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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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:03 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

Lowland Hum: Tiny Desk Concert

Meredith Rizzo Meredith Rizzo/NPR

It's hard to convey the sound of two people in love, but Lowland Hum does that effortlessly. Daniel Levi Goans and Lauren Plank are now Daniel and Lauren Goans; they met a few years ago and spent much of their first married year on the road, singing together on small stages and at house concerts across the country. Daniel was a folksinger in North Carolina, while Lauren had aspirations to sing but mostly did it privately. She has a passion for making things with paper, and you'll see that in the little black book of lyrics she hands out at shows.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
10:14 am
Sun March 2, 2014

Asaf Avidan: Tiny Desk Concert

Asaf Avidan performs at a Tiny Desk Concert in February 2014.
Jim Tuttle NPR

Originally published on Wed March 5, 2014 9:36 am

So I'm driving down the road when I hear this incredible voice coming out of my car speakers — part Janis Joplin, part Nina Simone — and I wonder, "Who is she?"

That day, I'd ripped a number of CDs onto my phone and didn't remember which record this was. Upon a quick glance at my phone during a traffic light, I discover the name Asaf Avidan. Next traffic light, I look it up and I see a picture of a skinny, handsome white male. I figure that's a mistake — that I must have typed the wrong name — so I wait to get home.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:52 pm
Tue February 18, 2014

Cate Le Bon: Tiny Desk Concert

Cate Le Bon performs a Tiny Desk Concert in January 2014.
Meredith Rizzo Meredith Rizzo/NPR

The Beatles may be an odd place to begin a Cate Le Bon conversation, but I remember being struck by the way four guys from Liverpool could sing without their English accents. That's true of most pop singers, whose words often come out sounding more American than anything else. But that's not true with Cate Le Bon. Her phrasing is completely tied to her Welsh dialect — in fact, her first record was in Welsh.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
11:14 am
Sat February 8, 2014

Fanfare Ciocarlia: Tiny Desk Concert

Fanfare Ciocarlia performs at a Tiny Desk Concert in January 2014.
Jim Tuttle Jim Tuttle/NPR

Originally published on Mon February 10, 2014 10:13 am

Truth be told, I was scared. We've stuffed a lot of musicians behind the Tiny Desk, but when I saw Fanfare Ciocarlia (pronounced "fan-FAR-eh cho-car-LEE-ah") at Globalfest the week before the band arrived at NPR, I couldn't fathom how we'd corral these 12 musicians and their various assorted horns and drums into that truly tiny space.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:48 pm
Mon February 3, 2014

Pixies: Tiny Desk Concert

John W. Poole John W. Poole

The windowsills were lined with people standing, as every nook between every office desk filled to capacity with NPR employees and their assorted guests. Pixies, after getting misplaced for a time in our parking garage during a moment worthy of This Is Spinal Tap, showed up in time to encounter the largest crowd we've ever assembled for a Tiny Desk Concert. (Our new office space allows for more guests than the old one did, but it's still a mark of this band's significance for so many youthful grownups.)

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Tiny Desk Concerts
3:02 pm
Mon January 27, 2014

Angel Olsen: Tiny Desk Concert

NPR

Originally published on Tue January 28, 2014 9:40 am

Angel Olsen came to the Tiny Desk on an odd autumn day, as an impending storm loomed outside our office windows. It all seemed just right for occasion: Watch her and you'll see calm in her eyes; listen to her and you'll sense torment in her heart. Olsen gave us a preview of her third record on that October day; she wouldn't tell us the title, but she did say the word "Burn" with a hint of the title in the words to a song she'd sing.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
8:03 am
Sat December 21, 2013

Preservation Hall Jazz Band: Tiny Desk Concert

Preservation Hall Jazz Band performs at the Tiny Desk on Dec. 3, 2013.
John W. Poole John W. Poole

Originally published on Thu January 2, 2014 5:14 pm

Our goal for this special holiday Tiny Desk Concert is simple: to bring you joy. Preservation Hall Jazz Band is a hot and historic outfit from New Orleans, and its members brought us a tuba-wielding Santa and some original holiday cheer and praise — what they call a Cajun Christmas from the French Quarter.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
8:03 am
Sat December 14, 2013

Christine Salem: Tiny Desk Concert

Christine Salem performs a Tiny Desk Concert on October 14, 2013.
NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 1:19 pm

Her voice feels old, but it's got power that's young and vibrant. In fact, Christine Salem sings songs that are old: They're work songs and chants from the maloya tradition on Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean. I first heard her in New York City as she shook a flat board called a kayamb, made of cane reeds, with two percussionists flanking her to provide rhythm.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
5:27 am
Sat November 23, 2013

Waxahatchee: Tiny Desk Concert

Waxahatchee performs a Tiny Desk Concert in September 2013.
Meredith Rizzo Meredith Rizzo/NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 2:28 pm

This might be as intimate as hearing Katie Crutchfield sing in her basement. That's where she and her sister would play guitar, write and sing songs 10 years ago, when she was 14. Katie and Allison Crutchfield had a band back in Birmingham together, The Ackleys; these days, Katie performs as Waxahatchee, while Allison's band is called Swearin'.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
4:08 pm
Tue November 12, 2013

Debashish Bhattacharya: Tiny Desk Concert

Debashish Bhattacharya performs at a Tiny Desk Concert in September 2013.
Chloe Coleman Chloe Coleman/NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 2:29 pm

You've probably never seen or heard an instrument like this. The Hindustani slide guitar is the creation of Debashish Bhattacharya, whose creation pairs his first love — a Hawaiian lap steel guitar, a gift from his father when he was only 3 — and the sounds of India. You can see the similarities to a lap steel guitar, as Bhattacharya lays the guitar across his legs, sliding a metal bar to create the fluid, almost vocal melodies.

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