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.

Boilen's first book, Your Song Changed My Life, was published in April 2016 by HarperCollins.

Thanks for joining our live listening party for Fiona Apple's remarkable Fetch the Bolt Cutters. NPR Music's Ann Powers, Marissa Lorusso and I had the opportunity to answer some of your great questions about the influence of the rhythms of the African diaspora on Apple's first album in eight years, as well as talk about the experience of listening in isolation. Thank you for all your love and thoughts in the chat!

Angelica Garcia decorated the Tiny Desk with colorful fabrics, orange flowers, a fuchsia dress, and a great deal of pride in what she calls her "Salva-Mex-American" heritage. Her song "Orange Flower" got my attention back in 2016, but I thought of her only as a Virginia rock and roller. Not anymore.

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music's Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It's the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.

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The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music's Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It's the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.


"Hello, this is Ben Gibbard, welcome to Tiny Desk, Seattle style."

This is the most engaging song by Bob Dylan I've heard in decades. As someone who grew up in the era of President Kennedy's assassination, the portrait Dylan paints in "Murder Most Foul" is extraordinary, and takes me back to those days, to my memories of a nation overwhelmed by grief. There's something eerie about this song coming out at this precise moment.

The 2020 Tiny Desk Contest is still underway. Along with supporting unsigned independent musicians all across the country, we've been reaching out to those musicians who had high hopes of performing at the SXSW Music Festival and are now unable to do that.

We've never had an original Mellotron at the Tiny Desk until now. Much like a Hammond organ, it's big, heavy and fragile. When they fired it up, with all its mechanical gears turning tape loops and moving play heads, the 15-year-old geek in me blissed out.

The Mellotron was a magical 1960s invention that predates sampling. It's a keyboard instrument, with each piano key triggering a tape loop — the sound could be a string ensemble, a flamenco guitar, a saxophone and so much more. Think about the flute sounds on The Beatles' song "Strawberry Fields Forever" and you get the idea.

I asked everyone to gather a little closer than usual around my desk for this one.

YouTube

In the past year, we've had some pretty big names come perform at the Tiny Desk: Lizzo,

When we first started filming musicians playing behind the Tiny Desk in April 2008, the beauty was in the intimacy and simplicity of these concerts. Now into our 11th year, after more than 900 Tiny Desks, the other treasure I find in these concerts is the variety. I remember having the cast of Sesame Street here in May, with NPR parents and their children seated on the floor watching the Muppets.

These are my favorite albums of 2019. The flood of music and the variety of music in 2019 felt exhilarating, though also overwhelming. I couldn't keep it to my usual top ten, so I extended it to twenty.

It's almost always impossible to pinpoint an exact moment in music history when the plates shift. But looking back at the last decade in Latin music, it's easy, now, to see that the release of "Despacito" by Daddy Yankee and Luis Fonsi in early 2017 was just such a moment.

KOKOKO! are sonic warriors. They seized control of the Tiny Desk, shouting their arrival through a megaphone, while electronic sirens begin to blare. There's a sense of danger in their sonic presence that left no doubt that something momentous was about to happen. And it did!

With instruments tied and hammered together — made from detergent bottles, scrapyard trash, tin cans, car parts, pots, pans and more — KOKOKO! managed to alter the office soundscape.

Sunny War has a soothing voice but at the Tiny Desk, she didn't talk much, at least not until she saw the Talking Master P doll on the Tiny Desk shelf. With a huge grin, Sunny looked up, pointed at Master P and said to NPR Music's Stephen Thompson (the doll's owner), "if you want to sell it..." Stephen promptly replied, "not for sale!" To make her even more envious, he quipped, "It's signed by the man himself." It was a lighthearted moment from a heavy-hearted singer.

From the moment Brittany Howard walked into the NPR offices, I could sense her intense commitment and passion. Her eight-piece backing band, all decked out in red and black, played with a soulful subtlety that bolstered Brittany Howard's tender songs about her family — stories of a mixed-race child growing up in Alabama.

