tue July 1, 2014 3:11 pm

There was a "fire in the belly" feel when Brainstorm took the stage at TenOak in Austin, Texas, during the South by Southwest music festival this past March. In its best moments, the trio from Portland, Ore., has an edge that embodies both African highlife guitar and the sounds of late-'70s post-punk a la Gang of Four.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:49 pm
Mon April 8, 2013

Efterklang: Tiny Desk Concert

Gabriella Demczuk NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 6:36 pm

Bands with big ideas work well at the Tiny Desk. Efterklang is a Danish group whose recent album Piramida took its members to an abandoned mining town between the North Pole and Norway. There, they recorded sounds of empty oil tanks, old pianos and pretty much anything they could strike or record.

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