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
2:16 pm
Mon August 4, 2014

The Family Crest: Tiny Desk Concert

The Family Crest performs a Tiny Desk Concert.
Sarah Tilotta NPR

There's a decent chance you're about to discover your favorite new band. Based in San Francisco and led by Liam McCormick, The Family Crest builds its songs from a combination of infectious enthusiasm and powerful talent. The group owes its huge sound not just to its seven members, but to the community that records and plays with them. Eighty people are credited on The Family Crest's first album, Beneath the Brine.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:58 pm
Tue July 29, 2014

Saintseneca: Tiny Desk Concert

Saintseneca performs a Tiny Desk Concert.
Olivia Merrion NPR

Originally published on

One of the many instruments you may hear Saintseneca play — beyond the banjo, baglama, bulbul, balalaika, bowed banjo, baritone ukulele, bass and bouzouki — is a stomp box. Basically, it's a roughly 2'x2' plywood floorboard meant for pounding the beat. At a show just before this Tiny Desk Concert, craftily bearded singer Zac Little put his boot right through that floorboard.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
8:19 am
Sat July 26, 2014

Highasakite: Tiny Desk Concert

Highasakite performs a Tiny Desk Concert.
Olivia Merrion NPR

Originally published on Sat July 26, 2014 3:37 pm

My first time seeing this Norwegian band was at a fairly soulless convention center in Austin, Texas. They transformed that big, open room into an intimate affair. So having them perform at the Tiny Desk, an already intimate space, was a thrill. It was also the first appearance of a flugabone here. Kristoffer Lo plays that mournful horn and Ingrid Helene Håvik compliments the yearning with words that are mysterious, somewhat dark and contain surprising twists.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:39 pm
Mon July 21, 2014

Hamilton Leithauser: Tiny Desk Concert

Hamilton Leithauser performs a Tiny Desk Concert.
Olivia Merrion NPR

This is the second time Hamilton Leithauser has graced the Tiny Desk. Two summers ago, he and his band The Walkmen played a powerful set of songs from their final album for now, Heaven.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:02 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

Holly Williams: Tiny Desk Concert

Holly Williams performs a Tiny Desk Concert.
NPR

Originally published on Mon July 14, 2014 2:56 pm

Truth be told, Holly Williams brought me and many of my hardened colleagues to tears. The singer-songwriter has a magnificent way with words and phrasing, not to mention a country-music lineage that fills her with pride and guides her poignancy and subject matter.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
8:03 am
Sun July 13, 2014

John Grant: Tiny Desk Concert

John Grant performs a Tiny Desk Concert.
Alex Schelldorf NPR

John Grant's songs don't mess around: The music isn't complicated, while the lyrics function as darts of retort and thought. His album Pale Green Ghosts is decorated with synthesizers, his voice often drenched in reverb; those tools and textures help make the record strong and everlasting.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:03 pm
Mon July 7, 2014

Moon Hooch: Tiny Desk Concert

Moon Hooch performs a Tiny Desk Concert.
Alex Schelldorf NPR

Originally published on Sun October 26, 2014 5:30 pm

People ask me all the time to name my favorite Tiny Desk Concert. It's my desk and I've seen almost all of the nearly 400 concerts up close. So you'd think this would be easy. Moon Hooch have made it a lot easier.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
3:38 pm
Mon June 23, 2014

Conor Oberst: Tiny Desk Concert

Conor Oberst performs a Tiny Desk Concert.
Olivia Merrion NPR

Originally published on Mon June 30, 2014 9:23 am

Conor Oberst's new album has fast become my favorite of the Bright Eyes singer's solo projects, so having him come to NPR and perform a few of these songs at the Tiny Desk was especially exciting. The new music on Upside Down Mountain contains the sort of personal songwriting that got me loving him in the first place.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:38 pm
Mon June 16, 2014

Rodney Crowell: Tiny Desk Concert

Rodney Crowell performs at a Tiny Desk in May 2014.
Meredith Rizzo Meredith Rizzo/NPR

Originally published on Sun October 26, 2014 5:31 pm

Rodney Crowell performs with the ease and swagger of a man comfortable in his ways. He carries his songs the way he carries his old guitar: out in the open, no case, almost as an extension of his body.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
8:03 am
Sat June 14, 2014

Eliot Fisk And Paco Peña: Tiny Desk Concert

Paco Pena performs at the Tiny Desk in April 2014.
Meredith Rizzo Meredith Rizzo/NPR

Originally published on Sat June 14, 2014 10:07 am

Eliot Fisk looks like the happiest man on the planet. Watch that face as he plays guitar. Between performing music by J.S. Bach and partnering with the world's best flamenco guitarist, Paco Peña, Fisk can barely control his joy. I find his exuberance and their performance undeniably brilliant, inspiring and so completely universal.

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