"Maybe it's the start of something, and maybe it's not." That's what I said at the very first Tiny Desk concert back in April 2008, featuring Laura Gibson. It's quite a trip to go back 11 years and watch the first Tiny Desk concerts — quaint may be the best way to describe it. I started this series with no idea how much an intimate concert in an office would change the lives of the musicians and thrill millions of viewers all over the world.

Josh Ritter came to the Tiny Desk with the enthusiasm of a young child and the wisdom of an old soul. He arrived armed with a message and musical soulmates, Amanda Shires on fiddle and Jason Isbell on acoustic guitar. Both play on Josh's 2019 album Fever Breaks; in fact, Jason produced the record.

Warning: The opening cut on this week's show, by Fran got stuck in my head and kept me wide awake at four in the morning. But a song from Soccer Mommy about dealing with temptation and the devil, Ruby Duff's "rainbow of emotions," Chastity Belt's first new music since 2017 and (Sandy) Alex G's devastating song titled "Hope" will help when taken at a hefty volume.

There's a hush to the music of Nilüfer Yanya that made the Tiny Desk the perfect stage for her sound. On a hot summer day, the British singer and her band — made up of Jazzi Bobbi primarily on sax, Lucy Lu on bass, Ellis Dupuy on drums and Nilüfer on guitar and vocals — performed their three-song set with restraint and subtlety. At moments, the music felt like an eruption waiting to happen, though the suave, refined sound left an indelible vibe in the room.

There is an intensity to Rhiannon Giddens I could feel from the moment she arrived at the Tiny Desk, and her songs reflect that spirit. "Ten Thousand Voices," the first song in the set, was inspired by Rhiannon reading about the sub-Saharan slave trade.

If you watch this video and don't get to the part where Eugene Hutz is dancing on the desks, then you've missed the most rollicking and insane Tiny Desk Concert of all time.

A-WA: Tiny Desk Concert

Sep 3, 2019

The last time we filmed these three Israeli sisters, they were sitting in my hotel room during South by Southwest, performing a heartbreaking lullaby, accompanied by just a guitarist. Now Liron, Tagel and Tair Haim are behind my desk with a full band of keyboards, bass, guitar and drums, singing more forlorn tunes in their unique three-part harmony.

Note: With hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton away this week, we've got an encore presentation of The Worst Songs Of All Time, from Feb. 2014.


Guitarist, actor, writer (and former Monitor Mix blogger) Carrie Brownstein joins us, along with NPR Music's Stephen Thompson, to do something we don't normally do: Talk about the songs we really, really don't like.

For the past 14 years, producer Andy Zax has been digging into the music and sounds of Woodstock, that culture-shifting music festival that unfolded in August of 1969. Now, 50 years later, all 32 performances — the audio announcements, the entirety of this three-day festival in upstate New York — is about to be released by Rhino Records in a 38-disc box titled Woodstock - Back To The Garden:The Definitive 50th Anniversary Archive.

I told this story on the 40th anniversary of the first moonwalk, but on this 50th anniversary, like grandpa, I'll tell it again.

It was July 20, 1969 and I had tickets to see the supergroup of supergroups: Blind Faith. I was psyched until I realized that it was to be the night of the very first manned moon landing — and the very first time a human would walk on the moon.

I'm all alone in the studio.

I had so many new songs to share; I didn't want to split the show with a co-host.

For the past year, NPR has been taking a deep look at American anthems and all the forms they can take. These are the songs that unite us, inspire us or say something about what it means to be an American — songs as traditional as Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land," or as defiant as Public Enemy's "Fight the Power."

Lucy Dacus / YouTube

Lucy Dacus is conflicted about America.

Your picks for the best new artists of 2019 (so far) include a lot of bands and musicians we've been following for a while – Maggie Rogers, Stella Donnelly, Nilüfer Yanya and Jade Bird have all been releasing music for several years – but they didn't drop an official full-length debut until this year.

It's the podcast... as a playlist! For nearly two decades, All Songs Considered has treated music discovery as a mission, to share in the joy of new artists and old favorites. Updated weekly with songs featured on the show.

Stream: Spotify, Apple Music.

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